Healthy Eating continued...
Healthy Meals at Home
By: Ryane Greene, MHS, RD, LDN
It’s okay to eat out every now and then but in order to save calories and money, meals prepared at home are a better option. It may take some time getting used to, but with a little planning and preparation, having a plan for meals ahead of time can eliminate some of the burden and be life changing.
Meal Planning. The first step to meal planning is to decide what meals to prepare for the week. When starting off, focus on just dinner, and then you can add breakfast and lunch meal planning to the agenda. Search for healthy recipes online or from cookbooks. Look for recipes that are balanced with good sources of protein (fish, legumes, lean poultry, etc.), vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. In addition, look for recipes that are prepared in a healthier way such as baked, grilled, or broiled instead of fried.
Here are a few resources that can help you find healthy recipes. http://www.eatingwell.com/, http://www.kitchme.com/ & https://www.skinnytaste.com/ .
Plan your shopping day. Once you have your meal ideas for the week, it’s time to make your grocery list. Keep your refrigerator organized and cleaned out. It will make creating a grocery list easier and prevent you from purchasing things you don’t need.
Check the local grocery store ads for weekly sales and visit grocery stores that offer discount cards. It will help you save money. Organize your grocery list by department. For example, list produce items together, freezer items together, and dairy items together, etc.
You may have heard that shopping the perimeter of the grocery store is best. That’s not entirely true. The center of the grocery store is where you can find whole-grains, frozen fruit and vegetables, legumes, canned fish, etc. The biggest thing to remember is to focus cutting out highly processed foods.
Keep staple foods on hand like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, low-sodium canned vegetables and tomato sauce for those nights of last-minute quick meals. If you’re going to buy fresh produce, it’s best to buy weekly so they don’t go bad, or just keep frozen produce on hand.
Modify recipes to make them healthier. Change out ingredients to make them lower in calories, saturated fat, and sugar. Use pureed beans or low-fat cottage cheese, or Greek yogurt to thicken soups instead of heavy cream or whole milk.
Cut out sugar by using fruit purees in place of granulated sugar. Applesauce, mashed bananas, and pureed prunes or dates work great and they add good nutrients to your dishes.
Try different herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of your food while cutting out salt at the same time.
Meal Prep. Pick one day a week, maybe during the weekend, to prepare meals for the following week. Wash and cut vegetables you’ll be roasting throughout the week or grill enough chicken for a couple meals. You can batch cook foods and freeze for later use. Grains such as quinoa and barley still taste great after being cooked and frozen.
Make the meal in its entirety, following the recipe, but don’t cook yet. Then use freezer bags or containers to store, then cook the day you plan to eat them. If you know you’ll be home late, throw your frozen dinner in the crock pot before leaving for work.
Make sheet pan dinners by placing your veggies and protein on one sheet pan. For example, put chicken, sliced onions and bell peppers with seasonings and bake for simple chicken fajitas. On evenings when you’re crunched for time, all you’ll have to do is preheat the oven.
There are many resources online with tips and tricks for “make ahead” freezer meals and sheet pan meals. Use these links to get you started. https://www.thirtyhandmadedays.com/31-crockpot-freezer-meals-for-busy-weeknights/, https://mealpreponfleek.com/35-sheet-pan-recipes-will-change-life/
Obstacles are easier to overcome when you’re prepared!