Prep once, eat twice - leftovers

This week I am dedicating all my blogs to tips for healthy eating in today's society. 

Recognizing that we all tend to put/have a little more on our daily plate than we can handle, the most important thing to remember is that the food you put inside your body is designed to fuel your busy lifestyle. You may be among the many who says you are too busy to shop, cook or eat healthy but when it comes to making time for health, it's a priority, not something you have to find time for. 

In today's society, there's a reminder to cook meals at home and to prepare real food to nourish the body but it's a statement that's repeated over and over without a large following. The biggest issue is that we have access to convenience, quick food which doesn't place much pressure on us to recipe plan, meal prep, shop and prepare foods. Also, if we find ourselves hungry when outside of the home, we rarely run into the issue of having to live our day in a starved state for food is often available at a vending machine, gas station, grocery store, fast food or restaurant....or perhaps in your car, desk drawer or even in your bedroom.
I have developed a lot of meal time-savers over the years but they were all works in the making. I didn't wake up one day and change my entire life overnight but instead, I gradually found ways to make better use of my time in order to prepare balanced, healthy and delicious meals that would fuel our active and busy lifestyle. 

Leftovers can be great or not enjoyed. When you love something, it's always wonderful to enjoy the similar flavors the next day for lunch or dinner. When you overeat something or do not like the taste of something, it's likely that the extra food that was not consumed was wasted in your trash can. 

The key to leftovers is planning to have leftovers. Here are a few tips for shopping, planning and prepping for leftovers:
-Buy bagged/pre-washed lettuce for easy prep for leftovers.
ex. if you have leftover protein or a stir fry, add a handful or two of dark leafy green to your meal for a plant-strong lunch the next day without any extra cooking/chopping. 

-Buy frozen foods for easy cooking/steaming.
ex. add frozen veggies to a stir-fry, casserole, soup. 

-Think about your week before buying produce. I recommend to have enough fruits/veggies to last 3 days to start. If you can shop more frequently (but smaller shops) you may find yourself wasting less while changing your habits until you recognize how quickly you go through produce, especially depending on your week (ex. traveling, events, etc.)
ex. Don't overload your fridge with fresh produce if it's going to go bad. Do your prep ahead of time so options are chopped for easy meal prep to reduce the chance of whole foods going bad. 

-Have a plan for your recipes before grocery shopping. This will not only make you excited to shop and cook new foods but also you will waste less food.
ex. do not shop hungry and avoid shopping only on the weekend (if possible). Do your shopping on a day that you aren't finding yourself having to prep as well. Give yourself a chance to stock your fridge before chopping/dicing and cooking so you don't get burnt out. 

-Use your oven, stove top and microwave when you are at home. Think about anytime (if you are reading this in the evening - perhaps right now) that you are home that you could have something cooking. This is my biggest time-saver is cooking food (and more than one thing) when I am on the computer.
ex. The best way to start this new habit is to set an alarm on your phone. If you find yourself getting distracted at home and watching the time go by and then feeling starved for dinner but not in the mood to cook, let your timer remind you that you need to start dinner. Whether your meal takes 15 minutes or an hour, it's likely you have the time so you just need to make the time. 

-Plan for leftovers and cook more than one food at once.
ex. If you are using your oven to cook a protein, throw in some veggies, make some kale chips or bake some muffins (depending on the temp). If you are making pasta, cook some whole grains on another burner. Use your crock pot. While everything is cooking, cook a potato in the microwave or warm leftovers. This may be the biggest change at first in order to learn how you can multi-task in the kitchen but once you nail this tip, you will find yourself with more real food options available when your body needs to refuel/fuel and be nourished. 

A few of my personal tips:
-I eat similar foods before every workout which makes it easy to always make sure my kitchen has the food I need to fuel properly before workouts.
-Wasa crackers, seasonal fruit (ex. banana, strawberries or raspberries), Smuckers Natural PB, Maple Syrup, granola/cheerios, raisins

-I try to prep or cook a meal before I work out in the evening. This doesn't always happen depending on my day but I try to do as much as I can (even if 10 minutes) to get a meal started before we leave for an evening workout. 

-I love go-to meals. I don't strive for perfection and many of my meals are repetitive but they work. It's super easy to throw together an omelet with mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and a little cheese and toast fresh bread. It's also simple to have oatmeal in the morning or yogurt and fruit for a snack. It's important that even with a super busy day, I have food to keep my brain and body happy so that it functions well. 

-We shop frequently. We will often do a big shop every 7-10 days when we need food but because of our active lifestyle (two athletes training for endurance triathlons), there are many quick stops at the grocery store just for a few perishable items (or when I have an idea for a yummy meal creation). I try to combine my quick stops with workouts/errands so if I am already out and the grocery store is nearby (there's a Publix near every place that we workout/work outside the home) I will make a quick stop rather than heading out later in the week. This may not be practical for everyone but in our house we go through food quick and we never waste food. 

