Meal planning simplified

Meal planning is one of the best things you can do for weight control, body composition and prevention of chronic conditions. And it doesn’t have to be this daunting, time consuming process like many deem it to be!

It’s common for health enthusiasts to tout Sunday as meal prep day – bulk prep of proteins, grains and veggies. This doesn’t complement my lifestyle as I try to devote my weekends to  spending time with my husband, family, dog, and outdoors if possible. Although I enjoy cooking, bulk batch prep doesn’t exactly scream Sunday relaxation to me.

Instead, I’ve come up with an approach that works for me – I regard it as Step-Wise Meal Prep! It’s very simple. It entails making 1-2 items in larger portions when you’re already making a meal for yourself. For instance:

Sunday afternoon: I wanted a simple lunch with sweet potato as a side so I will boil a couple of extra potatoes (enough for around 2-3 meals).

Sunday evening: craving some poached chicken on salad so I might poach some extra chicken breasts and throw in some sweet potato from this afternoon. I can always use this for subsequent lunches too.

Monday evening: To mix up dinner, I threw a batch of Brussels sprouts in the oven and tossed them with balsamic vinegar and honey. As a result, the nutritious salad featured on the side came along beautifully with scrambled egg white, avocado, almond slices and hemp hearts with a spritz or lemon. Now I’ve also got some leftovers to last me a few lunches for the work week. My general rule of thumb is to make enough for about 3-4 servings. More than that and the food may spoil before you get to it.

Here are some meal prep ideas I frequently use myself.

5-6 minutes Steam:

  • Broccoli only takes about 5-6 minutes in the steamer. I literally throw a whole crown in a pot with about 1 cm of water, and cover with a lid.  I’ll cut them into bite sized pieces with a paring knife in the pot after it’s drained. You can also run under cool water to stop the cooking process. Olive oil, salt and pepper is all this needs after.
  • Kale might be even faster at  3-4 minutes. Tossed with olive oil, lemon, and salt and pepper after. This makes for a great base for just about any dish.

10-20 minutes Poach (fancy word for boil):

  • Chicken takes about 10-20 minutes depending on the thickness and whether bone is in. When it’s done, I shred and add some sesame oil and salt. I also keep the broth in a mason jar for sipping on whenever I’m itching for something savoury.
  • Hardboiled eggs can be put in a pot of water, brought to a boil for total 1 minute, then taken off heat to sit for another 13 minutes.

15-20 minutes Rice Cooker

  • Quinoa is cooked in the rice cooker in my household – I use double the measurement for water mixed in with a hint of sesame oil. I also might use chicken broth if I have any kicking around. If I want more flavour infused I might add a leftover protein half way through the cooking process (ie. soy sauce chicken)

20-30 minutes Boil:

  • Sweet potatoes can cut and cubed (large) and boiled between 20-30 minutes then mashed (this is one of my favourites as it doesn’t need anything else at all – if you want to get fancy you can add a hint of maple syrup and some toasted nuts).

30-40 minutes Roast:

  • Brussel sprouts, carrots, parsnips, peppers, asparagus, beets, potatoes all taste fantastic roasted in an oven. Requiring slightly more time for the harder root vegetables (375-400C for about 30 minutes with shaking halfway through) – but  it’s well worth it. The sweetness is really drawn out with the oven and they vegetables can taste candy-like!

To add some interest and creativity to the meal prep items, I always have on hand toppers like avocado, pear, apple, toasted nuts, parmesan cheese etc. 

Make it easier on yourself to be healthy by simplifying meal preparation. It might seem like a lot of work at the beginning but like with everything else in life, after practice, repetition and some experimentation, you’ll find that the foundational skills become streamlined and that making foods in larger batches will be no big deal at all.

It gets easy, I promise. Your body will thank you later!

In good health,

Dr. Sandy