Updated: May 26, 2022
Fail to plan, plan to fail. One of my top recommendations for achieving your health goals, feeling and looking your best, and living a healthy, balanced lifestyle is planning, purchasing, and prepping meals using whole fresh foods (or what I like to call “Your PPP Habit”).
Sounds simple right? Wrong! Your PPP habit is one of the first things to go when life gets busy. To avoid grabbing takeout or fast food on a regular basis, I want to share with you some tips and strategies around meal planning, purchasing groceries and meal prep.
The “PPP Habit”: Plan, Purchase, Prep
Plan The Food
Without a meal plan, we’re more likely to buy random ingredients from the store that we may or may not use, which can lead to wasting food and money. I recommend meal planning twice a week, for example, Monday - Thursday and Friday - Sunday. Shorter plans are easier to make, follow through with, and are more accurate.
Important tip: always look at your work and social schedule before you put a meal plan together so that it’s realistic. For example, if you have a busy evening, plan for an easy or familiar meal. When you have more time one evening, try a new recipe or ingredient.
If the thought of making a meal plan for even 2 days in advance is overwhelming, I recommend another habit I like to call: The Run-Through. This is a daily habit that takes 5-10 minutes. Before you sit on the couch and turn on Netflix, “Run-Through” your schedule for the following day, and your day of eating to ensure you have something healthy prepared.
In order for this to be effective, it’s important you stock your fridge and pantry with the basic healthy Macronutrients: protein, carbs and fats and fiber:
No Cook or Easy Cook Proteins: eggs, canned tuna/salmon, plain yogurt, cottage cheese, frozen edamame, hemp seeds, beef jerky, deli meat (nitrite-free)
Healthy Fats: olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, cheese, nut butter
No Cook or Easy Cook Carbs: quick oats, canned beans, gluten-free and/or almond flour crackers, hummus
Always stock: fresh fruits (ie. berries) and vegetables (ie. snap peas, baby carrots) that don’t require chopping, pre-washed leafy greens, healthy snack bar choices (Hungry Buddha keto bars are high protein/fiber, low sugar)
If you need to do a quick prep for the next day, take 5-10 minutes to make some healthy options for grab and go meals and snacks:
Prep a smoothie for breakfast: banana, a few handfuls of greens, yogurt, nut butter (add frozen fruit and water or unsweetened nut milk the next day)
Mason Jar Yogurt Parfait: 1 tsp. Honey or maple syrup on the bottom, top with plain Greek yogurt, add a scoop of natural nut butter and top with fresh or frozen berries
Boil some eggs for meals or snacks (hard-boiled eggs last 7 days in the fridge)
Make egg salad: mix with hummus
Make tuna or salmon salad: mix with hummus (lasts 3 days in the fridge), scoop into celery sticks
Mason Jar Salad: dressing on the bottom, add protein (ie. edamame, tuna or egg), next add a couple handfuls of leafy greens, raw chopped veggies (ie. cucumber, cherry tomatoes), top with hemp seeds (or other healthy fat like sliced almonds, walnuts or pumpkin seeds)
Add fruits and vegetables to containers or bags
Portion out nuts and seeds (roasting your nuts & seeds, and adding a sprinkle of cocoa powder is a healthy, delicious snack, and can make them easier to digest - removes phytic acid)
Purchase The Food
Grocery shop twice a week if possible in order to have enough fresh produce. If you’re pressed for time, try ordering groceries online, and doing pick-up or delivery. It’s a huge time-saver, and you can order your groceries a few days in advance, and keep adding to your cart as you think of things!
Important tip: keep an on-going grocery list in your phone (ie. Evernote app); when you notice you’re out of something, or think of a meal or recipe you’d like to make, add the ingredients right away on the spot.
Prep The Food
Choose one or two days, and set aside 1-2 hours to prepare food for the week:
Wash and chop veggies and fruits and have them front and center in the fridge to grab for meals and snacks.
Make a grab and go breakfast: healthy muffin, breakfast cookie, loaf or granola. Freeze, and grab on the go!
Prep smoothie bags for the freezer: portion out spinach, frozen fruit, protein powder and hemp seeds into individual bags. On the morning of, just add liquid, and blend!
Make plant-based proteins: quinoa, lentils or edamame (also a source of fiber!). They last 5-7 days in the fridge, and are awesome additions to Mason Jar Lunch Salads.
Make a simple bean salad: drain and rinse your favorite combo of beans, stir in some olive oil, apple cider vinegar and honey. It lasts 5-7 days in the fridge, and makes the perfect topping to leafy greens!
Make a double batch of protein: bake or BBQ chicken thighs, salmon, or saute ground chicken or turkey (lasts 3-4 days in the fridge).
Roast two big sheet pans of vegetables: choose 1-2 starchy veggies: sweet potato, squash or root vegetables and 2-4 other veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mushrooms, red onion, zucchini. All of these veggies reheat well, last 7 days in the fridge and taste delicious with fresh greens in a power bowl for lunch leftovers.
Prep a dressing: use olive oil as the base (olive oil is a monounsaturated fat, and has so many health benefits), add apple cider vinegar (stabilizes blood sugar, supports a healthy gut and weight loss), and add a creamy ingredient (ie. dijon, tahini or hummus) and a bit of sweet from maple syrup or honey.
Hummus: mix with olive oil for a quick creamy dressing, as a dip with veggies for a snack, in a mason jar lunch salad for added protein and fiber, or as a dip for leftover chicken.
Olive oil: use for dressings and cooking veggies and protein
Leafy greens: add to everything! Chop kale or spinach, and toss in soups, stews, chili or pasta, as a base for salads and power bowls, and as the main ingredient in smoothies.
Bag of coleslaw: add a couple handfuls of pre-washed, shredded cabbage to salads and bowls for some added crunch, texture and nutrients.
Fresh fruits and veggies that don’t require chopping: berries (high in antioxidants), snap peas or baby carrots.
Herbs and spices: add some flavor to your food!
Chickpea, quinoa or brown rice pasta: gluten free and high in fiber.
Leftovers are a huge timesaver, and when done right can turn 7 days of cooking into 3 or 4. Don’t like eating the same thing all the time? There are ways you can transform these dishes and get the most out of your leftovers.
Important tip: if you’re cooking anyways, always make double:
Batch cook chicken thighs to toss in salads for lunch or as your protein on night two, and just make a different side
Make double salmon or rainbow trout and use it to make salmon salad for lunch (again, mix with hummus). Add to leafy greens, or scoop into celery sticks.
Make a big batch of pulled pork and enjoy it as burgers for night 1 and on night 2, add it to a burrito bowl with roasted peppers and onions, tomatoes, corn and avocado.
Buy or make a roast chicken, and use it in a casserole on night 1 and add it to soup on night 2.