Stop snacking! here's how
Author: Leigh van den Berg
Spending more time indoors doesn’t necessarily translate into more time to cook. So, you nibble and snack instead, and probably not on the things you should. This is where meal prepping can be your saving grace. By cooking in batches, you can save time as well as money. Also, planning a meal, as opposed to whipping something up on the fly, means you can make your meals more nutritious.
As a beginner, it’s best to keep things simple, says American health editor Carolyn Picard. Don’t attempt a whack of healthy new recipes with a laundry list of ingredients you’ve only just found online. Rather stick to one simple new recipe without too many ingredients. Once you have making it in a large batch down pat, you can start branching out.
You’ll also find that, when you’re just starting out, it’s easier to prep for one particular mealtime, not all three, choosing the slot where you’re most pressed for time or not likely to be eating out.
“Experiment with prepping for two or three days before attempting five. You may not like eating the same thing the whole week,” says Picard.
Keep it nutritious
One of the biggest benefits of meal prepping is that you can make it healthier than anything typically bought from a store. You know exactly what you’re putting into each meal and can keep it free of anything you’d rather not eat, be it MSG or sugar.
To build a healthy meal, The World Health Organization suggests including, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and legumes like beans and lentils. Healthy unsaturated fats like those found in fish, nuts and avocadoes are also recommended.
Also, be aware of how you choose to prepare your food. Try to avoid high-fat cooking methods such as frying or deep-frying. Instead, roast, grill, steam or stir-fry wherever possible. Make use of non-stick pans or small amounts of healthy fats such as extra-virgin olive oil to minimise kilojoule contents and saturated fat intake.
Mix it up
Eating chilli con carne two nights in a row might be fun, but could you manage it for an entire week? If you haven’t gotten to the stage where you’re prepping multiple meals and have a variety of options sitting in your freezer, this is where customisation comes in. Basic meals that can be switched up a little just before serving will help you beat boredom.
For example, prep your basic salad mix, be it leaves, shredded carrots and corn, but allow the option of different pre-prepared toppings. Think shredded chicken breast, grilled zucchini and capsicum/green pepper and oven-roasted butternut or pumpkin cubes.
Meal prep doesn’t have to mean having a meal that’s completely ready to go, it’s just having what you need on standby to whip up something delicious in a flash.
If you’re meal prepping, the way you store it can make or break a meal. For example, if you’re making three-days’ worth of chicken salad, you don’t want your chicken and dressing touching the leaves as it will affect their crispness. Thus, containers with divisions are a gamechanger. Ideally, they should be made from clear microwaveable plastic or glass with airtight lids.
Bear in mind that liquids expand in the freezer so glass may not be ideal if you’re wanting to put a pot of soup on ice. While it’s tempting to buy inexpensive disposable containers to avoid washing up, investing in reusable ones will save you money in the long run and help you go easy on the planet in terms of waste.
Know your limits
Something that tends to scare people off of food prepping is their uncertainty about how long things can keep in their fridge. Is it okay to eat that four-day-old pork chop? Also, safety aside, what’s it going to taste like?
When it comes to uncooked ground meat and fish, they will only keep for around two days in the fridge, says American dietician and food editor Peggy Woodward. If it’s cooked, however, it’s perfectly fine to eat for up to four days. As far as eggs are concerned, Woodward says, once they’re cooked, they’re safe to eat a week later, provided you store them in the fridge.
Having healthy food at hand may help you keep empty calorie snacks at bay.