It’s no secret that healthy eating includes home cooked meals and lots of vegetables. I always recommend that my clients eat vegetables with breakfast. But who has time to cook veggies before work in the morning? Success comes from planning ahead and batch cooking.
Batch cooking is making large batches of food to eat with multiple meals as leftovers, rather than just enough for a single meal. It’s ideal to batch cook once or twice during the week so that you always have food prepared and ready to be reheated or turned into another meal.
Here’s an example of what I cooked and prepped last night in about 90 minutes: a large wok of sautéed mixed vegetables (Brussel sprouts, onions, Swiss chard, zucchini, and bell peppers); roasted purple sweet potatoes (cut into cubes, roasted at 400°F with coconut oil for about 30 minutes); Dr. Mark Hyman’s turkey & spinach meatloaf (I subbed kale for spinach); prepped a head of lettuce for salads (see below in tips); and baked slider-sized breakfast sausages (from Whole Foods bulk mild Italian sausage, portion into golf-ball sized pieces and then flatten into patties. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes. These are great for breakfast with veggies or a quick protein snack). Now I have food prepared to mix and match for meals throughout the week. I’ll add fresh avocado and nuts to the vegetables, and make salads with more raw veggies (which you could prep in advance also). On Wednesday I plan to cook a chicken & sweet potato coconut curry.
My motivation and entertainment last night (because honestly I was a little tired after a busy weekend) was listening to podcasts while cooking. My favorites are Fresh Air and Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me. (Yes, I’m an NPR junkie.) I also recommend Serial and Mystery Show. Fun music is a great motivator too.
Tips for Batch Cooking Success:
- Always think 2-3 meals ahead. At dinner time think about what’s prepared to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day. Think “what from dinner tonight can I pack for lunch tomorrow?” and “what can I prepare tonight to have ready for tomorrow’s dinner?”
- Plan time to cook more labor intensive meals or even most of your meals on days off for quick reheat during your work week.
- Plan for about 60 minutes two nights a week to cook up batches of vegetables, rice and meat, and pack up lunch.
- Cook 2 cups of rice or quinoa at a time. Something like this is simple to have on the stove while you’re preparing dinner or packing lunch for the next day.
- When cooking fish or meat, cook extra for future dinners.
- Wash 1-2 heads of salad greens at once. Store in the salad spinner (with the lid on) in the fridge. Greens will keep for 2-3 days.
- Sauté a large wok-full of vegetables at one time. Simply season with salt and pepper so they are ready to go with any meal. You can add different seasonings when reheating.
- Use a 13×9 baking dish to roast a large amount of vegetables at once, such as Brussel sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli.
- Anytime you’re cooking anything, make extra.
- Double the recipes of soups, stews, and sauces, and freeze half for future meals. To freeze cooked meat or fish, individually store pieces in a little broth or sauce to help keep its texture and integrity. Grains don’t freeze well, so stick to foods in sauces.
Final tip and it’s an important one, making cooking fun!
- Put on your favorite music and sing or dance along.
- Invite friends and family to help.
- Listen to an engaging podcast. Something entertaining like Fresh Air, This American Life, Serial or Radio Lab. Or educational pertaining to your industry or passions.
- Don’t cook when you’re hungry, plan times between meals. When hungry reach for what’s already in the fridge.
Disclaimer: Nutrition therapy is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, prescription, or cure for any disease, or as a substitute for medical care. Jen Marshall and Stacy St Germain are not licensed medical providers. Nutrition plans are not intended as a substitution for traditional medical care, nor should be interpreted as medical advice, but instead is an adjunctive and supportive therapy.