5 Awesome Meal Prepping Tips

5 Awesome Meal Prepping Tips 

How many of you have had every intention to meal prep on a Sunday night to then find yourself ordering take-out, or just saying, “eh, I’ll do it Monday, this week was tough and I need to rest.” Monday comes, and nothing. So you recommit for the upcoming Sunday. And the cycle continues…

I feel ya!

As you’re on your journey, you’re probably finding that it’s becoming easier to eat healthy foods. But cooking them is a whole different ball game. That’s the real challenge, right?

But with a few simple meal planning strategies – and the DECISION to stay disciplined and create a habit – you can get your nutritional game on point! Plus, you’ll feel like a hero during the week with all of the time you’re going to save yourself.

Here are five tips to help you get started.

1. Set Your Goals

Before you just start choosing recipes and going shopping you have to stop and consider your personal goals. Are you following a specific program that is suggesting a certain amount of macronutrients? Do you have a target calorie count? What foods are best for you? Are you needing to modify a particular plan to suit your specific needs? What do you need to eat more of? Less of?

Whew…. that was a lot of questions. But they’re important so you evaluate YOUR specific needs and you’re set-up for success.

Not everyone’s body responds to food the same way. So find out what foods are best for yours and meets your body’s fuel requirements that help hunger and cravings disappear. It can be an initial trial-and-error period, but when that happens it makes following a nutrition plan so much easier!

2. Make a Master Recipe Plan

Once you know what you need to eat, gather a master list of recipes that you love. That way when it’s time to cook, it’s easier and quicker instead of taking time to comb through every cookbook or recipe website.

To organize – use whatever system works best for you … Pinterest, meal planning apps, index cards in a recipe box, or printing them out and place in a binder.

I prefer to stick to similar recipes for a period of time (about 1-2 weeks). Those recipes also share similar ingredients that help make it easier to plan and keeps costs and food waste down. If you need more variety keep it to one week. It’s important to have variety in your plan so you don’t get bored – but everyone’s threshold to food boredom is different so listen to what your body (and mind) is saying within reason 😉

3. Shop Strategically

Make your grocery list based on the healthy recipes you’ve just pulled from Tip #2. Make a list of the foods you know are a part of your meal plan you’ve just created, and ensure you stock up on those. It’s important to have a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, along with a few different types of proteins, peanut butter, raw nuts, and lots of seasonings (the recipes you pulled already called for these right 😉 )

This way, no matter what meal you want to make you have the ingredients you need. But also know this … when you’re planning your meals for the week, it’s definitely okay to leave some flexibility. So if you go off plan slightly and you’ve stocked up on healthy staples, it’s okay to go off the menu and prepare something different.

And please don’t force yourself to eat something you HATE because everyone else is saying how healthy it is. If you really don’t like kale, guess what, you’re not going to grab it when you’re hungry. So don’t add it to the list.

4. Bang Out the Prep Work Like a Pro

When you return home from the store, don’t just stuff your groceries in the fridge. Do some time-saving prep work as soon as you get home. Prepping your food is a huge part of success.

Peel your carrots, slice your cucumbers, scrub your sweet potatoes, dice your onions and wash some fruits (that won’t spoil quickly with pre-wash). Not only does it become a one-and-done task rather than a daily chore, but it makes you more likely to grab those healthy foods when you’re hungry.

Also, cook some of your food for the week. I usually cook enough protein to get me through three days and some veggies/sweet potatoes to get me through 3-4 days.  This way, when you’re running out the door, everything is made and you don’t have to think about it. Just grab and go!

5. Don’t Self-Sabotage

You’ve worked so hard upfront to save yourself time in the upcoming week. Easy right?!

Maybe not “easy,” but definitely easier. Because you still have to try to avoid the usual temptations and stumbling blocks. Whether at home or in your place of work. Where you DO have the most control is at home. So avoid the temptation altogether and don’t buy the junk food. Don’t have it staring at you when you’re stomach is growling! Here’s the deal, if you have ice cream in your freezer you may reach for it coming home from a stressful day at work. So just don’t have it in there. Schedule your cheat meals (if it’s according to your plan) and go OUT for ice cream. Believe me, I’ve thought I was strong at times, too!

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All-in-all … as long as you plan ahead, shop for healthy foods, and keep some go-to recipes in your arsenal, healthy eating will become easier and can eventually become a wonderful habit. Not only will your body feel terrific, but your mind will feel awesome because you’re saving yourself time and avoiding hassle during the hectic workweek.

Cheers!

 

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8 Tips to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Eating fresh, healthy, organic, local foods sounds great! But if you’re on a budget it can seem impossible. But I promise, it’s not!

