Is meal prepping the secret to healthy eating success? Personal trainers and athletes swear by it, but is it realistic for the everyday person? Here are some top tips from personal trainers and elite athletes to help you meal prep like a pro and achieve your goals.
Pollyanna Hale - Personal Trainer & Nutritionist
- Choose 2 days a week to prep. A couple of hours in the evening should be enough.
- Plan meals in advance and write a shopping list for everything you need.
- Store meals in portions in plastic or freezable containers.
- Consider making more than you need and freezing extra portions for when you don't have time to prep.
- Incorporate meals that are flexible on ingredients so you can use up odds and ends, for an example a stir fry with whatever vegetables and protein you have, or an omelette with mixed vegetables and cheese.
- Buy long-life ingredients you use a lot of in bulk to save money.
- Use a slow cooker - just throw everything in and leave it to be ready by the evening.
- Don't forget breakfast. Pancakes can be made and reheated, and overnight oats and porridge can be made the night before to save time in the morning too.
Kim Graves - Triathlete
My top tip is to make sure it's food you enjoy. There's nothing worse than having 6 meals in the freezer and deciding you don't really fancy any of them so they just take up space before getting thrown away.
Especially avoid a meal plan that means you eat the same thing every day, otherwise you just get bored!
Meal prep doesn't have to be salad and tuna; one-pot meals like lasagne, chilli and Shepherd's Pie store and reheat really well.
Helene Wright - Ironman Triathlete
For me, the most important thing is to plan out meals in advance. I always write out a rough weekly meal plan so I don't have to worry about what I am cooking each day and know I will always have the right ingredients and not have any food wastage (good for the environment and your purse!)
To avoid repetition, I try to never have the same meals more than once per week too.
If I have time, I try to make at least two meals in advance on a weekend, so when I am time-limited during the week and starving after a hard training session, I can quickly reheat them - preventing the temptation to reach out for a convenient but unhealthy option!
When I don't have the time, I always try to bulk up my evening meals, doubling up the recipe. This means I either have extra portions for a quick and easy lunch the next day, or they can be popped in the freezer for healthy 'ready meals' when I don't have time or energy to cook from scratch.
Jodie Bennett - Triathlete & Ultra Runner
I tend to meal prep for work days. It can hard working as a medic on long on-call shifts. I’ve worked out that keeping things simple and quick with meal prep is the best way for working days.
Scrambled eggs for breakfast in a hot flask to take with me is always handy and stays hot until lunchtime. I do love this!
I try to do prep for a few days of chicken, rice and vegetables, then I can just take them out of the fridge for when I need them. Also a slice of Spanish tortilla, made from eggs and potato, come in handy as a lunch snack on the go.
My top tip is that when you don’t need to food prep and have a bit of time... don’t! Enjoy making nice meals when you have the time.
Jessica Tew - Ironman Triathlete
I always make sure I have some kind of 'sweet' in one of my meals, for example a measured amount of chocolate spread with my overnight oats for breakfast or maybe a jelly with my lunch or dinner. This means I can stay focused and enjoy the rest of my food knowing I've got a daily 'treat'.
Barry Waring - Ultra Runner
Your body is like a fire, don’t wait and put big logs on it, slowly add little logs and it will burn for longer. Small and often is my top tip for nutrition; eat small meals every 2 hours and keep that fire burning. Great for fat loss. Just make sure you stick to your macros.
If you suffer from stress and anxiety, it can feel like a never-ending battle. Thankfully, there are things you can do naturally to help ease the tension and make you feel better. Read on to learn which foods are best and which to avoid when it comes to anxiety.
How can I kill anxiety naturally?
While anxiety is often caused or triggered by certain events like a bad day at work, uncertainty in life, or financial worries, it can be caused or made worse by your diet and lifestyle. If you feel anxious often but can't seem to pinpoint the reason, it's possible it could be caused or compounded by what you are eating and drinking. Thankfully, there are ways you can kill anxiety naturally and live a happier, less stressful life.
One of the best ways to cure anxiety naturally is by improving your diet. Biologically, anxiety can be caused by imbalances in the brain and central nervous system. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with mood, appetite, and sleep. If this chemical is imbalanced, it could lead to anxiety and higher levels of stress, which in turn will lead to mood swings, insomnia, and possibly weight gain due to increased appetite or stress eating. In order to re-balance serotonin and reduce your anxiety naturally, your first step should be looking at what you eat and drink.
Does food affect anxiety?
