For Healthy Meal Planning and Help Losing Weight, Try Cooking in Batches
I know that batching recipes — preparing food in large quantities to last more than one meal — is something you might usually do in the winter or fall, but really you can batch recipes all year long. There are a lot of good reasons why you should:
- Menu planning and time management — I know it might seem like it takes longer to cook a larger batch of food, but that generally is only true for prep time. In the long run it will save you time. I promise.
- Saves money — Any time you are cooking at home and meal planning, you will always save money, especially compared to dining out.
- Helps with weight-loss and health goals — By planning your meals, you’re also able to stick with your weight-loss goals and work towards a healthier lifestyle. This type of planning will keep you on track and focused. You’re less likely to make poor food choices by going out to eat or stopping at a fast food restaurant because you have nothing to eat at home.
Following are some of my favorite healthy meal ideas. I like to make these recipes in big batches throughout the spring:
- Homemade soups — It’s starting to get warmer outside, but soup is always a great meal. There are so many different varieties for any flavor profile you might be looking for. Focus on healthier soups that include many vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Another great benefit of home-cooked soups is the fact that you have control; homemade soup tends to have less sodium and less fat than canned and processed soups.
- Muffins — You can also make your own healthier muffins that are lower in fat and packed with nutrition. Muffins freeze well and are great for breakfast, as an addition to a meal, dessert or a snack.
- Sauces or stews — When batch cooking for sauces, stews and soups, think about using a crock pot recipe too. This way, you don’t have to turn on your stove or oven when it is warmer outside. Many sauces or stews can be served over whole grain pastas or rice for a quick and delicious meal for your entire family.
- Smoothies — You can batch ingredients for many smoothie recipes in sandwich bags that will be ready to grab out of your freezer. Just dump all the contents into a blender with some yogurt, ice and milk and you are ready to go. Smoothies can be great any time of day. You can even use it as a pre- or post-workout pick-me up.
- Taco meat — Whenever I make tacos, I always make a larger batch of taco meat. Remember to use a lean protein source like ground sirloin, ground turkey breast, ground chicken breast or maybe even a combination of two different ones. This seasoned taco meat can then be used for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, taco salads or even nachos for a variety of Mexican-flavored meals that everyone will like.
- Salads — I also like to make salads for the week, by cleaning and cutting a variety of vegetables so they are ready to go at any time. If you want to, you can package your salads in tupperware-type containers to enjoy for a single serving at lunch. To avoid soggy greens, wait to add dressing until right before you are going to eat it.
- Hard-boiled eggs — Every Sunday, I hard-boil a dozen eggs. These are great for a quick grab-and-go breakfast, as a snack or again before or after a workout for some protein without feeling too full. My one piece of advice would be to mark the hard-boiled eggs, so you don’t get them confused with your other eggs (I have done this before and it wasn’t pretty).
- No-bake trail mix breakfast cookies — I recently wrote about these delicious breakfast cookies. They will last in your referigerator for over a week and they are wonderful.
Depending on the situation, remember you can freeze in single serving portions or enough for a family meal. I recommend that you always label specifically what you are freezing and include the date. Also use the first in, first out method for proper food safety. Whether it is weekly ideas like the hard-boiled eggs, salads or breakfast cookies or putting some food in the freezer during that busy work week, it will help you stay organized, save time and money, and live healthier in the long run.
Have I convinced you to try and batch some recipes yet? Do you have any foods you like to batch during the spring?
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on A Healthier Michigan in May 2012.