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Lauren Antonucci, MS, RDN, CSSD, CDE, CDN
57 W 57th St, Suite 1211
New York, NY 10019
55 Broadway, Suite 201
New York, NY 10006
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Meal Prep 101 - Slicing Up Myths & Dishing Out Tips!
September has arrived!
This not only means cooler temps and impending fall foliage changes, but also back-to-school for many, and some amazing seasonal produce. To us that adds up to a great time to get into some meal prepping for you and your family. Perhaps you're an experienced meal-prepper but fell off the wagon this summer...or maybe you have tried meal prepping but are already bored with your creations. Maybe meal prepping is totally new for you and sounds intimidating. Whatever your experience with meal prepping, we have tips and ideas to help keep it fresh, easy, and fun this season!
Meal prepping is all about cooking or assembling food in bulk, ahead of mealtime or snack time, and [dare we add] in a way that works for your goals and lifestyle. The first thing to notice is that we said "
assembling" because cooking is great, but it's not always required! Read on without fear and we will help you make this happen!
Meal prepping is a great way to ensure you are meeting your nutrition needs, because you buy and prep in advance, customize foods to your taste, and ensure you have what you want/need available throughout your busy week.
Since takeout meals and packaged snacks can be sneakily high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat, and contain seemingly random portions depending on where they come from, preparing meals (or parts of meals) in advance can ensure you are sticking to your planned nutritional goals. Of course, this looks and sounds different for each of us, but that is ok and part of where planning comes in handy. There are infinite ways to go about meal prepping, depending on your nutritional needs and goals, taste preferences, schedule, and family needs, but here's the bottom line: think about buying and prepping some carbohydrates, protein, veggies and fats to have available at each meal. After that, get creative!!
Myth #1 - Meal Prep Must Involve Cooking.
Many tasty and healthy meals can be "made" without ever turning on your stove or oven. If cooking with heat is holding you back, consider looking for no-cook dishes and recipes to make your life easier. Salads can become meals when you include enough protein (chicken, turkey, boiled eggs, canned fish, tofu, or cottage cheese), carbohydrates (whole grains like quinoa or faro, beans, chickpeas, potatoes, fresh/dried fruit), and fat (cheeses, avocado, olives, nuts, seeds, and olive oil). There's also nothing wrong with buying several simple pre-pared items and assembling them together. If there is a healthy lunch or dinner item that you can easily buy and would otherwise take hours to cook, don't sweat it! Compliment it with a few other components and you're good to go.
Myth #2 - Meal Prep Requires Making Formal Entrées For Your Meal.
You don't necessarily have one big or intricate dish in mind! While a one-pot dish can be a simple solution for cooking, so can a few well-combined
a la cart foods. Healthy meals can easily be put together with side dishes and/or basic components you cook separately or buy. Having multiple components allows you to "
reinvent" your meal throughout the week so you don't have to have the same pot of chili for 5 nights in a row. Mix and match proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, and fats! Here's an example of what this could look like:
|-Canned Tuna or Salmon
-Hard Boiled Eggs
|-Raw Vegetables (Baby Spinach, Baby Carrots, Celery, Cherry Tomatoes, Snow Peas, Cucumber, Baby Peppers, etc)
-Cooked Vegetables of any kind
-Simple Side Salad
|-Quinoa, faro, rice
-Beans, Chickpeas, Lentils
-Whole-Grain Bread or Wrap
-Whole-grain or Nut/Seed Grain Crackers
-White or Sweet Potatoes, Winter Squash, Plantains
-Nuts or Seeds
|-A small sweet treat
-Herbs or spices
Try a Bento Box Meal!
is a Japanese style of single-portion meals packed in a box in which each food component has a special place. Bento lunch boxes have become widely popularized for their ability to organize easy, balanced meals to go. The beauty of these boxes is that they're typically divided into 4-5 sections, which can be a fantastic way to build your meal. One section for protein, another 1-2 for veggies, 1-2 for grain/crackers/bread or fruit, and 1 for dip, hummus, or dressing. Plus, foods stay separate and fresh!
Think of this as the healthy snack plate of your dreams!
The bento box meal is perfect for kids' school lunch prep, too. Kids tend to love the sectioning, colors, and variety.
Many kids don't like different foods to touch anyway, so this eliminates that problem.
With a spread of several small components, kids can enjoy multiple food groups (options) with the same ease of a typical
This makes life easier for parents with multiple kids whose children of course like different foods. It also lets you see everything as you assemble, making it easy to
e and accommodate their preferences.
There are tons of bento box containers available on the market- we highly recommend checking them out! For more ideas, see our Nutrition Energy Director, Lauren Antonucci's bento lunch tips featured HERE!
