Happy New Year! Each new year often brings a renewed spirit of health as we embark on a year full of goals and aspirations. Maybe you’re looking to trim offseason weight gain, embrace the idea of eating more whole foods or simply just dial in your food intake to best support performance goals. Regardless of your situation, one simple quote from Benjamin Franklin can speak to all of us: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” Good intentions can only take us so far, and let’s face it, when we haven’t packed a meal for lunch or planned what is for dinner, the odds of grabbing something for its value in convenience rather than its power to nourish skyrocket.
Here are four foundational tips to support efforts in planning ahead.
1. Write a menu for the week — remember to consider all meals and snacks, as well as a few treats.
2. Create a grocery list based on your menu.
3. Stick to the list.
a. Don’t shop hungry or stressed.
b. Avoid justifying a purchase “because it was on sale.”
c. Make room for creativity or on-sale/seasonal produce purchases within your menu plan and grocery list (example: list “roasted veg” and purchase the one that is featured or appears the freshest once you are in the produce section).
4. Carve out time for prepping over the weekend.
a. Cut veggies — washing, drying, slicing and dicing — for each meal can be the difference in whether you choose to grab takeout on the way home. Help yourself out by prepping any vegetables over the weekend. Once your veggies are chopped and ready to be added in the recipe, creating nourishing meals can be quick and delicious.
b. Season and marinate meats. Allowing meat to marinate for 24-48 hours is a simple way to take any meal to the next level. Once you’ve planned what you’ll eat for the week, you’ll be able to defrost and then marinate meats in the refrigerator accordingly.
Need some ideas to get started? Here are a few of my favorite foods to prep over the weekend.
During the winter, we make soup at least once a week in my house. Look to Pinterest for a warming coconut curry or African peanut soup recipe, or stick with a homemade chicken noodle soup or chili for a tried-and-true classic. Be sure to fix an extra-large pot with leftovers for lunch or dinner in mind. [Try these: Buffalo Chili, Turkey Sausage and Sweet Potato Stew, Performance-Enhancing Winter Soups, Warm Soups and Chowders for Cold Weather.]
Muffins: Chop a few veggies — think omelet additions such as pepper, onion, garlic, tomato, broccoli, mushroom — and add to muffin tins. Whisk eggs with a bit of salt and pepper, and add to tins. Add shredded cheese, ham or bacon for extra umph! Bake in advance, then package and refrigerate (or freeze) individually for a grab-and-go breakfast or snack. [Recipe: Mushroom and Swiss Frittatas]
Hard-boiled: Boil a dozen eggs, and leave in an open bowl in the refrigerator to grab one or two for a snack or on the way out the door before work.
Cut veggies and separate into individual snack bags for the week. Keep a container of hummus at work for the week, or separate hummus or a yogurt-based vegetable dip into small containers for each day. Grab a couple of string cheeses with a piece of fruit, add a small handful of nuts or seeds to a container of yogurt, or fill a snack bag with homemade trail mix. Regardless of your snack choices for the week, the key is to pre-portion into individual bags or containers for each day of the week. Planning for those snack attacks by being prepared with nourishing foods will help you avoid the candy jar or vending machine and can make all the difference.
The sky is the limit here! Try a roast with some veggies (remember to add liquid such as broth or tomato juice so your meal doesn’t dry out over the day) or a stew. It’s the perfect welcome home after a chilly day.
Salad in a Jar
From bottom to top, add dressing and seasonings, nuts and seeds, hearty vegetables, protein source, delicate vegetables, nuts and seeds and leafy greens. When you’re ready to eat, give the jar a shake and serve in a bowl or plate (or straight from the jar).
Now that you know some of my favorite tricks, I hope you can apply one or more of these ideas into your meal prep and enjoy the benefits of planning for success.
Becca Rick, MS, RD, is a sport dietitian and Certified Level I Metabolic Efficiency Training Specialist. She has worked with multiple U.S. Olympic sports, is a consulting sport dietitian with eNRG Performance and is a wellness consultant/RD with GBS Benefits based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. To get in touch with Becca, email email@example.com.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.