One of the questions I most frequently answer for new clients looking to lose weight or tone their bodies is how to stay on track during the week. They’re busy people. They work long hours, come home late and the temptation to pull up Seamless is strong. The best habit, I tell them, is to spend a few hours each weekend planning and prepping. An hour or two each weekend can save frustration, eat healthy, make your life easier and keep you on track to meet your fitness goals. Food preparation is an extremely powerful healthy living tool that, once a habit, will set you up for success during the week and save the day in any hunger emergency. Stop stressing out about what to make for dinner when you get home tired from work by having a fridge full of healthy options that can be reheated.
Tip #1: Prepare to get Prepared
All the preparation in the world isn’t going to help you if you don’t have containers to put your food in. We recommend buying a good set of clear, collapsible, stackable containers. They’ll help you organize food in a logical manner and being able to see through them helps figure out what is what. Bonus points if you’re able to label them. Also, make sure your kitchen is reasonably clean. It will be a lot less stressful to prepare everything if you’re not working amongst a mess.
Tip #2: Plan, Plan and then Plan Some More
Jot down a list of your favorite healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners, choosing recipes that are easy to make and interchangeable. Roasted chicken, for example, can be used for different meals multiple times during the week. Sautéed spinach can be used as a side dish or put into frittatas for the morning. The goal is to have your entire weekdays’ worth of meals written down and your shopping list ready. Throw some (healthy!) snacks on your list for good measure.
Tip #3: Shop Smart
Armed with your list, head to the store. Get everything on your list so that you don’t need to go back until next week. Double-check that you got everything from your list because nothing is more of a buzzkill than having to shlep back. Avoid buying any items, especially unhealthy ones, not on your list.
Tip #4: Wash, Chop, Repeat
Now that you’re home with your bounty, it’s time to wash all of the vegetables, peel them and chop them up. Even if this is as far as you get your first week, you’re going to be steps ahead in the coming days when you get home from work and are tempted to pull up Seamless. Have some cut up potatoes and Brussels sprouts? Toss them in the oven for 30 mins at 375° with some olive oil, salt and pepper and you’ve got two sides. Or throw together a quick salad in about 5 minutes since all of the “heavy lifting” is done.
Tip #5: Consolidate
Now that everything is chopped up and ready to go, it’s time to make the magic happen by consolidating your efforts. If you’re roasting some chicken breasts in the oven, throw in a tray of potatoes, another of mixed vegetables and yet one more of breakfast frittatas. It’s more energy-efficient and you’ll be amazed at how much food you suddenly have for the week. While those items are in the oven, sauté some spinach on the stove and on another burner start working on a soup or stew. As you’re working on the stove, have your rice cooker working away making some brown rice to add to lunches or dinners. It’s a bit of a juggling act, but you’re almost done and the results are going to be worth it. You’ll also get a lot better at it with some practice.
Tip #6: Assembly
You’ve got your cooked grilled chicken, washed and torn salad greens, roasted vegetables, muffin tin frittatas… This is the home stretch. Start assembling either full meals — one protein, one starch and one vegetable — or put individual items in containers to put to use as lunches or dinners. It’s going to be a lot easier to come home, open the refrigerator and pull out some chicken, roasted potatoes and spinach when you’re hungry.
Tip #7: Fridge and Freezer
Some food is better suited to freezing instead of just refrigerating. Vegetables, for instance, should never be frozen. They’ll break down and become, well, weird. These should go in the refrigerator and, if properly stored in a container with little air, should last until Friday. Soups, stews, casseroles and cooked chicken can all be stored in the freezer and reheated in the microwave or oven when needed.
Our Sample Week:
We love these “grab-and-go” frittatas. They’re so easy to make. In about 15 minutes, you can have breakfast for the whole week: http://dailyburn.com/life/reci
With portability in mind, we tend to keep lunches fairly simple: salads with roasted chicken, tuna, or hard-boiled eggs. Occasionally we’ll bring a frozen soup or stew to reheat in the microwave, but for the most part a big, green salad with some protein makes for a good day. We’ve been really enjoying this chicken, spinach and mango salad lately: https://www.instagram.com/p/BI
On our meal prep Sundays, we generally make two good dinners that we can alternate during the week. That sounds a little unromantic, but by the time we get home we’re tired, hungry and don’t want to think too much. Some recent favorites include turkey chili, chicken soup ( https://www.instagram.com/p/BL
Snacks for any time of day
We generally roast a big batch of vegetables on Sunday to snack on whenever we’re hungry. Sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots all taste great when roasted with some olive oil and sea salt, are filling and are easily transported or just popped into a bowl. We’ll also generally chop up some celery and have a variety of nuts at the ready for cravings in between meals.
With a little bit or work and some practice, you’ll look forward to closing your refrigerator door on Sunday afternoons knowing you’re set for an easy and healthy week. It might take a few weeks of trial and error to get it to the point where you can bang it all out in a few hours, but the results over the coming months will be rewarding as you get closer and closer to your fitness and health goals.