Everyone’s heard of the yo-yo diets that are often advertised on popular television shows and social media or the frantic “crash diets” that promise to help you drop those pesky extra pounds. Celebrity-endorsed health cookbooks and shows like Dr. Oz haven’t made the issue any better. Unfortunately, not only are these so-called “diets” inaccurate in many ways, but some can pose a dangerous threat to how our bodies break down food to provide nutrition and energy to our systems.
Choosing to eat healthier shouldn’t just be considered a fad or even be called a “diet” at all. Healthy eating is a lifestyle choice. By making positive and simple changes in the ingredients you use or by choosing fruits and vegetables over junk food or fast food options, you can drastically improve the way your body receives nutrients and boost your metabolism in a natural and beneficial way.
Here’s where the problem often starts: Cooking healthy meals can be a long process, and more often than not, we’re tempted to stop at a fast food drive-thru or resort to easy-packaged junk food to satisfy our hunger because it’s quicker than taking the time to prepare food from scratch.
If you’re a family caregiver, between caring for your loved one and other responsibilities, you likely have limited time to cook healthy meals for them or yourself.
Meal prepping is an excellent way to plan out healthy options by preparing each ingredient ahead of time, so all you have to do is throw everything together or warm something up!
Meal prepping can relieve the stress of extensive cooking and the worry that your parent or loved one isn’t getting the proper nutrition. Brickmont Assisted Living knows the value of delicious, nutrient-dense meals. We are sharing a few quick, easy, and healthy meal-prepping options to help you save time for breakfast and lunch!
Quick & Healthy Breakfast
The saying goes “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” and for a good reason. No matter your age, the first meal you eat after waking up provides many benefits to your body and mind.
Our body’s daily energy source is directly benefited by eating breakfast. Our main energy source is made up of glucose, which is broken down from the carbohydrates in our food. When we wake up after sleeping, our body considers this to be a form of fasting, which means that the liver breaks down glycogen and releases it into our bloodstream as a substitute for glucose. Therefore, eating breakfast provides an energy boost to last us throughout our day and restores our glucose levels to keep up our metabolism.
However, millions of people routinely skip this meal every day. Their reasons being they are either too busy or do not have enough time for breakfast. This is where meal prepping can save the day!
Here are some healthy breakfast items that can be prepared quickly and provide plenty of nutrients:
A yogurt parfait is as simple as it gets for a morning meal while providing you or a loved one with ample nutrients to kick-start your day. All you’ll need is yogurt (Greek yogurt is recommended) and an assortment of nuts, granola, and/or fruit. Place the yogurt in a bowl or cup and layer your add-ins or mix everything.
Greek yogurt is recommended as it is an excellent source of calcium, protein, vitamin B12, and probiotics. This option is also great because you can prepare it the night before, so in the morning, all you have to do is grab and go!
Toast with Peanut Butter or Avocado
While toast may seem bland to some, it can be quick and effective with a healthy spread, like peanut butter or avocado. This is another simple morning meal that can be accomplished quickly while providing sufficient nutrients.
Avocados are full of vitamins and nutrients and are regarded as one of the healthiest foods in the world. Another spread alternative is peanut butter. While high in fat and calories, peanut butter contains protein, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B-6.
Healthy Meal Prepping for Lunch
Lunch is a meal that some opt to have on the go. Whether it’s from a drive-thru or a restaurant, lunchtime is when most prefer to eat fast food in lieu of spending extra, valuable time in the kitchen. In fact, the CDC reports that over one-third of Americans consume some form of fast food every day!
Fast food also has many short and long-term risks that can be detrimental to your health.
- Short Term Risks: Spikes in blood sugar, inflammation, binge eating, and negative nutrient intake.
- Long-Term Risks: Digestive conditions, heart disease, obesity, autoinflammatory disease.
Recently, many fast food restaurants are striving to include more health-conscious choices, which can seem to be a great option for a quick, grab-and-go lunch option. Unfortunately, many of these options that claim to be healthy contain huge amounts of sodium and healthy fats, regardless of the dish, and tend to be incredibly low in nutrients.
For instance, many fast food chains known for serving hamburgers have created an option to order an “Impossible Burger” or a plant-based burger that isn’t made of real meat.
But don’t be fooled: the switch to these burgers is more of a climate solution than a health-based option. These “Impossible” and “Beyond” burgers contain large amounts of processed soy, which provide a meaty taste and texture. Still, the processed nature of the ingredient strips out the key nutrients traditional soy foods provide. In addition, dieticians have noted a considerable amount of sodium and saturated fat in these plant-based burgers that are essentially equal to that of a red-meat burger.
Generally, fast-food chains still offer generally unhealthy menu items, which can impact your wallet and your health in the long run.
Lunch is the perfect time of day to take advantage of healthy meal prepping. So, skip the drive-thru and try a few of these recipes:
Turkey Taco Bowls
For the person who wants a diverse, tasty, and healthy lunch, a turkey taco bowl is a great meal. The overall time it will take to prepare this meal is over an hour, but it can create lunch for you or a loved one for multiple days of the week.
You will need ground meat and brown rice; all other ingredients are optional. You can add corn, pico de gallo, avocados, or salsa; it all depends on your preference. You can also use ground beef or chicken, but due to the health benefits of ground turkey, it is the recommended option.
Prepare the rice and brown the turkey meat; this should take roughly 12-16 minutes. The other ingredients can be added afterward to add more flavor or diversity to each serving if you plan to prepare this for multiple meals.
It is also recommended you add corn since it can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar, increase energy levels, and promote healthy skin.
Chicken and Broccoli Mac & Cheese
While the name may not sound healthy, chicken and broccoli mac and cheese is simple to make and full of nutrients, including calcium, protein, and antioxidants.
You will need roughly 30 to 60 minutes to prepare and cook this meal, and ingredients include chicken, broccoli, shredded cheese, pasta, flour, skim milk, unsalted butter, breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper.
Before preparing the pasta, thoroughly cook the chicken and set aside. Boil and prepare the pasta (whole wheat pasta is recommended) according to the directions on the box, and add broccoli florets 5-6 minutes before the cook time is over. Remove and drain macaroni and broccoli and set aside.
In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add in milk until the mixture is smooth. Add 1 1/2 cups of cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat and add cooked pasta, broccoli, chicken, salt, and pepper to the cheese mixture and mix well.
Pour all ingredients into a greased casserole dish and top with remaining cheese. Combine breadcrumbs with melted butter and sprinkle breadcrumb mixture on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes - done!
This meal can be prepared and refrigerated ahead of time by making the mac and cheese and assembling the casserole without adding the breadcrumb topping. When you’re ready to bake it, follow the steps for the breadcrumb topping and bake accordingly. Click here to view the full recipe.
These are just a few healthy meal prepping options and recipes available. We understand that, at times, it can be challenging to juggle the responsibilities as a family caregiver and to find time for meal prepping, but it can help save you time, money and improve your and your loved one’s health.
As a family caregiver, if you need a short-term break from your caregiving responsibilities, Brickmont Assisted Living offers respite care services. Respite care can place your parent or loved one in a safe and secure environment at one of our communities, surrounded by professionally trained staff. This can give you peace of mind in knowing they are taken care of so you can tend to other responsibilities. Contact Brickmont Assisted Living to learn more.
Updated October 2022