No Muss No Fuss: Quick Meal Prep Steps for NP Students
As RNs, I think we all are guilty of guzzling high-sugary drinks and snacks to curb our hunger. For the past year, I have been juggling a full-time position, a social life, and NP school. Why would I want to add meal prepping to my already full plate?
A co-worker introduced me to meal prepping this year. Early into adopting meal prep as part of my routine, I understood that it is necessary for mindful and healthy eating. The planning and preparing of meals in advance helps with resisting the temptation of eating quick and unhealthy foods. Meal prepping is not dieting, it is a lifestyle to manage and ensure you are eating foods that are healthy and give you the energy to withstand your day.
Here are a few steps to help you get started with meal prepping:
- Pick a day. Just like laundry is done on a regular basis, meal planning becomes routine. The best practice is to determine which day works best for you every week. Then establish boundaries to commit to this day. Also, consider your cooking skills and the time it takes to prepare, cook, and pack your meals.
- Set your budget. Invest in small containers and a cooler for the proper storage of your meals. Places such as HomeGoods®, Target®, and the Container Store® have a variety of containers that can keep your food ready to eat in an 8 or 12-hour shift. I like to shop the weekly sales at my local grocery store to help me save. Some grocery stores, like Publix, have weekly ad recipes for simple meals.
- Decide on your menu. Menus are like care plans, they are individualized. It is a good idea to select a few go-to meals to save time for an unexpected week. Maybe you have three shifts in a row and need to pack breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Food Network is an excellent source for recipes, but it can easily be overwhelming. You can also be inspired by YouTubers if you are new to this process. There are plenty of resources that offer simple suggestions with few ingredients.
- Make it a team effort. Weekly, my aunt picks fresh produce for me at the Farmer’s Market. You may have school-age children that can assist with measuring out the portions of home-made trail mix and put them in zip lock bags. Or your significant other can slice and dice your meats, fruits, and veggies. Use all available resources and make it a team effort. Even more, tag team with one of your cohorts to prepare meals for each other.
- Celebrate Good Times, Come On! Just like Cool and the Gang says, “It’s time to celebrate!” Give yourself a pat on the back for completing each week of meal prep. You have conquered an afternoon of shopping, setting the menu, and cooking. Now it is time for your reward. Treat yourself to a healthy bite at your favorite restaurant, a glass of wine, or a photoshoot celebrating your healthy body.
There are no set rules for effective meal planning. If you find yourself defaulting to eating impulsively again. Remember, like all habits, adopting meal prep, may take 21 days or longer to become routine. Until then, commit to meal prepping one week at a time and keep your health at the center of your focus.
Are you an expert on meal-planning? What works for you? What questions have I not answered? Email us, we want to hear from you! Also, check out our meal prep template on the next two pages.
Opinions expressed by NPSM contributors are their own