But I feel your pain, because I used to think that too. And although boxed foods can (unfortunately) be less expensive, getting healthy food can still fit within your budget and not break the bank!

There are plenty of ways to eat well and actually save money in the process.

1. Do NOT shop hungry!

How many times do you go to the grocery store after work tired, hungry, and possibly grumpy? A Cornell study shows that people who shop while hungry are more inclined to not only purchase more food, but buy more high-calorie foods. Haven’t you noticed that you crave the cookies, breads and chips when you’re starving?

My Tip: keep a piece of fruit or a small bag full of nuts in your bag to help keep your tank on medium, helping you avoid filling your cart with foods you’re craving at the moment, but would avoid getting on a full stomach.

2. Buy Produce in Season 

Whether you’re going to the local farmer’s market or your favorite grocery store, load up on seasonal fruits and vegetables. In-season food isn’t just cheaper, it’s also more flavorful and nutritious. Also, your grocery store is probably stocking a lot of local produce and offering deals on it during peak times. Plus, you can when they’re on sale and freeze them for later.

3. Join a CSA

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great way to get high-quality, nutritious food at a cheaper price than you’d find at the grocery store. Here’s the way it work … you buy a share of a local farm’s harvest up front (usually $400 to $700 per year), and then pick up a weekly box with fresh, seasonal produce. Every week you get a box of whatever came out of the farmer’s field. Like buying in bulk at warehouse stores, this calls for some time and creativity in the kitchen.

When it comes to CSAs, you’ll only save if you actually use everything in the box. Unfortunately, if you’re cooking for one or are a picky eater, it may not be worth the investment.

 

My tip: if an entire box seems like too much check to see if your CSA offers half-shares. OR split a full share with a neighbor or a friend.

4. Buy Healthy Staples in Bulk.

Stocking up on canned/dry goods, healthy whole grains and frozen produce can help you create inexpensive meals on the fly. Costco, Sam’s Club or Amazon Pantry are some options for buying in bulk or having the convenience of mail delivery.

When buying in bulk at warehouses like Costco, you’re able to find fruits and veggies at ridiculously low prices! Thats ‘s you’re willing to buy, say, 15 pounds of potatoes or 8 pounds of oranges at a time. You’ll be stocked up for a while and are in for some work at home (organizing and finding space), but at those prices, who’s complaining?

5. Buy Store-Brand Organics

Whole Foods is more expensive than your general supermarket, but there are some deals with their store brand, 365 Everyday Value. In fact, this year, they’re launching affordable stores in some urban areas called 365 by Whole Foods, with plans to double them in 2017.

Many other supermarkets now have their own organic brands, like Publix Greenwise, Stop & Shop Nature’s Promise, Aldi Simply Nature, and Kroger Simple Truth.

The other thing to look for are weekly specials being advertised to get consumers in their doors. For example, Fresh Market has $2.99/lb organic chicken each and every Tuesday.

 

6. Buy flash-frozen fruits, vegetables, and fish.

While any processing takes away from a food’s maximum nutritional value, flash freezing is a great way to preserve vitamins and minerals when vegetables and seafood are at their freshest. Plus, the convenience factor can’t be beat – especially when you’re crunched for time.

The price? For seafood, fresh is definitely much more expensive. But that’s even if you can find it at all. If you check at your local grocer’s fish counter, you’ll actually find that much of what is being sold in the case as “fresh” has in fact been previously frozen. Next time, you’re in – ask them 😉 I learned this fact, when I was looking for freshly caught shrimp and salmon.

Produce is bit more tricky. Frozen is sometimes, but not always, cheaper than fresh, in-season, fruits and vegetables.

7. Use Meal-Planning and Grocery Apps

Meal planning is one of the simplest ways to stay on track with your nutrition AND your budget. Win-win!

Many of the major grocery chains offer apps where you can browse weekly ads and even create grocery lists. My suggestion, plan your meals based on what you already have at home ad what’s on sale at your grocery store.

Additionally, there are several meal-planning apps available where you can find recipes and build shopping lists if your local grocery store doesn’t have one (or you don’t like it).

Here are a few worth checking out:

  • MealPlan Meal and Grocery Planner
    Best for: Newbies ($4; iOS)
    This is a great app for first-time meal planners. It’s easy-to-navigate where you can drag and drop recipes into a home screen organized by meal. It’s great for someone who’s trying to get more organized and who need something simple and quick to map out their weekly diet. Once you have your list completed, you can either email or print out the list – even have it sorted out by aisle!).
  • Mealboard
    Best for: Budget-Minded Foodies ($4; iOS)
    This app helps you get your budget and diet under control! The app will aggregate a grocery list that also shows you the price of ingredients if you shop at one of the stores also used in the app.
  • Pepper Plate
    Best for: Multi-course masters (free; iOS, Android)
    Add recipes you’ve collected from the web or manually enter your own creations and this app will generate a grocery list to make shopping easy-peasy.
  • AnyList
    Best for: Busy families (free or $8 upgrade; iOS)
    This is a great app that allows multiple users to add items to a singular shopping list, either manually or with the help Siri. Any updates will automatically sync to everyone’s devices, so the entire family is on the same page.

