As we explained previously in our feature on mental wellness, it is important to commit ourselves to slowing down amidst the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. We are all very much aware of activities that can improve our mental health, from meditation to yoga, but there’s also more to this. Understanding the benefits that these bring also renews our commitment to strategically come up with more steps to do what makes us feel good. This includes eating food that we enjoy, which also nourishes us in the best possible way. Drew Ramsey is a psychiatrist from Columbia University and he stresses the importance of talking to mental health patients about their diets. This could urge people to put in more effort to care for themselves – including altering what they eat. In effect, their mental health may improve as well.
If you find yourself struggling to prepare healthy meals, we came up with some meal prepping tips for you to follow and tweak to your liking:
Dedicate a day for planning and shopping
Meal prep is a matter of coming up with well-balanced menus or plans for every meal. For ideas on food combinations, a quick cursory search on any social media site will lead you to millions of visual inspiration from all over the world. Sheet pan dinners have become especially popular, as they are simple, colourful, delicious, and aesthetically pleasing. With a sturdy sheet pan, your possibilities are endless. You can then take the time to list down your shopping list – include produce, proteins, and starches that you can mix and match throughout the week. The first step is all about organisation, and you can think about what you see yourself making depending on your week’s schedule. However, give yourself some allowance as well depending on whatever looks the freshest when you arrive at the grocery. Meal prep also entails listing down what you can do ahead of time, and what you still need to do during the week.
Try to make big batches of things that you can reuse
Having standard ingredients on rotation can also save you time and energy. Keeping yourself satisfied is also a matter of choosing starches that will sustain you throughout the day, which includes knowing how to properly prepare or cook these starches. Cooking rice or any other whole grain is a good base for every meal, from heavy salads to grain bowls and even rice toppings. While many people may be hesitant to cook grains, having the proper rice cooker will save you time and energy in the long run. You just throw them in and follow the instructions. Some rice cookers will even let you steam other ingredients simultaneously, which is one of the healthiest ways of cooking, so it’s a win-win!
Don’t forget about food safety
Registered dietician Toby Amidor warns that one of the biggest meal prep mistakes you can make is forgoing food safety, which often happens when you are multitasking. When you’re caught up in preparing ingredients, be sure that you don’t cross-contaminate utensils or chopping boards, that your meats have been thoroughly cooked, and that you wash your hands in between prep. You could risk getting very sick if you don’t, and this will defeat the purpose of preparing healthy meals to begin with. Invest in the proper airtight containers that will help you store what you’ve prepared ahead of time to also avoid food spoilage. You'll be able to keep track of portion control and avoid wasting precious ingredients in return.
Meal prep could be the key to a better, happier, and healthier you. Preparing your own meals is rewarding, and knowing that you’ve been able to successfully nourish yourself throughout the week may easily become a part of your permanent routine. You may even soon notice the role this plays in your overall mental wellbeing, and inspire others to do the same!
Jillian Blair, guest writer