You have had a long day at school or work. It's 5:30pm, and in your rush to get home you realize you have nothing planned for dinner. Once home, your peruse the refrigerator and realize the only two options are blue box mac 'n' cheese or peanut butter and jelly.
Sound familiar? Athletes today have so much going on that meal planning consists of the 5 minutes before they want to eat. But meal planning doesn't have to be 2 hrs of cooking a 4-course meal every night. You can eat healthy with only a little pre-planning and minimal food preparation. Here's how:
Sunday: This is often a less hectic day for all of us. Use this day to plan your meals for the week and shop. Often the grocery store is markedly less busy on Sunday nights. Make a list so you don't buy frivolous things or waste time. When choosing meals, don't reinvent the wheel. There are an infinite number of websites and blogs out there that provide quick, easy, cheap and HEALTHY recipes. Here is my newest favorite: http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/ Sign up for her email list and have dinner ideas sent right to your inbox - how easy is that?! If you have time today, you can even prep for Monday and Tuesday's dinner (i.e. chopping vegetables, cooking pasta or rice, etc.).
Monday: Cook enough tonight that you have enough to eat on Friday. In other words, cook once - eat twice. Therefore, choose something that freezes easily, such as chili, lasagna or a meat dish.
Tuesday: Focus on fresh foods that are easy to prepare. Think salads or low-sodium deli meat sandwiches loaded with veggies. You want to use your produce before it goes bad. Top salads with easy protein foods like canned beans, hard-boiled eggs or pre-cooked shrimp.
Wednesday: Slow cooker day! Give yourself a break and prepare this the night before. Wednesday morning, set the crock pot and go. Pretty much anything can be made in a crock pot (even meat loaf), but some easy ideas are chicken and potatoes, mushroom-barley soup, or fajitas.
Thursday: Pantry day. Use those non-perishable items and supplement with any leftover produce. How about a quick pasta and veggie dish or quinoa with black beans?
Friday: My favorite day. Just defrost Monday's leftovers and you are good to go.
Help yourself out and make sure you own these kitchen appliances. They cut your prep time significantly and just overall make your life a whole lot easier:
-Crock pot/slow cooker
-Rice cooker (also cooks lentils)
-Toaster oven (especially when baking for one or two - heats up and cooks much faster)
-A good blender
With a little pre-planning, eating healthy every night is much easier than you think. It's 2013. Make the commitment; make it a habit. Good luck!
Adapted from "Eat a Healthy Dinner Every Night", Women's Day, 2009, Karen Ansel, RD