8. Stick to your list.

Now that we have a way to make our focused grocery list … don’t cave for those cookies while you’re at the grocery store. Remember you have that small piece of fruit or the bag of nuts to get you through 😉

Create your meal plan and shopping list at home – then commit sticking to it!

However, there are sometimes some exceptions. For example, sometimes a gorgeously fresh fruit or vegetable will stand out—one you hadn’t planned on. That’s ok. Or maybe you have to get a substitute brand because your favorite sold out. Build some flexibility into your list to account for these unanticipated situations.

A good rule of thumb is to stick absolutely to your list of pantry items, but give yourself some leeway with fresh, seasonal foods.

 

Do you have any tips to add to this list? Would love to hear them! 🙂

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Are You Struggling with Nutrition?

Are you struggling with nutrition?

I COMPLETELY understand how frustrating it is to figure out the right foods to eat … and in the right portions!
The following tips helped me the most when I was starting out on my health journey. If you’re just starting out – or have been struggling lately – hope they can inspire you and help you get on the right track!

TOP 5 NUTRITION TIPS

1) Make a Commitment & Routine

Your body is your one and only true home – treat it right.
Okay, this isn’t necessarily about food directly, but it IS about setting priorities to keep YOU healthy and influencing your decision to eat healthy. So that’s why it’s #1.
You have to first evaluate where you are on a scale 1-10 when it comes to your nutrition (1 being horrible, and 10 being super clean, healthy foods). Once you determine where you’re at … think about how your health will be affected in 10 years … in 20 … in 30 years. Consider your family health history and how your current eating habits will either help prevent any issues or will increase your chances of having the same problems. Then take a moment and visualize how your life will be 10-30 years from now in one way or another. How will that impact your family? Your kids? And the relationship with yourself?
Based on this exercise (hopefully it motivates you to make some adjustments, if needed), the next step is for you to COMMIT to YOUR health. To make a promise to improve and make better choices. Preventive medicine is UNDER-RATED in this country. And preventive medicine starts with your commitment to eating healthier and exercising.
With that said … BABY STEPS my lovelies 😉  Avoid trying to make too many changes all at once. Slow and steady wins the race … and it helps you stay the course.

2) Food as Fuel

Learning the basics of what foods fuel my body the best.
Initially I was all about counting calories. And although part of it is about calories in/calories out, it’s more about the quality of those calories.
All calories are not the same. For instance, what’s the difference between a protein, carb and fat (macronutrients) and which foods are the good proteins, carbs and fat! That’s how it started for me, I became curious.
The key was finding a super easy way for me to portion out those macronutrients without having to know all the science behind it.
The beautiful thing, is I took the pressure OFF of my self to know EVERY SINGLE detail about nutrition. I initially learned the basics of what helped me lose weight and get healthier  – and went from there.
So, be curious about what fuels your body right! Find a system or a program that helps you portion out the good foods … and help you shop better at the grocery store.

3) Shop Smart on a Budget.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank.
Between shopping at farmer’s markets and co-ops to looking for $2.99/lb organic chicken type deals and shopping store-brand organic labels … you can still shop healthy while staying on a budget.
For more budget-shopping tips, read my 8 Tips to Eat Healthy on a Budget post.

4) Make Nutrition Fun!

Healthy eating doesn’t have to boring.
Finding new healthy recipes and experimenting with foods can be fun – make a game out of it. Explore options and keep your mind open. Visiting different websites with quick/easy recipes … and also taking existing family recipes and creating healthier versions can be a creative outlet. Plus, it shows you that healthy foods don’t have to taste like cardboard.
If you want a place to start – or add to your collection of recipes – get my For the Love of Foodies recipe ebook – FREE for a limited time! Click here.

5) Having a Support Circle.

Surrounding yourself with people who are on the same journey as you – or you are looking to become healthier and also need accountability. No one wants to do it alone. And I mean no one. Encourage your spouse, best friend or co-worker. Have them do a nutrition challenge with you – or a “up your water” challenge. Something that is fun, measurable and creates friendly competition and camaraderie.
If you don’t have someone in your inner circle, don’t fret! You can find free online groups, like my FitGirls Rock Community, that help encourage and motivate you throughout your journey. Make sure they’re a fun and #nojudugementzone kind of group!
These are just some basics to get you going. Have you tried any of them? Which one do you think would help you the most? Drop me a line in the comments!

