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Food Prepping for a Healthier New Year 

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

January 4, 2021

A new year brings us the possibility of a fresh start. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to eat healthier, but it is important for us to think about what that means. Another important factor to consider is how we can set ourselves up to successfully accomplish our New Year nutritional goals while simultaneously living a busy life. 

Starting with the Basics: What is a Healthy Diet?

The New Dietary Guideline for Americans 2020-2025 promotes an emphasis on nutrient-dense foods and beverages that provide vitamins, minerals, and other health-promoting components (such as phytochemicals). These guidelines also promote a diet consisting of little added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. As we discussed in previous bulletins, a plant-based diet fulfills all those requirements. It includes all the food groups, while providing a variety of colors, flavors, and satisfying your appetite and body’s needs.

Planning Healthy Meals

Plan to spend some time one day a week planning your meals and buying food for the next week. This will keep you on track and will help you to be successful in your New Year resolution of eating healthier in a busy world. Always plan to use leftovers. Cooking a little extra will save you time the next day.

Step 1. Check your pantry, fridge, and freezer 

Step 2. Write down your meals using the foods you already have and make a new grocery list with the missing items

Step 3. For a balanced breakfast include whole grains, protein, and fruit (whole fruits are better than juices). 

Step 4: For a balanced lunch and dinner follow these 4 easy rules 

  • Half of your plate should be vegetables (Aim for two different veggies. Non-root vegetables are preferred)
  • One-quarter of your plate should contain a lean protein such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, fish, poultry, or red meat (note: no more than 18 oz. of red meat a week and avoid processed foods)
  • One-quarter of your plate should contain a starch (aim for your starch to be a whole grain at least 50% of the time)
  • Enjoy a piece of fruit for a healthy dessert

Note: Simple cooking methods will simplify your life. Plan for roasted vegetables, salads, wraps, stir-fry, and other quick-cooking methods and recipes. For quick and easy recipes which comply with the Mediterranean diet.

Consider Packaging One or Two Snack Bags for Each Day of the Week 

  • Trail mix of dried fruits and nuts in plastic bags
  • Whole grain crackers and nut butter, guacamole or low fat cheese
  • Buy pre-chopped fruits or fruits that you can grab and go such as bananas, apples, oranges, etc.
  • Buy ready-to-eat vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, bell pepper sticks, celery sticks, etc.

Succeeding in your Nutritional Goals While Living a Busy Life

Most people have little or no time for food preparation. However, we live in an amazing era where we can find items such as pre-washed and pre-chopped vegetables, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, and canned beans that are ready to cook or eat straight from the grocery store. Check out the frozen food aisles for quick, low-calorie vegetable side dishes. You can find frozen cut green beans, sliced carrots, and other chopped vegetables. Avoid the ones with added cream, butter, or cheese sauces as these ingredients can add salt and unwanted calories. Finally, consider buying kitchen appliances that can help you to speed up your meal prepping process, such as food processors, instant pots, onion choppers, and mushroom slicers, among others.

For ideas on how to meal prep on the Mediterranean diet.

This week’s easy-to-make recipe comes from Old Ways.

Hummus and veggie wraps 

Total time: 5 minutes

Yield: 1 wrap

Ingredients

1 (8-inch) whole grain tortilla

¼ cup hummus

¼ cup shredded lettuce (can substitute baby spinach leaves)

2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted

2 tablespoons chopped, roasted red bell peppers from a jar

2 tablespoons coarsely shredded carrots

1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced

Directions

  1. Place tortilla on a flat surface and spread hummus over ⅔ of the tortilla, leaving the top empty.
  2. Top evenly with lettuce and vegetables and roll up tightly, starting at the bottom. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until ready to eat.
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