Food can definitely affect anxiety, both positively and negatively. A bad diet full of sugar, caffeine, and junk food could lead to higher levels of anxiety. While a good, healthy, balanced diet rich in whole foods and vegetables could really improve your mental health and help to reduce your anxiety naturally. Of course, if there is a particular reason you are feeling anxious, this needs to be addressed first, but a healthy diet can help if you are not sure what is causing your anxiety.
Best foods for anxiety
There are plenty of natural foods available that can help to ease your anxiety. Here are just a few.
Fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are known as 'fatty fish' because they are high in omega-3, a fatty acid that can influence cognitive function and mental health. This is why some fish are referred to as 'brain food'. However, recent research has found that too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 can have negative effects on the brain, so it's important to get the balance right.
General recommendations suggest eating two servings of oily or fatty fish a week. Salmon and sardines are also among the few foods that contain vitamin D. Therefore, eating fish could possibly reduce feelings of general anxiety as it could improve concentration and mood.
Nuts are high in selenium and Vitamin E, both antioxidants that help prevent cell damage. Selenium is also anti-carcinogenic, which means it could help to prevent cancer from developing. Selenium may also improve mood by reducing inflammation, which is often high in those suffering from anxiety and stress.
Be careful when adding nuts into your diet, though, as they are high in calories and fat, which could cause weight gain if not properly monitored. Only eat a small handful at a time, or better yet weigh out your portion in advance so that you know you are not having too much.
Blueberries, like nuts, are high in antioxidants and have been proven to reduce cell damage caused by free radicals in the body.
Do you suffer from stress and anxiety? Here are some resources to help
Set yourself up for a successful day by eating a healthy, nutritious breakfast and crushing your morning workout. Here are 5 of the best pre-workout breakfasts, as recommended by athletes and nutritionists.
1. Toast with marmalade
Alice Hector is a professional ultra runner so needs to be able to fuel quickly and efficiently before long endurance training sessions. "For breakfast, I keep it very simple: two slices of brown toast with butter and marmalade. My breakfast has been the same for almost a whole year now (I went through a porridge phase before) plus a nice coffee. I find I can run stomach-problem-free on this within a few minutes."
2. Homemade peach crumble
Kim Graves is a competitive triathlete and needs a boost of energy in the morning to fuel her long days of training. "I make a mean peach crumble for breakfast on workout mornings. Peaches, baked with a muesli crumble, topped with extra seeds, dried fruit and some protein powder. It's basically dessert for breakfast!"
3. Overnight oats
Lucy Richardson is a competitive triathlete who spends her winters living, training, and competing in Thailand. "My breakfast every day is a variation of overnight oats: oats soaked in water with some agave for sweetener. Then in the morning I add fruit; I put berries, apple, and bananas in a blender with peanut butter. It makes a gorgeous creamy topping to go on the oats with a sprinkling of granola for crunch! It's the best, protein-packed, vegan, slow releasing energy breakfast and I never get bored of it as I always swap the fruit."
4. Bagel with peanut butter
Helena Kvepa is an Ironman Triathlete who needs lots of fuel and energy for long days of intense training. "My go-to breakfast before a long ride or run is a raisin and cinnamon bagel with crunchy peanut butter and banana with some coffee. For a swim, it's usually Active Root carb drink, as it's great to prevent cramping."
5. Topped sourdough
Alex Webb is an athlete who understand the importance of slow-releasing carbs with a balance of fats and protein for a top breakfast. "My pre-training breakfast varies, but my favourite is a piece of sourdough or rye (one with lots of seeds), topped with peanut butter, a bit of honey, and fresh blueberries. I love it; it's sweet, tangy, and nutty."
Photo Credit: HaaralaHamilton
Our friends the Squirrel Sisters, Gracie and Sophie Tyrrell, have a new cookbook out and gave us here at Sundried a sneak-peek of one of their delicious new healthy recipes.
Their book, Naturally Delicious Snacks & Treats: Over 100 healthy recipes by Gracie and Sophie Tyrrell, published by Pavilion Books, is available now on Amazon.
Salmon Skewers Recipe
Lovely, zesty pesto goes really well with fish so long as you leave out the usual Parmesan. Try to buy the slimmer-in-width, but thicker-in-general fillets of salmon so you can get 5-6 chunky dice out of each one. Thinner fillets won’t hold onto the skewers quite so well.
- 2 chunky salmon fillets (about 360g)
- 8-12 cherry tomatoes
- Olive oil, for frying
For the pesto:
- 40g rocket (arugula)
- 15g cup pine nuts
- Zest of 1 small lemon
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp sea salt flakes
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
Start by making the pesto. Put the rocket, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice, sea salt flakes and olive oil in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with black pepper and a little more salt, if wished, to taste.
