17 Nov Your Holiday “Food Prep” Survival Guide
Just when you think your life is stressful enough, the holidays arrive, adding an additional layer of stress to our already busy lives. Our calendars become packed with parties, shopping, celebrations, cooking, cleaning and spending time with loved ones. With all these extra demands on our schedules it can be hard to find the time to eat healthy, which may be why so many American’s find themselves gaining a little (or a lot of) weight between Thanksgiving and New Years. It doesn’t have to be this way though. With a little bit of planning and just one hour of “food prep” in the kitchen each week you can set yourself up for a whole season of healthy, enjoyable and stress-free meals! Here are 5 steps to help you prepare.
Step #1- It’s all about the “healthy” grains
Personally, I always love to have healthy grains like brown rice, millet, buckwheat, and quinoa, on hand because they can be incredibly versatile as well as healing to the body. Take brown rice for example, which is high in soluble fiber so it’s slower to digest. This is good because it actually has a stabilizing effect on our body which helps to sustain blood sugar levels, energy, and even mood. My only complaint when it comes to brown rice is that it can take up to an hour to make and who wants to wait 60 minutes for your meal to cook these days? You can avoid the wait time though by preparing a big bowl of brown rice ahead of time, which you can then turn into a number of healthy dishes throughout the week in under 10 minutes. Dishes like stuffed peppers, stir fry and even fish tacos!
To prep your brown rice you’ll take 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth for every one cup of dry grains. For example, if you have 4 cups of dry grains you’ll use about 8 cups of broth. Combine together in a large pot over high heat on the stove. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 60 minutes. Once your rice is done, let it cool and then transfer to a large bowl and store in the refrigerator.
Step #2 – Start on the most important meal of the day
All those years your mom told you breakfast was the most important meal of the day, she was absolutely right! But we’re not talking just any old breakfast, you want to have a breakfast that is high in protein and healthy fat. Why? The combination of proteins (like pasture raised eggs, grass-fed beef and raw nuts and seeds) and healthy fats (like avocados and coconut oil) is what our bodies need to produce energy and to help keep our cortisol levels down. In a season that can place extra demands and stress on our bodies, this is one of the best things you can do to truly start your day off right and give yourself an added boost!
A simple and delicious idea for a “protein packed” breakfast is to make an egg bake and then each morning you can serve it with a side of avocado for your healthy fat. Once your brown rice is on the stove and simmering you can start your egg bake, which only takes about 10 minutes of prep time and each week you can use different veggies to mix things up and keep it fresh. Here is a link to my own veggie and turkey egg bake recipe.
Step #3 – Prep your veggies
How many times have you gone to the health food store or farmers market and spent loads of money on fresh organic produce only to find that by the end of the week you’ve consumed maybe 5% of what you brought home? It’s happened to me more times than I like to admit and only because at the end of a busy day the last thing I want to do is prepare my vegetables, even if it does only take 10 minutes. This is why I always recommend to wash, clean and cut all your veggie for the week ahead of time. While your brown rice is simmering and your egg bake is cooking, go back and look at what meals you’ve planning to make for the week and take the next 30 minutes to prepare your veggies accordingly. If you’ve decided on stir fry and stuffed peppers, dice some onions, carrots and mushrooms and when you’re done place them all into separate containers to help them stay fresher longer and to prevent them from getting soggy or spoiling. When it comes time to make dinner all you have to do is remove your containers from the fridge, grab a handful of whatever veggies you’ll be using, heat and serve. It’s that easy!
Adding more veggies to your diet is one of the single best ways to detoxify your body. In a season that’s full of heavy foods it can be really easy to throw our digestive system off track. You can help to keep your system running smoothly by aiming to get in at least 2 servings of vegetables a day.
Step #4 -Always keep a snack on hand
Snacks are so important and yet often times they get forgotten about when it comes to creating our weekly meal plans. Keeping snacks on hand and learning to eat small meals every 3 hours will not only help you keep your energy high and your cortisol levels low, it will also help you to ensure that you don’t show up to your next holiday gathering famished! When we’re hungry we’re more likely to overeat as well as choose foods that may be higher in fat and empty calorie like breads, crackers and sweets.
A really easy snack idea is to simply take 5 or 6 different varieties of raw nuts and seeds like; almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds. Mix them together and add some dried mulberries, which have been shown to have a slight sedative effect on the body and can help to calm anxious nerves. A necessity during the holiday season! Once you’ve combined all your elements you can place the mixture into a mason jar to help keep it fresh throughout the week. The process takes less than 3 minutes to do and you end up with a high protein snack that you can keep at your desk or throw in your purse or car when you’re on the go. You’ll never go hungry again!
Step #5 – Don’t forget about dessert
Have you ever noticed that “desserts” is “stressed” spelt backwards? Coincidence? I think not. In times of stress it’s very common for people to crave desserts, especially desserts that are higher in calories and sugar. Now if you’re anything like me, I absolutely love the holidays, but there is no doubt it can bring with it more “to-do’s”, more family pressure and more temptation, all of which equals MORE STRESS! This is why I always recommend to be prepared and make sure you have a health”ier” dessert on hand for those days or nights you need something a little sweet but don’t want to over indulge on the 3 c’s; cakes, cookies and candy.
One of my favorite desserts to have on hand is this almond chocolate freezer fudge from Food Babe.
This holiday try to remember, overeating one day won’t make or break your eating plan and it certainly won’t make you gain weight! It takes days and days of overeating to gain weight, which is why having healthy and delicious foods on hand and ready to go can be a real blessing to your sense of sanity and your waistline. If you over indulge at a holiday meal, put it behind you and return to your usual eating plan the next day without guilt or despair.
Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday!