January has flown by and slipped into February. We’ve all seen those post New Year resolution statuses where everyone’s talking about their new healthy diet goals, and uploading pictures of their perfectly uniform prepared meals for the week, followed by the “I’ll start in February” memes. But here’s the dilemma: eating the same thing every single day can become quite repetitive, making it hard to stick to your new lifestyle. And eating healthy doesn’t mean eating bland food. There’s a reason why your boring meal preps aren’t working.
Meal prepping is a convenient way to get your meals cooked and ready to serve before hand. This makes it easier for those who have busy schedules, families, or no desire to cook during the week, to eat healthy, home cooked meals more efficiently. However, punishing yourself by eating a lonely chunk of unseasoned broiled chicken breast, green beans, and a plain baked potato five nights a week, is a sure fire way for your “New Year, New Me” diet to cease to exist. The key is to have a better relationship with food, and eat with colors, seasonings, spices, and variety.
You really don’t have to go out of your way to cook elaborate meals. The most simple ingredients can be the most satisfying and flavorful. This is especially good for those of you wanting to be healthy on a budget. For example, adding sautéed onions and garlic to your cooked dishes adds extra flavor and vitamins to the mix. Onions and garlic are also great for fighting infections, preventing cancer, and heart disease due to their high sulfur compounds. Seasonal vegetables are also an easy way to add vitamins and colour to your meals. Vegetables tend to be cheaper and included in offers when they are in season, so they can also be inexpensive. Sticking to seasonal veg is an easy way to mix up meals and get the most flavour out of them.
You can also make meals more pleasing by eating colourfully. Taste the rainbow! Except, not really, unless Skittles are a part of your meal preps for the week! No judgement there because, well, Skittles. But if they aren’t, making sure your plates are full of colorful veggies and fruits is important. Not only does this offer you a more balanced meal that’s packed full of vitamins and minerals, but it’s also aesthetically pleasing! If your food is pretty, you’ll be more likely to actually enjoy your food and look forward to eating it.
Another simple way to make meals tastier is to play around with different seasoning. I can’t stress using seasonings, herbs, and spices enough. Like our friends onion and garlic, seasoning your food with different spices can make a huge difference in your meal prepping experience. Definitely be sure to add ingredients like ginger, cilantro, parsley, smoked paprika, cumin, thyme, and rosemary to your food for added health benefits and of course, taste. If you find yourself using the same seasonings all the time, it might be a good idea to have a look at some recipes for your favourite types of food and pick out the combinations that pop up often. This means that although you might have chicken for three meals of the week, the meals are different. For example, one day you might have Chinese inspired flavours with ginger and garlic, the next Mexican with paprika and cayenne pepper and the last Italian with tomatoes and basil. This is also very affordable!
So now that you’ve thought about how to make meals more interesting, it’s time to address portion sizes. One of the most common issues that many people face, and the reason why their new lifestyle change doesn’t stick, is because they aren’t eating enough. If your portions are too small, it’s a no brainer that you’ll be hungrier, but this can lead to you to straying away from your new lifestyle change, and snack on foods that aren’t the healthiest. You’re body needs to get the right amount of nutrients out of your food, so play around with the ratio of your meals. If you find yourself still feeling hungry, try adding a bigger portion of vegetables. Starchy carbohydrates will also sustain you for longer, so don’t cut them out just because you’re trying to lose weight.
Sometimes, the most difficult thing about meal prepping is keeping up with it. Try buying things in bulk. Not only is this incredibly cheap, but you’ll be able to get more out of each item to create several different types of meals. For example, buying bags of potatoes, rice, and legumes can result in more variety of dishes that you can prepare for weeks. You could use potatoes for curries, baked fries, potato latkes, mashed potatoes, and soups. Rice (brown, jasmine, white, whatever you want), can be made into stir fry’s, rice bowls, or as a side. And legumes (black, pinto, chickpeas, lentils), can also be made into curries, tacos, burritos, rice bowls, and bean burgers.
If you’re trying to make meal prepping work the most important thing to remember is to be gentle with yourself. Trying to make dietary changes is a big lifestyle change. Whether you’re recovering from an eating disorder, or just want to live a healthier lifestyle, being kind to your body and where it is at its current state is important to you and your mental health. When you find meal prepping difficult, take a minute to think about why you’re doing it, and make your meals fit into your lifestyle by tailoring them to suit your needs and likes.
Written By Teresa Johnson