How to Meal Prep Like a Pro

March 1, 2018
We’ve all been there – exhausted after a long day at work and there’s nothing in the fridge. Wouldn’t it be great if you could come home and there were pre-made containers of healthy food just waiting for you to eat them? Well, with meal prepping, it can happen! We chatted with holistic nutritionist Alina Islam to find out how anyone can start meal prepping like a pro! 
 
Alina is a coach and an educator. She loves helping people take charge of their health and making a sustainable lifestyle change in baby steps, whether it’s through one-on-one sessions, group coaching, speaking at an event or even through blog posts like these! 

Let’s see what Alina has to say about being a holistic nutritionist, and how we can start meal prepping tonight! 

WEHL: Tell us about yourself and why you became a holistic nutritionist.  

AI: I’m your average girl. I don’t have a miraculous recovery story or life changing moment that led me to holistic nutrition, but a series of small ‘aha’ moments throughout university and 9-5 life as an advertising account executive, where I noticed that small changes in my diet were having a big impact on how I felt.

I wanted to show other people like me – the average person who’s not a diehard yogi or marathon runner – that they can improve their lives dramatically and have high energy, their ideal weight, better digestion and clear skin, all while going for brunches, watching some Netflix on the weekend and basically not putting a stop to living the life that they love.

WEHL: What’s your philosophy on wellness?  

AI: Wellness is rooted in good habits, and the key to developing any habit is consistency. In order to be consistent with a habit, it has to be realistic and sustainable.

I see so many people who regularly eat fast food and never exercise, suddenly try to do a juice cleanse and 30-day bootcamp to turn things around. The moment the cleanse or bootcamp is over, they revert back to square one and feel even more demotivated.

A more realistic approach, for example, would be going for a 20-minute walk each day, and to try swapping fast food with a healthier takeout option for the first month.

If your ‘wellness habits’ aren’t going to fit into your lifestyle, or are going to make you feel miserable, you’re probably trying to imitate someone else and not doing what’s right for you.

WEHL: Why did you start “meal prepping”?  

AI: I tried it once and then I loved the feeling of having meals on hand afterwards. I was so grateful to ‘past Alina’ for putting in the effort to give ‘future Alina’ a good week ahead!

WEHL: What’s usually included in each container?  

AI: As a freelancer I typically eat at home so I don’t use containers that often. But when I did work at an office, I would carry two glass containers: one that would require heating (e.g. chicken curry and rice), and one that wouldn’t (salad).

As long as there’s a main protein source (lentils, beans, chicken, beef, fish), some carbs (sweet potato, rice, quinoa) and greens (with a serving of good fat e.g. avocado, nuts, olive oil), you’re golden.

WEHL: How long does food stay fresh for?  

AI: It depends on the food, but I typically like to eat cooked food within 3-4 days. If you’re trying to prep for the week, just make burger patties, a soup, stew or curry that you can freeze and then thaw later on when you run out of meals.

WEHL: What’s your favorite food to “batch cook”?   

AI: Red lentil curry. It’s cheap, delicious, really quick to make and you can whip up a large batch to store in the freezer (in multiple smaller containers).

WEHL: What tools do you use to meal prep? (any apps you like?)

AI: The only app I use is Evernote, or bookmarks in my web browser to pull up recipes. When it comes to kitchen tools, a food processor and Blendtec are huge timesavers.

WEHL:  How do you find the motivation and inspiration to meal prep each week?

AI: I think you have to figure out what’s going to work for you, and understand your own nature. For example, I get bored easily and I’m also quite lazy (painting a wonderful picture of myself here!)

So, I try to pair meal prep with another activity, like listening to relaxing music or an audiobook, or watching reruns of The Office or Friends in the background.

I also supplement meal planning with ordering three recipe kits a week from Fresh City Farms. It acts as a failsafe against empty fridge days or when I’m not motivated to meal prep. There’s no excuse not to make a meal when portioned groceries arrive at your door with a recipe card, and the cook time is 20-30 minutes.

WEHL: What are some challenges that you face each week?  

AI: There will be weekends that are swamped with social obligations like weddings, baby showers, or entertaining friends from out of town. That’s when I’m grateful for either having meals in the freezer or recipe kits on hand.

And hey, if there’s nothing in the fridge then I won’t beat myself up about it. Life has its ups and downs, and sometimes you’re just not prepared. You can still make a good choice by being mindful when eating out.  

WEHL: Do you have any any tips or steps for someone to start meal prepping?

AI: Start with prepping your snacks, get to the meals later. Snacks are where most people get derailed (hello 3pm muffin at Starbucks), they’re very simple to prep, and really good for getting some quick wins, building both confidence and momentum with meal prep.

Some ideas include: containers of berries and almonds, berries and Greek yogurt, veggies and hummus, unsalted and unroasted trail mix, and hard boiled eggs. Simply pack them the night before and take it with you the next morning.

Connect with Alina:

Web: www.alinaislam.com

Email: hello@alinaislam.com

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