Chop the salmon into 2.5–3-cm chunks and pop them in a bowl. Add half of the pesto and stir to coat the salmon well. You can leave this to marinate in the fridge if you have time, or just cook them straight away.
Thread the salmon chunks onto short skewers, alternating with the cherry tomatoes. You should get 4–6 skewers in total.
Heat a splash of olive oil in a large non- stick frying pan (skillet). Add the skewers and cook for about 10 minutes in total, turning every couple of minutes so that each of the sides gets browned.
Serve with the remaining pesto drizzled over the top.
We live in an age where food wastage is unprecedented and the modern conveniences of pre-packaged foods combined with ever shortening expiry dates means we throw away and waste a third of all food produced worldwide. Take a look at how you can eat healthily and cut back on waste, two things very close to our hearts here at Sundried.
Be savvy with expiry dates
Unfortunately, for those trying to stick to healthy eating it's the fresh fruits and vegetables which expire the quickest while the artificial junk food lasts for months or even years thanks to its many additives. However, it's important to be savvy when it comes to expiration dates so that you don't waste food for no reason.
Many foods have 'sell by' dates as well as 'use by' dates. The sell by date is simply a marker for the supermarket or store and you don't need to throw away the food by this date. Even some expiration dates can be taken with a pinch of salt as the food will last a lot longer, especially if refrigerated in some cases. You can also freeze foods which are close to their expiration dates to help them last longer.
Of course, with foods like meat and fish you should exercise caution as rotten meat can make you very ill. However, fresh fruit and vegetables will often last a lot longer than their expiration dates indicate and you can use common sense to decide if the food is still edible, for example by looking out for mould. Some UK supermarkets like Lidl don't even include use by dates on their fruit and it's down to you to decide if it's still okay to eat.
More processed products like bread, bagels, and wraps often last a lot longer than their expiration dates may say as they often have additives to lengthen their shelf life. Unless there is mould growing on your bread, you should be okay to eat it even if it's past the use by date.
Tip to reduce food waste: Don't throw away food simply because it's close to, on, or past its expiration date.
Use your common sense to decide when a food is past its best rather than sticking rigidly to expiry dates
Avoid pre-packaged foods
Enter any supermarket and the closest aisles to the door are always stocked with pre-packaged food. Shops are now selling more convenience foods than ever, with inventions like packaged smashed avocado and stir fry kits with ready-chopped vegetables.
Many of these packaged foods are more expensive than their wholefood counterparts because you are paying for convenience. But do you really need to buy smashed avocado in a plastic packet? Can't you just buy a whole, fresh avocado with no packaging whatsoever and smash it yourself?
These pre-packaged foods are adding single-use plastic unnecessarily and causing a lot of damage to the planet as well as being more costly to you as the consumer. Avoid them at all costs and stick to the real thing.
Tip to reduce waste: Always choose fresh, whole foods and don't put them into single-use plastic bags – they have their own natural packaging in the form of skin!
Why buy avocado in a wasteful plastic packet when an avocado comes in its own natural, biodegradable skin?
Make use of leftovers
A lot of food waste is created when we buy or cook too much and then throw away what we can't eat. Instead of making huge portions according to a recipe and then throwing away what you can't eat, you can save the leftovers to have for lunch or dinner the next day or even for the rest of the week, especially if you freeze them.
Planning your meals for the week ahead is a great way not only to reduce food waste but also to improve your health. By having a meal plan in place, you are less likely to just grab a ready meal or order a takeaway and you can make sure you have the right ingredients in the right quantities from your weekly shop for your meals.
Tip to reduce waste: Plan your meals at the beginning of the week and use leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.
Knowing what meals you're going to have throughout the week means you can buy only what you need without wasting any, saving money as well as food waste.
Make use of store cupboard staples and canned food
It's something many of us are guilty of doing at one time or another: you grab a plastic bag of pre-packaged lettuce from the supermarket with the intention of eating healthier and making salads for lunch, you never eat it and instead it's left to wilt in the fridge, then you eventually throw away the slimy remains at the end of the week. Is this something you can relate to?
You need to be realistic with your meal plans and make use of food that can sit in your cupboard until you need it. Many of the most healthy foods available will last a long time; foods like rice, pasta, quinoa, lentils, nuts, seeds, oats... the list goes on. Other healthy foods such as beans, peas, and chickpeas can be bought in cans and will also last months if not years in your cupboard. Try finding recipes that use the ingredients you have in the cupboard instead of buying things you don't need and then wasting them.
Tip to reduce waste: Stock your cupboards with healthy dry and canned goods instead of constantly buying fresh food which goes off before you get a chance to use it.