The new year is officially upon us and that means it is a time for nutrition and health information to be at our fingertips everywhere we turn. To simplify all of the recommendations you may see during the new year rush, the one piece of advice that will help set you up for success is: be prepared! That’s right. Planning your trips to the grocery store, planning out your meals for the week, and prepping your most time-consuming foods in advance, among other things, will help you succeed in the kitchen, no matter what your personal health goals may be. Below I have listed my Top 5 Tips for Meal Planning:

  1. Aim for at least 3 Food Groups at Every Meal – When planning and prepping meals for the week, balance and variety are key. Encouraging a well-rounded meal that includes multiple food groups, will allow our bodies to obtain the key nutrients it needs to perform at its best. For example, a dinner of salmon filets topped with a fresh fruit salsa and paired with a side of brown rice and roasted cauliflower not only includes an array of delicious flavors but incorporates a variety of both food groups and nutrients.

  2. Stock up on Grab-and-Go Snacks that Contain Carbs, Protein, and Fat – Often, if planning meals is on the forefront of our mind, planning snacks may take a backseat on our list of priorities. To make planning snacks as easy and convenient as possible, while still staying balanced, choose grab-and-go options that contain all three of our key macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Some examples include NuGo protein bars, roasted chickpeas, roasted edamame, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese cups.

  3. Cook Once, Eat Twice – Preparing large batches of time-consuming foods at the beginning of the week will not only save you time, but more importantly will increase the likelihood that you will make more nutrient-dense food choices throughout the week. For example, boiling a large batch of quinoa and storing it in the refrigerator, will allow you to easily grab a quick, fiber-rich grain throughout the week that you can quickly heat and season in a variety of ways. For example, one day you can throw it over greens for some quinoa in your salad, and another day you can sauté the cooked quinoa with some diced chicken and bell peppers for a simple and delicious stir-fry.

  4. Prep Your Produce – Have you ever purchased fruits and vegetables from the grocery store and put them away in the refrigerator, only to pull them out 2 weeks later to find them rotten and no longer able to be used? It’s okay. Me too! However, an easy solution is to prep your produce right when you get home from the grocery store, which will significantly increase your consumption of those fruits and vegetables. For example, if you bought some bell peppers to add to your morning omelet but often find yourself making your omelet without them because chopping them each morning is such a hassle; then this tip is perfect for you. As soon as you get home from the grocery store, wash and chop the peppers into small pieces and place them into a plastic baggie or an air-tight container so you have them ready to go! This can be done with many fruits and vegetables – you’ll thank me later!

  5. Focus on Fiber – When planning out meals and snacks, not only do we want to make sure they taste good, but we also want to make sure they fill us up! Choose foods that are packed with fiber to keep you feeling full – such as nuts and seeds, whole grains, sweet potatoes, fresh fruits and vegetables, etc. If you are a big fan of snacking to help keep you full between meals, aim for fiber-rich snacks such as NuGo Fiber d’Lish bars, which are packed with 12 grams of fiber!

Hopefully these tips provided you with some inspiration and clarity for making this year a breeze when it comes to meal planning and prepping! If you are setting a New Year’s Resolution this January, remember to try and break it up into small, actionable, time-bound steps and work toward them each day. Not sure what your resolution is yet? Review the tips above for some inspiration of positive, simple steps you can take to improve your health starting today. Happy New Year from our family to yours!