By Daphne Baldwin Kornrich, MS, RDN, CSOWM, CDN
Any behavior change is hard, and it takes time, patience, and consistency. Working with patients who have struggled with weight loss and weight maintenance, I always try to emphasize that behavior change and not the scale will lead to healthy weight loss and maintenance.
One behavior change that I feel yields long-term results is focusing on meal preparation. It doesn’t sound too complicated, but for many, it can be overwhelming. Being in a society where processed and fast food are so abundant and easily accessible, it sounds like trying to meal prep may take too much thought and time. Okay, it does take more time to cut up vegetables than taking the wrapper off a chocolate bar, but you’re not going to get the benefits of improved health and weight with a quick fix.
To start meal prepping you need a plan:
- Think about your favorite meals and look online or in a cookbook or magazine for recipes you liked or have always wanted to try.
- Plan for the meals that you intend to eat and how you are going to use the foods you purchase.
- To be successful in meal prepping you must have the ingredients you need. Afraid that food will spoil? No worries, there are also many delicious and nutritious frozen options.
- Grab a pen or pencil and make a list.
- Stay focused and try not to purchase unhealthy options because if you buy it, you will probably eat it.
- Cooking can be time consuming, but there are many recipes that take less than 30 minutes. Purchase rotisserie chicken, frozen shrimp, washed and chopped fruits and vegetables, which will all help with saving time with food prep.
- You can also try putting aside an hour a week to cut up vegetables and fruits. Use zip-lock bags or containers to store food in your refrigerator to have easy access to make salads, meals, and healthier snacks. Simplicity, variety, and taste equals success.
- Leftovers are great for lunch or the next day’s meal. Bringing lunch and healthy snacks to work is a good way to resist the tempting lunch run, trip to the vending machine, or the treats brought into the break rooms by co-workers.
- There are also meal delivery services that provide all the ingredients, instructions, and nutrition information you need. You can modify these meals as needed and it reduces your time spent on shopping.
What are the benefits of meal prepping?
- Meal prepping allows you to have control of the ingredients that are put into a dish. You can control for added sugars, salt, and fats along with avoiding the numerous ingredients found in processed food that you can hardly pronounce.
- Include all the healthy foods that you love by using lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats.
- You have control over portion sizes.
- Food prep also helps prevent impulse eating or ordering take-out and fast food, which don’t always lead to the best choices.
- You can also save money by cooking at home.
Remember, long-term change takes time, and you may not always food prep perfectly and that’s okay, because no one is perfect. We are who we are. Even prepping for one meal or for one day is a step in the right direction. You might even find a new passion for cooking and meal prepping and enjoy food that provides many health benefits.
Daphne Baldwin Kornrich, MS, RDN, CSOWM, CDN has been a registered dietitian nutritionist for 30 years, working in a wide variety of clinical and outpatient settings. Daphne currently specializes in bariatrics and weight management.