Delicious Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle.

FREE ebook!! For the Love of Foodies

Easy to prepare recipes for a healthful lifestyle. There are yummy main dishes, fresh salads, smoothie, desserts and more! Also includes bonus information on how to get started, remain motivated, meal prepping tips and spices recipes!
[x_button shape=”square” size=”large” float=”none” circle=”true” href=”http://fitfoodie.vanessaaviles.com” target=”blank” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]Start Cooking for FREE! Download Now.[/x_button]
 FREE Recipe ebook
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Blueberry Bread Pudding

I love blueberries.

And I love bread pudding.

So here’s a great recipe that uses whole grain bread, almond milk and maple syrup, and definitely think it’s a little bit more interesting. The end result? A soft, dessert dish that’s just as satisfying to the tastebuds as traditional bread pudding, but better for ya!

And you can choose to use fresh or frozen berries.
One tip if you use frozen blueberries: remove them from the freezer just before you add them to your batter. Doing so will give you the prettiest result because as the berries start to defrost, their color tends to bleed.

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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 235 kcal

Ingredients

  • 8 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt (or Himalayan salt)
  • 8 slices low-sodium sprouted whole grain bread cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Hot water

Instructions

  1. Combine eggs, almond milk, maple syrup, extract, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl; whisk to blend. Set aside.

  2. Place bread and blueberries in a 13 x 19-inch baking dish that is lightly covered in spray.

  3. Top with egg mixture; mix well to blend. Refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes.

  4. Preheat oven to 350° F.

  5. Place baking dish in roasting pan. Add water to roasting pan to come an inch up the side of baking dish. (Baking dish will be sitting in water.) Tent aluminum foil over roasting pan so that foil does not touch bread pudding. Cut two slashes in foil to allow steam to escape. Bake for 35 minutes.

  6. Remove foil. Bake an additional 35 to 45 minutes, or until bread pudding is puffy and custard is set.

  7. Cut into eight pieces.

     

    Nutritional Information (per serving):
    Calories: 235
    Total Fat: 7 g
    Saturated Fat: 2 g
    Cholesterol: 186 mg
    Sodium: 201 mg
    Carbohydrates: 33 g
    Fiber: 5 g
    Sugars: 14 g
    Protein: 11 g

Portion Fix Containers
½ Purple
½ Red
1½ Yellow

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Photographs by Anguel Dimov and Brianne B of Natural Girl Modern World

 

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Easy Peasy Fancy Egg Cups

These egg cups are simple to prepare and are a great grab-and-go breakfast. Extra egg cups can be stored in the fridge (or freezer) and reheated in the microwave. And you can get creative with toppings for something a little “fancy” … like I show you with Step 2.

I hope you enjoy them! Please come back to this post and comment below how they turned out … and would love to see any photos of your creations!

Ingredients:
6 large eggs
6 egg whites
2 small yellow squash, chopped
1/2 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup arugula
1 crispy bacon strip
1-2 tsp fresh feta, crumbled
Himalayan salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste; optional
Nonstick cooking spray

Preparation:

Step 1:
1. Heat oven to 350° F.
2. Beat eggs and egg whites in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Add squash, pepper, and onions to egg mixture; mix well.
3. Lightly coat a twelve cup muffin tin with spray.
4. Evenly pour egg mixture into muffin cups.
5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of cups comes out clean.
6. Serve warm or store in fridge or freezer for later

*If you have a convection oven, you may want to cook at 325° F.

Step 2:
This is the “fancy” part! 😉
1. Heat up 2 already prepared egg cups
2. Cook one bacon strip – I use a microwave bacon grill similar to this one. (I don’t think the one I have is available anymore.)
3. Plate the egg cups and top with arugula, your preferred amount of crumbled feta, and about 1/4 of the bacon strip. (of course eat the rest while you’re plating the food – haha!)

FYI – My favorite mainstream brand outside of official Greek markets is Vigo. It’s the most authentic because it’s made of sheep’s milk and is a full block of cheese sitting in water – just like it’s supposed to be. I’m Greek, I kinda know my feta cheese. 😉

Tired of feeling sluggish, uncomfortable in your own skin, confused about nutrition, and just too busy to spend hours at the gym? (or not getting the results you want.)

I know you have questions. And I have answers. Because I was there…

Find out how my next challenge group session starting October 31 can help you GET YOU BACK. From short workouts … to an easy to follow whole-food nutrition plan … to personal accountability from me and our fit tribe!

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This is a post that contains affiliate links. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions and recommendations are my own.

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