Before we dive into today’s topic (Meal prep) let’s first talk a little bit about meal plans…
Most of our new AV Coaching clients get really excited about the weekly meal plans that are a part of the program. And we get it. A well put together meal plan can be a wonderful tool. It tells you exactly what to eat without the need for you to have to figure all the stuff out for yourself. Also, a good meal plan will ensure that you are getting all the necessary nutrients required for you to be healthy and thrive.
So, for anyone who is just starting or getting back to eating a clean and healthy diet, having a professionally designed meal plan can be a HUGE benefit. (You can find our plant-based meal plans HERE)
On the other hand following a strict meal plan week after week, long-term can be quite daunting. From our experience, clients generally start off strong, following each scheduled meal and adhere to the weekly outline. However, this momentum is very challenging to sustain long-term…
Here is the reason …
“When you try to follow a rigid plan, often things can go wrong.”
No matter how enthusiastic you are at the beginning, soon or later life will get in the way. This is normal.
- Busy schedule
- Not enough time to shop for groceries
- Kids get sick
- Working overtime
- Someone’s birthday
You get my point, right?
Also, there is another downfall to relying solely on meal plans as a long-term solution for success….
It disempowers us from making our own choices. It takes away the need to connect and check in with our own body. We are all individuals and our body is unique. Understanding what your body needs is an important skill, that when practiced and learned, will allow you to live healthier and more enjoyable life. Today we would like to empower you with the tools and knowledge needed to start taking control of your own food choices. Teach you how to plan and prep your own meals and make healthier, more personally satisfying and sustainable changes that will last a lifetime…..
Why Meal Prep?
One of the success secrets to maintaining your own healthy eating plan is…Have a meal prep ritual.
A little bit of planning and preparing in advance goes a long way and it makes healthy eating much more convenient and easier to sustain.
Similar to a meal plan, a meal prep ritual also makes decisions easier: You are not left in the dark when you’re rushed and hungry.
What is a food prep ritual?
To create a food ritual, simply means that you set aside a bit of time to prepare some healthy food in advance so that it’s ready, available and convenient when you need it. Consider the following two strategies that will help you stay consistent and allow you to form a healthy habit for life.
We call this the
Sunday & Wednesday Ritual
For us those two days work best, but you can choose any two days of the week you like. Generally in our lives, Sundays and Wednesdays tend to be less busy and we are able to devote time to this type of task. Sunday is also a day when we start to look ahead and plan the upcoming week. But again, totally your choice. Whatever two days you decide on, set aside a couple of hours to do the following:
Check your schedule for the next three to four days. What are your days going to look like? Meetings? Kids activities? Late nights? Any dinners out? Start to form a better idea of how you will fit healthy meals into the next few days ahead.
Put together a menu. Create your daily meal plan. Don’t be afraid to repeat the same meal choice several times during the next few days. This will drastically cut down on your prep time. If you have been following our weekly meal plans (available HERE) you have probably noticed that we often repurpose our dinners and have them the next day’s lunch and also repeat our snacks (like bliss balls or homemade bars) throughout the week. Creating your own menu doesn’t have to be complicated. Use the My Plant-Based Plate Guide to help you create balanced meals and when in doubt ask yourself the following question to determine whether your choices are healthy and clean…
Is this a wholesome plant-based meal?
Remember that vegan food doesn’t always equate to a clean whole food, plant-based diet. Let us explain…
A whole food plant-based diet will emphasize eating whole fruits and vegetables, consuming unrefined whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds and staying away from (or at least minimizing) the intake of animal products and processed foods for health reasons. That means that many vegan substitutes (tofu hot dogs, dairy-free cheese, vegan mayo, etc) are out.
Build your shopping list according to your menu. Feel free to use our PDF shopping list as a template and mark down exactly what and how much of each item you will need. A shopping list is a great tool that will help you stay organized and efficient once you hit the grocery store. Having a list also keeps you away from the temptation of buying random junk food and other unhealthy or unnecessary items.
Hit the grocery store.
Stock up on what you need for all your meals. It’s not a bad idea to consider getting a few extras “just in case” emergency items such as fresh fruit, a bag of premixed greens for salads or smoothies, a box of dates or figs and even a can of chickpeas could come in handy. Again don’t over do it and definitely stay away from buying processed packaged snacks and other junk. Just because it’s on sale is not a valid reason to buy it!
Once you return back home, it’s time to start prepping. Where do you start?
