If left to my own devices, I would eat at a different restaurant almost every night. That isn't realistic though. For one, I have several food sensitivities like gluten, lactose, and ... Yeah. The list goes on and it get tiring planning outings around the foods I have to avoid.
My other option is to prepare healthful meals at home. Between work and commuting, it is challenging to cook meals that both taste good and are healthful. Let's be honest; it's virtually impossible. For all the women out there that can get it done, I give you a huge round of applause because I am in my mid-forties and I still have not figured out how to do it on a nightly basis. So, I prepare everything on the weekends and package it up in large ziplocks and containers for easy cooking during the week.
One of the reasons I prepare meals on the weekend is because it takes 40-60 minutes to prepare and roast root vegetables (one of my favorite dishes) and that takes too long during the week. My goal is to make it hard to not cook at home. Below are the three easy steps to preparing healthy food without running yourself into the ground.
Step 1: Create a Menu
This is one of the hardest parts if you like dinner with a side of serendipity. I used to wait until an hour before dinner to decide what I would cook. That practice was super stressful when I had two elementary aged children with after school activities.
There are several meal-planning apps on the market and most of
them have a free version. If you are more compliant when using apps, check out Mealtime, FoodPlanner, LoseIt!, or MyFitnessPal. I've personally used LoseIt! and MyFitnessPal and like both of them. However, the "old fashion way" (written on a piece of paper) seems to keep me on track and lets the rest of the household know what they need to do.
Step 2: Prep & Package Meals
Prepare marinades, herb mixtures, and oil/tallow for the meat and vegetable packages. I use plastic quart and gallon bags to marinade meats and store cut vegetables. Labeling the packages will make it easier to find and prepare later in the week. I just write the day of the week on the plastic bag. If we plan to have salads throughout the week, I cut up the vegetables that go on top of the spinach, greens, and lettuce and keep it in a larger container.
As an example, when I cook cauliflower 'rice', I use a food processor to chop up half of a cauliflower head. I grate carrots and chop zucchini, mushrooms, and raw ginger and then put everything in a gallon bag. Next, I add all of my herbs (the herbs change depending on the flare of the meal) and coconut oil or tallow. I chop green onions and sweet onions and keep them in a smaller plastic bag; I put this smaller bag inside the gallon so they don't get separated.
This is a lot like something you can get in the freezer aisle. The difference is that I control all of the possible allergens. It typically takes 2-3 hours from start to finish to prep all the bags and store them in the refrigerator or freezer.
I roast root vegetables on the weekend if roasted vegetables is part of the meal plan. As mentioned before, it takes an hour or so to prep and cook them so it is better to roast them in advance. They keep well for 3-5 days in the refrigerator.
I also package up snacks like nuts, carrots, cucumber slices, and sliced apples. I also like little condiment cups of hummus and dressing for the veggies and caramel for apples.
Step 3: Cook & Enjoy
Grill, roast, or pan-fry the seasoned meats. Empty the vegetable package and sauté. The coconut oil or tallow was added to the plastic bag when prepared. If done well, this should be the easiest part and something that can easily be cooked by anyone (including teens).
I always prepare enough dinner to pack the extra for the next days' lunch. Again, this makes lunch an easy (and healthful) kill.
Remember: the goal is not to try to be a super-human. The goal is to serve up healthful meals with the least amount of energy. If you also have to deal with food intolerances and allergies, leverage batch-cooking and batch-preparation. Good luck and let me know how it goes.