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One of the habits we are practicing in the Lean Eating for Women program I started back in late July is to plan our meals.  Planning sets us up for success, whatever that might look like!  For me, that means preparing meals for the upcoming week on Sundays.  And each night during the work week I take some of what I’ve prepared and get my lunch ready in a Tupperware to take to work with me.  While I do like my job, our work cafeteria is pretty lame.  [Getting the runs on my first day after grabbing a seemingly innocent slice of pizza for lunch, and hearing how others have gotten sick after eating from the salad bar was enough to scare me off.]  And we’re in a rural part of suburbia where there aren’t too many choices for going out to eat.  Plus, that can add up and get expensive over time.  Preparing and bringing my own food sets me up for success – the choices I make are mine alone and work for my own personal food and nutrition journey.

Have I mentioned I’ve dropped 33 lbs since I started this journey last July??  That’s just under 15 kg for my metric readers, by the way!  I’ve been weight training 3 times a week, doing some sort of cardio 2-3 times a week, and resting one day a week (usually on Sundays).  Now, of course, we’re going for excellence, not perfection here, people!  If I’m sick it’s not a good idea to work out and I will have zero energy.  Knock on wood I’ve been injury-free during these past 9 months so that has not been a problem.  And when the gym was closed for Christmas, no excuses!  I met up with a friend at a school playground with some stretchy bands and did a playground workout bundled up in the cold!

So…food prep starts with making a shopping list and budgeting some time for the actual food prep of course.  I am single with no kids PLUS I really enjoy grocery shopping, so this is pretty effortless for me actually.  One of the biggest habits we are learning in Lean Eating is to consume veggies and lean protein at every meal.  Yes, that means breakfast too!  Some of my favorite foods to prep include…

  • Chicken
  • Quinoa
  • Polenta
  • Mushrooms
  • Red bell peppers

I also make sure I have other veggies stocked up for the week such as fresh spinach, baby carrots, green onions and flat-leaf Italian parsley.

To cook the chicken, I usually roast two breasts. I’ll line my broiler pan with tin foil and drizzle a little olive oil on it.  The chicken breasts go in the pan and I douse them with lemon juice and garlic salt.  I might sprinkle some paprika on one and some tarragon on the other.  Play around and experiment with different spices!  20-25 minutes at 425 degrees is about right to cook the chicken, but it’s good to test and cut into the chicken and make sure it’s cooked through (meaning, no pink).  I usually bring one to work for lunch and dice up the other one to throw into an omelet for dinner later in the week or maybe to toss with some veggies.

I’m falling in love with quinoa! But I will admit the flavor can be a little bitter depending on what I eat it with.  Sometimes a small blob of pesto helps.  But I’ve also discovered blending some red quinoa in with the regular tan-colored type cuts the bitterness too.  1/2 cup of each in a pan with two cups of water, boil for 15 minutes and then let rest, covered for about 45 minutes until all the water is absorbed.  Put it in a Tupperware and you’ve got a nice batch of quinoa that will keep for over a week in the fridge.

What about polenta?  This is a “neutral” food that goes with just about anything.  I buy it in a tube, slice it up and put it under the broiler for a few minutes to ‘toast’ it slightly.  And I might sprinkle it with a little pink Himalayan sea salt.

I also spend time slicing up some fresh mushrooms and dicing a red bell pepper.  I’ll sauté the mushrooms very lightly in a little olive oil and add some garlic, lemon juice and minced flat leafed Italian parsley.  The mushrooms and bell pepper each go in their own separate Tupperware in the fridge.

NOW with all of those ingredients I have endless combinations of lunches and dinners to get me through a busy week!  The secret is to take that time to get your foods cooked and ready to go.  After work I immediately go to the gym and work out.  When I get home I shower.  By this time I’m feeling good but a little tired and not really in the mood to spend a lot of time making myself dinner. BUT with my veggies all chopped and ready to go I can crack a couple of eggs and whip up an omelet with the diced chicken, mushrooms, bell peppers and some fresh spinach thrown in!  Voila!  Easy, quick and nutritious!!

Or for lunch during the work week, the night before I will pack up a Tupperware with a few pieces of sliced polenta, some quinoa and throw in some of the diced red peppers, mushrooms and some spinach leaves.  I might even add a small blob of hummus or guacamole and sprinkle in a few black Kalamata olives. The next morning I throw it into my lunch bag, grab an apple for my late afternoon pre-workout snack and off I go!  I’m usually on conference calls all morning and through the traditional lunch hour, so I typically will eat lunch at my desk, listening in on calls with my headset in mute mode.

See how investing a little time on a Sunday sets me up for eating success?  What are some of YOUR favorite meal prep rituals?