- Prep veggies for snacks, smoothies/juices, and meals.
- Slice or chop carrots, apples, zucchini, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers or any vegetables you might need. Also wash and properly dry your greens(spinach, lettuce, kale, etc.).
- You can prep individual bags/jars with cut fruit and greens for your smoothies and juices. These can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Soak any nuts, beans, seeds or grains you will need for the week. Refer to “Soaking and Sprouting” on our site.
- If almond milk is one of your choices, prepare the Basic Almond Milk recipe now and store in a glass airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Get your Vitamix (blender) out and prep any sauces, dressings or dips.
- Make any snacks for the week—protein bars, bliss balls, roasted chickpeas or whatever you decided on.
- If you have a chia pudding on your menu, create the base. Don’t forget to consider the number of servings you need. So goes for overnight oats.
Cook or soak all your grains: brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat or quinoa.
- Cook all legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and beans. If you are using canned, make sure to wash them thoroughly under running water, transfer into a glass container and store in the refrigerator for later.
- You can also cook ahead any sweet potatoes, yams and/or squash.
- Now assemble some of your meal choices, portion them for the days ahead, store your food in stackable glass containers and make them accessible in the refrigerator or freezer.
Moving On To….
- Each morning take the following steps to get armed with healthy meals for the day:
- Blend up your smoothie, get your juice ready or finish up your overnight oats/chia pudding.
- Mix up your salad, and pack your dressing in a separate container to avoid soggy greens. Gross! (our favorite on a go salad container)
- If you haven’t done so already, portion out any of your other meals for that day.
- Pack your fruit, bars, roasted chickpeas etc. for snacks.
- Don’t forget your water!
If you plan on eating any meals at home that day, double check that you have everything on hand for easy and quick prep.
What if you don’t have time to prep your food?
Ok. Don’t you have time?
Here is the honest truth… if you are serious about getting healthy and creating a lasting change, you will have to prioritize and find time for this. Perhaps look at cutting out some activities that are taking you further away from your goals, like socializing over drinks, playing games on your phone or wasting time scrolling through others’ lives on social media.
If you are in a relationship or if you have children, include your loved ones and allow them to help you. Make it a fun family ritual. If your schedule absolutely (100 %) won’t allow for time in the kitchen, you can hire a healthy vegan meal delivery service. Google “healthy meal delivery” in your area and see what comes up.
More Helpful Tips:
Keep the fridge clean and organized
Every week before you start planning and making your shopping list CHECK YOUR FRIDGE. What’s in there? Any leftover produce? Is it still good? Throw away any rotten (or expired) foods and also get rid off old leftovers. Then clean the fridge before you stock it back up with new fresh foods and also make sure you keep everything neatly organized.
Buy in Bulk
Instead of buying already packaged foods consider the bulk section of your store instead. Things such as nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, quinoa, rice, dried fruit such as raisins and dates, cacao powder, nutritional yeast and many other items are often carried and sold in bulk by many grocery stores. Equipped with a shopping list, you will know exactly what and how much to get. This will benefit not only your wallet but also our environment (be sure to use paper or bring your own bags 😉 )
Slow cooker Is your Friend
For easy dinner or wholesome breakfast utilize your slow cooker. It can be a life-saver as you can easily throw wholesome ingredients into your machine in the morning, go about your busy day, and return home to everything wondrously cooked and ready to eat. It’s magic! Knowing dinner (or breakfast) is waiting also removes the temptation to order take-out or pick up a sugar loaded muffin on the way to work.
A couple of wholesome slow cooker recipes for you:
Don’t get hung up on unnecessary details. If a recipe calls for flax seed oil and you only have extra virgin olive oil…That’s ok!
Do your best to eat freshly prepared food whenever possible. However, if you end up with extra food feel free to freeze it for later
Use A Muffin Pan
Instead of making one large side portion of quinoa loaf or casserole-style dishes opt for the individual portions and use a muffin pan. That way, it’s easy to portion out and freeze for later if necessary.
Keep it Simple, Go Raw
Once in a while forget about the cooking and go raw. Keep it simple, fruits, salads, smoothies, juices…they are good for you and don’t require much prep time.
After a few weeks of meal prep practice, you will find what works and what doesn’t. Make this ritual your own. Be creative and have fun with it. And if you happen to find something that works well, please share it with us. We’re always looking to learn and improve on what we already know.
Wishing you much success and know we are here to help you.