Myth #3 -Meal Prep Must Include Salad To Be Healthy
Truth be told, there is no lettuce requirement for meal prep. While salads can be wonderful things, if you don't love to eat or prepare them, there are many other options for you to get in your veggies (Many adults should aim for 1 cup/meal). Consider mixing veggies into quinoa, over rice, between bread, in soups or stews, or cooked alongside your favorite protein. Snack on vegetables as a side, or with a tasty dressing or dip such as guacamole, hummus, or savory yogurt.
Myth #4 - Meal Prep Must Take Place On Sundays.
Sunday cooking and/or food shopping just doesn't work for everyone. If this is what's holding you back, choose another day! Maybe you cook on Monday nights or put in some time on Saturday, or split up any shopping and prep. I often try to incorporate SOME meal prep into my regular cooking routine; for example, I might make an extra protein on both Sunday and Wednesday to allow for 2 additional meals from each and cook extra veggies on Tuesday and Saturday. Find a schedule that works for you and go with it, it doesn't have to be traditional!
Myth #5 - Meal Prep Requires Preparing All Of Your Meals For The Week.
Nope. Set a reasonable goal for yourself. Maybe you prepare 2 dinner meals and 2 lunch meals to start. Maybe you want to change your snacking habits, so you start preparing snacks to bring to work for the week. Or perhaps your goal is to stop buying breakfast out, so you start by cooking oatmeal in bulk for the week. Make your goal something you know you can achieve!
Myth #6 - Meal Prep Is A Solo Chore.
Who said you need to do it alone?! If meal prep feels boring or isolating, bring others into the mix! Include a partner or roommate to make it a joint activity. Turn on your favorite podcast or music, or call that friend or relative you've been meaning to catch up with and chat as you prep. If you're cooking for one, see if you can entice a friend or two to join you for a meal prep party; you could choose a dish and ask everyone to bring an ingredient, or each bring supplies to make an entire meal. The options (and potential fun) are endless! If you are cooking for your family, get your kids involved, too! Think of age-appropriate kitchen tasks they can do (mixing for the youngest children
, peeling for the next ones, or possibly even chopping for the oldest/teens). Make it a family affair!
All About Keto - The Diet Trend Explained
Ketogenic diet. Keto diet. Keto cycling. Ketones. Ketosis.
If you've been listening to or reading anything about nutrition recently, you are almost sure to have come across at least one of these buzzwords pertaining to the high- fat and very-low carbohydrate diet. With popular claims about weight loss, weight maintenance, hormonal balance, diabetes management, and endurance training, you may have considered or are considering "going" keto, and we can assure you that clients come into Nutrition Energy and ask us about it all the time! Here we talk about the claims and explain what you need to know if you've been considering taking the fat eating
What is the Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a high fat, moderate protein, and very low carbohydrate diet. If you're familiar with the low-carbohydrate Atkins diet or other low-carbohydrate diets that peaked in the '90s, this one may sound somewhat familiar. However, the true keto diet is a whole lot higher in total fat.
The traditional keto diet is about 80% of daily calories from fat, 5-10% from carbs, and 10-15% from protein (compare that to national dietary guidelines which recommend 20-35% fat, 45-65% carb, and 10-35% protein).
(How) Does it work?
The science behind the diet is that by fueling your body with mostly fat and very little carbohydrate, the body stops burning glucose (from carbohydrates) for energy, and instead starts relying on fat, because once the body runs out of glucose, it starts to break down stored fat into ketone bodies, a.k.a. ketones, for energy. Elevated ketone production is what
happens when your body is in a starved state and you enter into what's known as ketosis-a metabolic adaptation during which your brain and tissues switch to using fat as the alternate fuel source for
Claim(s) to Fame
The keto diet has been used therapeutically since the 1920s with remarkable results
for reducing seizures in some people with epilepsy. More recently, there has been research showing success with treatment for certain brain cancers as well as management of Type 2 diabetes. Yet the diet's current celebrity status is owed more to its utilization for weight loss and fitness due to the widely popular notion that it turns your body into a "
fat burning machine." But does it???
On the keto diet,
the vast restriction of carbs allows many people to drop immediate pounds of water weight due to the association of glycogen (glucose storage) with water. This gives many people the illusion that they have burned through fat cells and lost actual fat mass. However, for the vast majority, fat-burn is not the immediate cause of their weight-loss. Rather, as recent research shows, people following the keto diet
tend to eat less calories overall due to the satiating quality (or perhaps nauseating limit, depending on the specific diet plan) of high-fat meals. Weight loss may also be due to
eating more home-cooked and whole foods, rather than processed-carbohydrates and snacks. However, that
does not make weight loss on the keto diet remarkably different than any other fad diet, in which there's restriction and greater awareness of what you are eating.
One important understanding is
there is not one singular definition of this diet used by all clinicians, dieters, writers, or researchers.
While the keto diet can be rich in plant-based nutrients (i.e. the recent vegan and vegetarian versions), it traditionally looks like lists of foods we have long understood to increase risk of heart disease, blood pressure, and certain cancers.
