Does meal prep often start at the top of your weekend to-do list, but come Sunday, it lands somewhere between cleaning out your inbox and organising your workout clothes by colour? No shame. Braving the grocery store on a Saturday is draining enough, so we don't blame you for calling it quits after putting your purchases away.
But here's the thing: Preparing healthy food for the week doesn’t have to be another dreaded chore, and it's def worth the effort. “It takes the guesswork out of eating, and more importantly, makes it easy to choose a nutritious meal when you're rushed, hungry, or exhausted,” says Marni Sumbal, R.D., owner of Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition.
Alright, back to the part about making it easy. We asked seven nutritionists to share their number one tip to ensure your weekend meal prep—and weekday eats—are as efficient as possible:
Start in your kitchen.
“Use what you already have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry to inspire your weekly meals and snacks, before making your grocery list. You'll save money, waste-less food, and have a shorter shopping trip."—Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D., author of the upcoming book Body Kindness.
Get specific with your menu.
“Thinking about exactly what you’ll eat each day during the week gives you the chance to budget your meals. For example, if I bake some muffins and plan on pairing them with cottage cheese for breakfast, my lunch might look more like a salad with grilled chicken to balance out calories and nutrients like carbohydrates and sugar.” —Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat.
Stick with simple proteins.
"I often cook enough tempeh or hard-boiled eggs to last throughout the week. Both are great for tossing into a salad or combining with roasted veggies for a filling and delicious meal. Other easy-to-prep proteins that you can make in large quantities include chicken breasts, ground beef, or ground turkey." —Marni Sumbal, R.D., owner of Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition.
“If there’s one piece of healthy eating advice we can all benefit from, it’s eating more vegetables. The problem is, they can be time-consuming to prepare, which is why I take one hour over the weekend to clean, chop, and prep a variety of veggies, so they're easy to add to meals throughout the busy workweek. Veggies like squash, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts can be added to lunch or dinner as a side dish—just coat them with olive oil and seasoning, and roast them in the oven. And don’t shy away from convenience items that make it even easier to get your veggies, like pre-washed lettuces, sliced mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, olives, dry coleslaw mixes, and pico de gallo.” —Rachel Begun, R.D.N., nutrition expert and strategist.
Line your containers.
"Lining your food-storage containers with paper towel helps absorb moisture and keep your food fresher for longer. There’s nothing worse than putting in all of that legwork by washing and chopping your fruits and veggies, only to have them spoil prematurely." —Kimberly Gomer, R.D., L.D.N., the Director of Nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa.
Make big batches.
"Healthy starches like quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and sweet potatoes are easy to cook and will last up to five days in the fridge, so making a big batch on the weekends is a smart time saver. They'll make for a nutritious and easily customisable base for any meal. Plus, you'll prevent what I call doing the ‘desperation drive-through,’ where you resort to eating fast food or take-out just because you've had a long day, you're hungry, you're tired, and you don't even want to think about cooking dinner.”—Sarah-Jane Bedwell, R.D., L.D.N., host of the Cooking with Sarah-Jane video series and blog.
Stock your pantry.
“Fresh produce and protein are important, but non-perishables can also fill out weeknight meals and save serious time. For example, , tomato sauce, a can of beans, and your vegetable of choice is a quick, easy, healthy, and delicious meal that will take less than 30 minutes to whip up—as long as you have everything on hand!"—Jessica Fishman Levinson, R.D.N., culinary nutrition expert and healthy living blogger at Nutritioulicious.
This article originally appeared on Womenshealthmag.com.