We’ve all been making sacrifices and giving up many activities that we love in recent weeks. However, one pleasure we don’t have to live without is eating well while losing excess weight. Dining out at restaurants is now off-limits to promote social distancing during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. But thanks to your easy Nutrisystem meal plan, you can eat chef-prepared meals every day and practice your cooking skills in the kitchen with our Flex meal guidelines.
One simple strategy that can help you stick to your commitment to lose weight is to plan your meals each week, according to a study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. “Meal planning was associated with a healthier diet and less obesity,” the researchers report after evaluating the eating habits of a large group of subjects.
Planning for and preparing meals in advance ensures that you will have healthy options when hunger strikes and helps you avoid the impulse to order out for high-calorie fast food. Even better, prepping meals saves you time and money. To make it even easier for you, our health and wellness experts here at The Leaf have put together this list of tips for easy meal prepping that you can use while quarantined. They may even come in handy when things go back to our normal, busy lives!
Here are 10 easy meal prep tips to keep you on track during a quarantine:
1. Form a habit.
Most of us tend to think of habits as bad behaviors that we want to break. However, good habits can help us bring positive changes to our lives. Prepping meals is the perfect habit when you want to be a healthy eater. If you can, find a time during your week that you can set aside for meal prep. For many people, weekends offer an opportunity to get ready for the following week but a weeknight might work better for your schedule. No matter what time suits you, treat prepping meals each week as an appointment with yourself and it will soon feel like a regular part of your healthy routine.
2. Start with a list.
You don’t have to decide what you’re going to eat at every meal for the whole week. However, it helps to settle on a few dishes that you will cook at some point during the week. That sets you up for the next step of creating a grocery list that will supply you with the essential ingredients. Use our handy Grocery Guide to help you choose the healthiest items and the right amounts of them for you. The list ensures you have everything you need when you begin to prep meals for the week.
3. Plan for protein.
Healthy proteins are the centerpiece of almost all meals and snacks because they supply the energy you need and leave you feeling full for hours after you eat. However, many protein sources such as fresh chicken, beef and pork can take a long time to cook and don’t last as long as other options.
Make the most out of your occasional grocery store trip by stocking up on preserved proteins like canned tuna, protein powder, almonds and low-sodium jerky. You can also take shortcuts during your meal prep by choosing PowerFuels that don’t require much preparation, such as fat-free cottage cheese or yogurt, canned tuna or salmon, hard-boiled eggs and cashews. Of course, chicken and turkey breast are excellent PowerFuels and should keep in the refrigerator for up to a week after they are cooked.
4. Fill up on frozen veggies.
An important key to successful weight loss is eating at least four servings of non-starchy vegetables each day. You need to buy some items, like tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce, fresh from the produce department. They will keep in your refrigerator for a week or two. However, when you’re making fewer trips the grocery store, you’ll also want to stock up on frozen veggies, such as green beans, cauliflower and broccoli. They are often as nutritious as fresh produce, since they’re preserved right when they’re picked. Frozen veggies make meal prep extra easy because you can use them whenever you’re ready—no washing and chopping necessary. Low sodium canned vegetables are also good options to keep in your pantry.
5. Think multipurpose.
Certain ingredients can be the raw materials for more than one meal. For instance, you can use grilled or baked chicken breast for several different dishes, such as Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad, One-Pan Rice, Chicken and Vegetables or Chicken Pita Pocket. Brown rice and quinoa (the protein-rich seed) are other versatile ingredients that can be used in multiple dishes. Make extra servings of these foods whenever you prepare them so you can use them as needed.
6. Double or triple up.
If you’re taking the time to cook up a batch of a favorite meal, why not make two or three batches? Then store the extras in your freezer and they’ll be ready to heat and eat when you’re craving that meal again in a few weeks.
7. Load the slow cooker.
The slow cooker—which prepares food while you do other things—is a handy appliance for healthy eating. You simply fill it with ingredients early in the day and then it does the rest while you go about your business. The Leaf Weight Loss Blog is filled with delicious and nutritious slow cooker recipes, such as Chicken Gumbo, Kale and Beef Meatballs and Chicken Fajitas.
If you have in Instant Pot, you can get the same ease of preparation and rich, flavorful food as a slow cooker. However, you don’t need to wait hours for your meal to cook. Enjoy whipping up some of our favorite Instant Pot recipes, like our Quick and Easy Pot Roast, Chicken Creole and Salmon with Chile Lime Sauce.
8. Build with Nutrisystem.
The Nutrisystem menu is loaded with items you can use to create even more exciting dishes and save yourself lots of time. For instance, stuffed peppers can take hours to prepare and cook. However, when using our ready-to-go Meatballs in Marinara Sauce, you can create Meatball Stuffed Peppers that are ready to serve in under an hour. Missing the chicken and waffles at your favorite diner? Stock up on our Buttermilk Waffles to quickly make your own “Fried” Chicken and Waffles at home.
9. Portion out.
As you’ve been learning through your Nutrisystem weight loss plan, you can enjoy just about any kind of food you like and still drop extra pounds if you manage your portions. Your Nutrisystem meals and snacks come in just the right portions for you. Use the same strategy for the meals you are prepping. Pack each portion in its own container so you can pull out the ideal amount for you when you’re ready to eat.
10. Cook for all.
One of life’s great joys is sitting down with family and eating together. With everyone finally in the house at the same time, that’s easier than when we’re all caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday living. So, take this opportunity to prepare meals you can all enjoy. Better yet, get the whole family to help you out with cooking. We’ve got dozens of family favorite recipes that the rest of your gang will rave about while you can rest assured that you’re still making progress to your weight loss goal. Remember to make extra and freeze it so you can enjoy your good home cooking again and again.