The long-term safety and health of this diet therefore is a concern, particularly for those experimenting on their own and including a lot of processed meats. While some report feeling well with no adverse health effects, we've seen patients come in with dangerously high blood lipid levels after following a keto diet for just 6 months to a year. As Dieticians, the high-cholesterol and low-fiber intakes of this diet are our greatest concerns. And, equally as importantly,
following any highly restrictive diet may have
psychosocial implications and/or triggers for those with a history of or predisposition to developing an eating disorder.
Can keto help with endurance training?
The keto diet has become widely popular in the CrossFit and weight-lifting communities, as well as amongst some endurance athletes who dabble in it and come to us for advice. Currently, the small body of research on the effect of a keto diet on athletic performance suggests a negative effect on physical capacity during high intensity aerobic exercise and no effect on strength training. This is in line with all current research showing carbs are required for high end intensity work. The best diets for athletic training, as for any circumstance, are balanced, highly individualized, and unique
's health conditions and nutritional goals.
To Keto or Not to Keto
The bottom line!
The keto diet is not a magic bullet for most folks, nor a sustainable long-term sustainable option. When considering any diet, it is important to think about quality of life:
the right diet for you is not the one that gives you the fastest results, but one that you can maintain for years and years to come. This
diet (like all diets), can be expensive, monotonous, excessively restrictive, and socially isolating. It requires food preparation and planning, careful attention to daily macronutrients, and does not encourage intuitive eating, listening to what your body wants, nor eating for fun.
That being said,
you may be someone that, based on your life circumstances, specific health conditions, and individualized nutritional needs, can thrive on the keto diet via a large load of healthy fats. However, we can't stress this enough:
please don't try this alone! If, after reading this, you would like to discuss this topic as it pertains to you, call us to schedule a meeting with one of our Registered Dietitians so we can help you determine what will work best for you and your goals.
Team Lipstick Women's Wellness Retreat
Laura Cozik is the founder and CEO of Team Lipstick, a NYC-based group of female triathletes. She and NE founder Lauren Antonucci met years ago through the triathlon community and have become great friends. Lauren has spoken to Team Lipstick members on nutrition for female athletes many times and also works with many of her athletes.
Laura also is the founder and CEO of Team Lipstick Travel, a fitness infused travel event company for sporty women and men of all levels. Team Lipstick Travel has an upcoming Women's Wellness Retreat in Mallorca in November. Each guest will have their own private en-suite bedroom in a beautiful villa. The schedule includes an enormous amount of explorations in nature, fitness sessions, relaxation, adventure, entertainment, healthy foods, and bonding with like-minded females. Please contact Laura to register, or to set up a call to discuss.
Nutrition Energy Team for 6th Annual TeamCindy Run for Research
The 6th Annual TeamCindy Run for Research 5K was a great success! The Nutrition Energy team raised $355 for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation to honor the life of
Cynthia Lynn Sherwin, whom o
ur Nutrition Energy Founder Lauren Antonucci knew well.
From Left: Carmine, our NE intern; Tanya, RD; Lauren with her kids Ryder and Mia; Limor, RD with her daughter Lia; Cara, RD with her son Luke; and Brandy, our NE admin.
Brandy ran an amazing race and won the women's competition - winning a
huge basket of goodies!
Congratulations to Brandy, all participants, and Cindy's family for raising a ton of money for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation!
A Note from Lauren...
Fall officially started on Monday, September 23. Did anyone feel it? Yeah, me neither. It's hard to think fall has started when it's still in the 70s-80s and we're still walking around in shorts and tank tops!
Even so, it's probably good to start adjusting our mentality to better prepare ourselves for the eventual transition into colder weather. That means, changing out shorts for long pants, tank tops for long sleeves, and bringing out light jackets (don't even think about winter gear - we're not quite there yet!). This time of year, I love to organize. With the kids going back to school and having to change around seasonal wardrobes, it's a great time to go through everything, give it a good once-over, and re-organize it or donate it. Yes, this can take a few days/weeks, depending on your family size and schedules - but it's definitely worth it. I feel like a weight lifts off my shoulders and I don't have to think about stored clutter again until Spring.
With this mindset, now's a great time to think about adding some meal planning into your schedule. We talked about this in the article above with some great tips to get started. When the year gets overwhelming with after-school and/or after-work activities, homework, projects, etc - you don't waste precious time everyday figuring out what to have for dinner or lunch, possibly leading to a less-nutritious take-out meal. Not to say it's a bad thing once in a while, but not ideal everyday. Once you get a routine down, it can save so much time and headache in the long run.
Are you currently meal-prepping? Have any great ideas or awesome products you use to keep you organized? Tag us in your social media updates or let us know on Twitter
. Share some recipes with us - and include some pictures! We love so see what our clients come up with!
Lauren Antonucci, Director