It’s easy for nutrition to go out the window when life gets busy. With a schedule that’s packed with commitments, which seem to have you running from the moment you wake, it’s hard (seemingly impossible) to also get into the kitchen to prepare a balanced, nourishing meal. Turn this trend around with a bit of strategizing and a lot of making nutritious meal planning an important part of your all-too-busy life.
Meal Prep 101
Sure, prepping meals ahead of time isn’t new. But the way you approach it may need revisiting. When life gets busy (very busy), there may not actually be a day you can devote to just being in the kitchen to prep for the week, which has always been the common advice. Instead, you may need to sneak it in using a combination of time in the kitchen and time in the store.
In the Kitchen
Always cook for more than one meal. You may not even know what you will do with the extra grilled chicken or grain you are preparing, but it can easily be transformed into any number of dishes. If life gives you time to cook, take advantage and over cook.
Make use of “hands off” meals that cook in the oven, slow cooker or Insta-pot and avoid dishes that require a lot of sautéing or time standing in front of the stove. Ideally, seek recipes that can be prepped in about 15 minutes of hands on attention, so you can move onto other commitments while your dish cooks.
When your busy day leads to a packed evening, and it’s not just you that needs to be fed, but your family too, then quick, deconstructed meals, may be your best strategy. These easy to assemble meals satisfy a variety of tastes with little effort and are easy to pack up for meals-on-the-go.
At the Store
I know that many of us have the best intentions to wash and store heads of lettuce, chop vegetables, and prepare meats and grains. But sometimes we just can’t get it done. Worse, sometimes produce and other foods that we don’t get a chance to prepare are left to degrade in our fridge. If this sounds familiar to you, consider picking up some healthy convenience foods that make it easy to bring healthy meals together.
A shopping list of nutritious items that save you time…
- Grape tomatoes, baby carrots, sugar snap peas
- Spiralized, riced, or frozen veggies
- Marinated, ready-to-eat tofu
- Salad kits
- Fresh cut fruit/small ready to eat fruit
- Microwavable grain pouches
- Trimmed, ready to cook boneless, skinless chicken tenders
- Frozen shrimp
- Assorted salad dressings (for salads, marinades and more)
- Simmer sauces
- All-natural chicken sausage
- Hummus & other bean dips
- No-sugar-added tomato sauce
- Whole grain flat breads
- Low-sodium canned beans
Note: Most of these items can last in the refrigerator or freezer for awhile if you purchase them and aren’t able to use them right away.