It’s that time of the year again. Children are starting to go back to school, many summer vacations are drawing to an end, and our thoughts turn to school supplies and schedules. This is the perfect opportunity to streamline your low-carb food prep routine and weekly meal planning. Here are some tips:
Shop ahead. Pick one day a week to do all your shopping. Have a hearty low-carb snack before you go, and stick to your list. Take a look at your weekly calendar and plan ahead for any business dinners, late meetings or school or sports functions.
Cook ahead. Once you are done shopping, spend a couple hours prepping your food for the week. The extra time you spend now will save you a lot in the long run. When you have low-carb snacks and meals at your fingertips, you are far less likely to succumb to packaged foods or carb-filled treats. Here are some more advance prep ideas:
• Bake ahead. Throw together a few batches of MIMs (flax seed muffins) and a couple delicious low-carb casseroles that you can freeze, defrost and reheat during the week.
• Sensational salads. Don’t just think veggies! Whip up egg, chicken or shrimp salads that you can have for lunch with a variety of veggies during the week.
• Slice and dice. Take all your veggies for the week and wash and cut them up and store them in clear glass or plastic containers in the refrigerator so that you have instant access to crunchy snacks or a variety of veggies to put in salads. Have plenty of pre-washed, bagged salad leaves readily available for your salads, or save some money by making your own: Buy a variety of different types of lettuce leaves, wash them and store in larger Ziploc bags.
• Make-ahead meat. Cook or grill a variety of chicken breasts and cuts of steak and/or fish and package and freeze in Ziploc bags. Defrost as you need through the week for convenient lunches and dinners. Cook up a batch of bacon, refrigerate it and zap in the microwave as you need through the week to sprinkle on salads or enjoy with eggs.
Love the leftovers. Plan your meals each week so that whatever you make for dinner can be re-appropriated for lunch the next day. Cook an extra chicken breast, some fish or piece of steak for dinner and slice it up and have on top of a salad packed with vegetables the next day.
On the run? Try ready-made. Have a list of go-to last-minute low-carb choices when you need them. If you’re in a bind, you can always grab a roast chicken in the deli and serve with a pre-washed, pre-bagged salad and pre-cut vegetables. You can also pick up meat and cheese platters or veggie trays to keep your hunger at bay.
Make it a family affair. Get your family involved with choosing recipes and making the weekly grocery list. If you have kids, have them help you prep the family’s food with you.
Stop being a short-order cook. Just because you are trying to change your eating habits doesn’t mean your family can’t improve their eating habits as well. Most likely, they won’t even realize that the dishes you make are low-carb. Give them some carb options to enjoy with their meals to help round them out if necessary, such as baked yam, whole grain rolls, brown rice or corn or peas. While your family may not be trying to lose weight, they will benefit from the additional fresh vegetables and limited or no processed foods.