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Meal prepping three containers of cooked vegetables, side by side

Meal prep 101

Meal prepping is one of the easiest ways to maintain a healthy diet. It plays a key role in staying consistent, which is the foundation of any lifestyle change. Not only will meal prepping help you achieve your health goals, it can also save money in the long term. Getting into meal prepping can be difficult, but with a few tips you’ll easily get into a habit of it.


Before you get started, what do you need?

The only initial investment you need to make for successful meal planning is in a few high-quality containers to store your food. You want your food to stay fresh as long as possible in the refrigerator or freezer. If you take prepared meals to work, it is vital that they are leak-proof. Your container must therefore be airtight, and ideally be microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe, as well as stackable. Good containers can make or break your meal prepping experience and determine your motivation going forward.


How do you get started?

The most effective way to get into the meal prepping game is to make a habitout of it. Choose one of your days off as your meal preparation day and batch cook your meals for the week. Keep what you need for the next 2-3 days in the fridge and put the rest in the freezer, then take out the night before. If you don’t have a lunch prepared for the next day, simply double up your dinner and put half in a Tupperware box.


How do you make the most out of your grocery shop?

Before you hit the supermarket, make a list of recipes you plan for the week, including all the ingredients needed. Having a plan to stick to will stop you from browsing around and make the trip more time efficient. Not only will you save time, you’ll also save money because you will know exactly what you need, and won’t be tempted by offers, that are usually unhealthy and make you buy more than you need (3 for 2).


What ingredients are best if you’re stretched for time?

Canned and frozen foods are extremely convenient, cheap and can still be as nutrient dense as fresh ones. Frozen vegetables, for instance, can contain just as much, if not more nutrients as fresh veg, as they are frozen at source, which limits nutrient loss during transportation, packaging and display time.


What meals take the least amount of time?

Batch-cooked meals that make many servings and do not require much attention are your best bet. These are meals like curries, stews and anything roasted in the oven. They have a couple of advantages: firstly, they typically require one pot or dish only, which means less washing up. Secondly, they do not require much babysitting so you can use the time efficiently to either do the washing up or prepare another meal simultaneously.


What are other examples of delicious and well-balanced lunch and dinner ideas?

It’s always a good idea to start with a base of a variety of vegetables. These can be roasted, stir-fried, steamed or raw. Examples are sautéed mushrooms or spinach, roasted brussels sprouts or cauliflower, baked sweet potato or aubergine, steamed broccoli or fennel, fresh cherry tomatoes or carrot batons and courgetti or cauli rice all work well.

To add some protein, add roasted turkey or chicken thigh, grilled steak or chicken breast, baked salmon or lamb meatballs, tinned mackerel or sardines.

Flavour with some olive oil, parmesan shavings or guacamole.


How do you avoid getting bored of your meals?

Embrace herbs, spices and marinades. Play around with different combinations, they can transform meals plus add more phytonutrients. Basil, for example, gives that instant Mediterranean feel, while thyme can make stews more fragrant. Ginger, lime, chilli and cinnamon give meals that extra kick.

Also, mixing up your grains, beans and pulses makes a huge difference. Instead of opting for rice, consider buckwheat, spelt, barley, rye groats or quinoa. Experiment with different types of beans, like borlotti, butter, black, mung and kidney beans. Green lentils can be replaced with red, yellow, puy and brown lentils.


What do you do when you didn’t get around to meal prepping one week?

While consistency is key to success, life gets in the way and sometimes you will not be able to plan ahead for the week. However, there are always healthier options than the standard high-street sandwich.

Making your own sandwich or wrap, for instance, is most likely still more nutrient dense and less energy dense than any ready-made packaged sandwich.

Examples of delicious and healthy sandwiches that are thrown together in less than 10 minutes are:

  • Smashed chickpea (tinned), avocado and basil wrap

  • Hummus and vegetable wrap

  • Pre-cooked chicken (available in most supermarkets), rocket and guacamole sandwich

  • Mozzarella, tomato and pesto sandwich

  • Smoked tofu, cucumber and roasted pepper spread sandwich


Can healthy breakfasts be prepared in advance too?

Of course! In fact, preparing breakfasts in advance removes the stress in the morning and avoids getting that sugar-laden greasy pastry on the way to work (that usually has you starving an hour later). Simple and nutritious breakfasts that keep you going until lunch can be batch-prepared then stored in the fridge or freezer, like any other meal. This includes delicious meals like:

  • Egg muffins

  • Baked oat bars

  • Healthy pancakes

  • Frittata or quiche

  • Homemade granola or muesli

You can also easily prepare a quick breakfast the night before, such as

  • Overnight oats

  • Smashed avocado and crackers on the side (drizzle the avo with lemon to avoid changing colour)

  • Poached or boiled eggs or omelettes

  • Hummus and pre-cut vegetable sticks

  • Smoothies

  • Chia seed pudding


We’re creatures of convenience so if we have healthy food in front of us, we’re likely to eat it, rather than go for unhealthy options that are high in energy and low in nutrients. With that in mind, a little planning will do wonders for your nutrition.

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