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EXTENSION CORNER: Meal prepping to a healthy weight

By Hayley Cowell, Cooperative Extension

Something very exciting when you work in the health field is seeing people take control of their health and learn more about the foods they are consuming.

Hayley Cowell

A current health trend that has gained lots of popularity is meal prepping.

According to mybodymykitchen.com, “meal prepping is simply preparing some, or all, of your meals ahead of time.

It’s like having those TV dinners that you would purchase from the store, except that you prepare them yourself, with better, healthier and unprocessed ingredients.”
Meal prepping is a great option for people, since as they say, “you can’t outwork a bad diet.”

It reduces the time, energy, money and stress around eating. By spending a few hours prepping all, or most, of your meals for the week you can save extra trips to the grocery store or restaurants.

Plus, eating in more often can save you lots of money over time.

Lastly, by meal prepping, you have more control over what you are eating.

When you eat out, you can’t control the portion sizes that are put on your plate and you don’t always know how much added sugars, salt and bad fats are there. By making it yourself, you can not only make it healthier, but you can also make it how you want it.

Again, the goal of meal prepping is to have something that is healthy and ready to go when you are hungry so you don’t grab for that candy bar or roll through the drive-thru.

Great methods of cooking in bulk for your meal prep include using instant pots, air frying, crock pots, one pot or one pan recipes, sheet pans, grills and blenders. There are tons of options so that you don’t have to get bored eating the same thing.

Do remember that if you are aiming to control your weight or even lose weight, portion control is key.

You can quickly portion meals by using your hand. Your fist is about the size of a cup, the palm of your hand is about the same size as three ounces of meat, chicken or fish, your thumb is about the size of one ounce of cheese and a small handful of nuts is about one ounce.

If you want to be even more specific you can always use measuring utensils or a food scale.

If you are just getting started, you may want to keep it simple (i.e. rice, steamed veggies and grilled chicken).

However, as you meal prep more and gain confidence, I encourage you to get creative with your recipes to prevent getting tired of them. Meal prep doesn’t have to be boring.

Lastly, don’t forget about the importance of food safety. When you are cooking in bulk you do want to make sure that the food is getting cooled quickly and eaten within a few days to prevent spoilage.

Hayley Cowell is the family and consumer science agent for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Stanly County. Contact her at hayley_cowell@ncsu.edu or 704-983-3987 for info regarding healthy cooking and food safety.