-Food makes us happy. We do not have "bad" food in our house but we also do not consume a 100% real food diet, 100% of the time. If there is processed food in our house (ex. pita chips, pretzels, granola, etc.) it doesn't get consumed frequently. It's just there and isn't seen as a temptation. 
We both have a great relationship with food and food makes us feel better after we eat then before. This helps with consistent meal planning and eating for we both have never seen food as an enemy but instead, it makes us happy. (ex. you won't see us ever diet, cleanse, detox, restrict, etc)

-It's ok to have a routine diet but variety will ensure you are getting a lot of vitamins and minerals and will also prevent burnout of eating the same way all the time. Think about varying the color of your veggies/fruit or switching up your proteins or grains. Simple changes can make a big difference when it comes to always getting excited to prep, cook and eat real food.
ex. change up the fruits in your morning oatmeal or try a different grain or protein a few days per week. Think about prepping a few options on the weekend that you can add into your normal meals and see if anything new inspires you. Look up recipes online or get inspired by what you see on restaurant menus or on the Food Network. Still need some inspiration? Enroll yourself into a cooking class. 

-Some people will find it easier than others to include produce in the diet. When it comes to eating a plant strong diet, you do not have to have a salad at every meal but instead, create a meal that is built on plants. Whether it's a salad or a lettuce wrap or a stir-fry, think about turning your sandwiches inside out or making the veggies/fruit the spotlight of the meal. 
-ex. making salads can feel a bit time-consuming - especially if you are hungry. Chop foods ahead of time and when you get the act of making a salad, make two. Chop your items and place in separate containers for easy snacking and prep the next few days. 

-Multitask in the kitchen when you aren't hungry. 
ex. If you are starving, it's unlikely that you are going to think about or make the time to prepare lunch for tomorrow or make another meal for the next day. Think about times when you aren't super hungry to start your prep for another meal. If you do find yourself making a meal (ex. dinner) use your time "waiting" for the meal to cook to make breakfast/lunch for tomorrow (or get your ingredients ready). 

Here are two meals that I made (Sunday afternoon after our 4:15 bike/run workout and today (Monday while at home, working on the computer, making calls, etc.) 

A Mexican-inspired salad bar

(prep ahead for lots of leftovers!)

1 package Tempeh (chopped, then grilled on skillet in a little olive oil on medium heat) OR your choice of protein
Mango (1 chopped) OR peach
Cheese (shredded or brick)
Avocado (1 chopped)
Stir fry of fresh veggies OR frozen:
mushrooms (1 large package - sliced and pre-washed), red and green pepper (chopped), chives (chopped), black beans (1 can, low sodium rinsed and drained), garlic (2 cloves chopped) tossed in olive oil in a large pot on low heat, covered. Add 2-3 tbsp water to prevent sticking. 
Jasmine rice (1 cup dry w/ 2 cups water, cooked for 15-17 minutes) OR your choice of grain 
Romaine lettuce (2 large heads, chopped) OR pre-washed/chopped lettuce
Fage 0% greek yogurt - large container (if using for lunches at work, you may find it easier to have individual portions in your fridge)
Salsa (jar) or make your own
Mutligrain chips or triscuits or crackers - optional for a crunch 

Pot of veggies - throw it all together and let it cook for 20 minutes (stir occasionally)

The final product..... a salad sky-high of yumminess and immune boosting nutrients. 

Stuffed peppers

Two green peppers (with sturdy bottoms that will stand up)
1 can tomato Parmesan soup
Leftovers: Jasmine rice, stir fried veggies/beans/corn
Your choice of protein

Place scooped-out peppers (with top removed with a serrated knife) in a large pot (on low head) with 1 can soup + 1/2 can water. 

Add a few spoonfuls rice to fill pepper 1/3 full. 

Add veggies

Top with cheese (I stuffed some in the sides and on top - I used deli cheese, pepperjack) 

Cook on low heat for 60-75 minutes covered in your pot (or in crockpot)- my peppers stuck to the bottom a little when I removed them from the pot  with a spatula (large serving spoon for the soup) so be careful when removing or stir the soup a little here and there to prevent sticking. I wasn't in the kitchen for over an hour so I didn't do anything to these peppers once I put them in the pot)

Serve your pepper

Enjoy and yum!

Do you have a question about healthy eating in today's society (ex. cooking/recipe tips, diet suggestions, meal/recipe planning, foods, etc. ) that you'd like me to discuss on my blog? Send me an email