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Meal Prepping for Beginners

College students have it rough trying to maintain good grades, manage extracurricular activities, have a social life, all while making time to eat balanced meals. A majority of students cannot maintain healthy eating habits due to their busy school schedules. Luckily, meal prepping can help with that. 

What is meal prepping exactly? Meal prepping is preparing healthy meals (portioned out) in to-go containers, that can be ready to eat in seconds. People usually prepare a weeks worth of to-go meals, that way they are able to keep a record of what food they are putting in their bodies.

Cooking every single day can be a hassle that a lot of college students do not actually have the time for, while juggling their hectic schedules.

Meal prepping can be tricky, especially if one gets tired of having the same food to eat every day. If you crave variety over convenience, then meal prepping is probably not your style of healthy eating. 

The types of foods that could go into a meal prep would be roasted vegetables, grains like cooked rice or quinoa, and cooked protein such as meat or beans.

The food for a meal prep usually lasts around three to five days when being refrigerated. The best way to keep on track with meal prepping is to make the meals on Sunday.  This way the meals are completed for the week with no hassle. 

A big component to meal prepping is being able to portion out the meals rationally. Having multiple small meals that are clean throughout the day is much healthier than having three larger meals. Most people may think that including tons of vegetables in their meal prep, will automatically make it healthy but it is important to know which vegetables are better options.

For example, peas, corn, and carrots contain the highest amounts of carbohydrates. Knowing the difference between good fats and bad fats are important too. Avocados, olive oil, and coconuts all are examples of healthy fats. 

To get the best advice on meal prepping, it is helpful to look toward professionals within the health and nutrition industry for advice. During an interview with health studies Professor, Jamie J. Pigman, he gave his opinion on the benefits of meal prepping.

 “I would say three main things: one being the cost so you generally save money, two being you have control over what you are eating so you know the portion size and also know the contents of the food, and then the third being you have a relationship with the food you are eating. Meaning you have to make it, prepare it, shop, and do all of the components so the process to make the food versus going to a restaurant where it’s handed to you.”

A few students also had their own input   on meal prepping as well. “It’s effective if you are willing to put in the time,” says Kristen Kane, junior criminal studies student

  Sarah Cooper, junior psychology student added, “Food could go to waste if you don’t stick to your prep.” Cooper’s comment is important to understand because when meal prepping you need to be mindful about wasting food. 

So, what foods work well for meal prepping? Cooked grains, pasta, beans, meat and roasted vegetables are definitely the best way to go, and for sure the easiest.

The best grains to include are oats, quinoa, and whole rye. Nuts and seeds are good too and are very filling. The hardest to manage are fruits because they can get mushy and rot quickly.

 However, there are some fruits that are safe for meal prepping. Grapes are one of the best fruits to meal prep with. To store them, just place in the container some paper towels and put the grapes on top.

This is to help prevent any extra moisture from the fruit to prohibit mold and bacteria from entering. Apples are easy to store and so are bananas because they do not need to be cut up, they can be stored as is for about five to seven days. 

Here is a recipe that can be a beginners’ guide to meal prepping.

 First purchase an already cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Cut it up, then take the skin off.

Next, add fresh spinach, salt, olive oil, lemon juice, and pepper. After that, boil red lentil pasta.

When the pasta is ready, add the chicken and mix it altogether to make a pasta salad!

If you prefer a hot version, just replace the olive oil and lemon juice with either low sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock.

 This recipe will save you not only time but money. Try it, and you may find yourself meal prepping every Sunday.

PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University