Meal Prepping : A Key to Consistent Health Eating
At the Whole Dancer, we love working towards goals that create a mentally and physically healthier version of yourself as a dancer.
Some research suggests, it takes 30 days to establish a good habit. It also takes 30 days to rid yourself of a bad habit. Though studies show new habits can take longer than 30 days to form, I feel that you have to give any new lifestyle change at least a 30 day trial.
Meal prepping, or as some call it: rediscovering leftovers, is a fantastic habit that will help you make healthy food choices, save money, and save time. It can seem daunting at first, but once you get into the swing of it, it will seem so easy.
Meal prepping is mostly about planning. Think about your week ahead. Look at your schedule and plan what day you’ll go grocery shopping, what nights you have more time to cook, and what night’s you will just want to be able to pull something out of the fridge to reheat.
It helps if you have a consistent schedule where you know you can always go grocery shopping on a certain day of the week. If that’s not possible, schedule a time to go grocery shopping every 5-7 days.
When creating your grocery list, think about how many days of food you have to plan for. You don’t want to buy so much food that it spoils before you eat it, but at the same time you don’t want to run out of staple items before your next trip.
Always create a grocery list before you go shopping. Grocery shopping with no aim, especially when hungry, can often lead to overspending and buying items that might not create cohesive meals.
Look up recipes you want to make in the coming week before you go grocery shopping so you can add all of the ingredients to your list. It’s the absolute worst when you’re mid-cooking and realize that you’re missing a key ingredient.
Have a list of staple ingredients that you buy each week without fail. Often these are items that included in your favorite recipes, go-to rehearsal snacks, or versatile food items that can go into a variety of recipes.
Examples of items that can be on your list of staples are:
- a type of leafy greens
- a variety of veggies of different colors such as peppers, broccoli, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and squash
- fruit that is easy to throw into your dance bag
- berries (if they are in season)
- a protein heavy grain such as quinoa or brown rice
- a nut butter that is good to add to fruits or veggies for a rehearsal snack
Obviously there is going to be some fluctuation in produce depending on what is in season. And, don’t be afraid to deviate from your list if something at the grocery store inspires a meal.
The next step is looking at your calendar and finding a time you can dedicate to meal prepping. I usually spend an hour to an hour and a half on meal prep. For me, I often meal prep the same day I go grocery shopping, or a night when I get home a little earlier and I know that I have time and energy to meal prep.
That night, I will make enough dinner to have at least one serving in addition to that evening’s meal. After dinner, I make lunches for the next few days. I usually make about three days worth of lunches or meals at a time. You don’t want to get so far ahead of yourself that the food goes bad.
Salads are one of the easiest meals to meal prep. There are infinite options, so you can always get creative while making lunches. It’s also a great way to repurpose extra ingredients (such as chopped veggies) from dinner that night. Check out The Whole Dancer blog post on “How to Build a Better Salad” that gives you tips on creating a well-rounded salad.
In addition to meal prepping, you can pre-portion your snacks. Divide that huge bag of baby carrots or granola into 3-5 smaller bags, and take strawberries or blueberries out of the big plastic containers from the store and put them into smaller containers.
Reusable containers are your best friend for meal prepping. For the obvious reason, you will need a fair amount of reusable containers for the meals you are creating. Use containers that are perfect meal size so you can just grab and go, and not have to worry about re-portioning the food. Before you start cooking line up your containers so you can put portion the food into the containers as soon as you’re done cooking.
Not sure what to meal prep? You can find recipe ideas in so many places! The Whole Dancer Blog shares recipes from dancers, as well as ideas for rehearsals snacks, and how to fuel yourself for auditions and performances.
Pinterest is a great place to find recipe ideas. Find a cookbook you resonate with to find new ideas for meal (I’m personally a huge fan of Thug Kitchen, which I did a review of on The Whole Dancer blog: http://www.thewholedancer.com/thug-kitchen-101-cookbook/). If you’re still stumped, ask a friend or family member. Everyone has a favorite recipe that they would love to share.
Meal prepping might feel daunting and time consuming at first, but you will thank yourself when you’re running out the door in the morning and can just grab your lunch, or when you come home from a long day of rehearsals and dinner is already made.