By: Jessica Long, Nutrition Masters Student
Guest Post Writer
As a graduate student, my days are spent reading, writing, and working on my research, and my nights are spent in class or catching up on an ever growing to-do list. As you can imagine, finding time to shop, cook, and prepare meals is a challenge, and I’m certainly not alone in that struggle. Whether a student, young professional, or a parent, we all face difficulties in balancing our schedules and giving our bodies the fuel they need to keep up with everything on our plates (pun intended!).
Meal Prep and Diet Culture
It should come as no surprise that the hashtag ‘mealprep’ has nearly 10 million tags on Instagram. However, one peek into the photos associated with #mealprep and my mind begins to spin. Sure, some of the photos are beautiful, but many of the captions and recommendations are brimming with diet culture. For instance, lots of “eat this, not that,” low carb meal prep guides, and calorie counts next to Tupperware filled with grilled chicken, broccoli, and cauliflower rice. Although it might seem that diet culture has a tight grip on meal prep, there are many reasons to plan and prepare your meals that have nothing to do with weight or weight loss…
- Save time.
- Save money.
- Satisfy hunger.
For many with busy schedules (myself included!), spending copious amounts of time in the kitchen might not be a top priority, and that’s perfectly OKAY! My focus is on simple, quick meals that are both nourishing and satisfying.
Here are my #mealprep tips, without the side of diet culture:
- Make a master list of your favorite easy meals (Look for a Part 2 post for my "go-to" meals). Anna and Elizabeth wrote about their "go-to" meals at each of their houses: here and here.
- Take an inventory of your fridge, freezer, and pantry to see what you have on hand.
- Sit down and make a grocery list. There are lots of free templates out there to choose from!
- Leftovers are your friend. I rarely purchase food solely for lunches, and I try to use leftovers from one meal as the base for another meal.
- The freezer section is also your friend; I try to keep my freezer stocked with pizza dough, ice cream, and frozen fruits and vegetables. Check out Elizabeth's guest post on The Benefits of Adding Frozen Foods to Your Meal and Snack Line Up.
- If you have the opportunity, take an hour or two to prep items for the week.
Here are some of my “go-to’s” when I have an hour or two to spare...
- Hard boil half a dozen eggs for an on-the-go snack, to top a salad, or to make an open-faced sandwich.
- Make a grain to keep around; I suggest farro or quinoa in a time crunch or brown rice when you have more than 30 minutes!
- Wash and cut up produce. I recently bought several 32 oz. deli containers and I use them to store fruit for snacks and vegetables for recipes during the week.
- Make a batch of granola. Not only is it cheaper, but you can tailor it to your liking! I’m known by my classmates for bringing a tupperware with granola, yogurt, berries, and nuts.
- If the recipe allows, brown any meat ahead of time. I like to cook sausage to add to eggs at breakfast and to top pizza.
I'll share with you my "go-to" meals in a future post!
Jessica Long is a graduate student at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. She is an avid reader of research, and her interests include eating disorders, intuitive eating, and approaching medical nutrition therapy (MNT) from a weight-neutral lens. She is especially intrigued by the intersection of diabetes and weight neutral care, having experience working with patients with diabetes in a primary care setting. She is currently spearheading a research project investigating intuitive eating in minority undergraduate populations. Jessica can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram at @jessicalongrd.