How to Meal-Prep Like a Dietitian

How to Meal-Prep Like A Dietitian

The list you scribbled in the car five minutes ago rests between your fingers and the grocery cart’s handlebar as you embark on what you hope will be a quick grocery run. As the produce section starts to feel like a corn maze and the frozen aisle makes your brain freeze, you wonder how people manage to conquer this meal-prep thing weekly. If this sounds like your typical grocery run, then these dietitian-approved meal-prep tips might be for you.

  • Understand the value. Before heading to the store, you should recognize that cooking meals is about self-care, says Julie Duffy Dillon, a North Carolina-based registered dietitian and eating disorder specialist. She adds that meal-prepping should not be stressful. “It’s compassionate to you and your family,” Dillon explains.And being organized about meals can help you reach your nutritional goals, Claire Chewning, an R.D. and blogger located in Virginia, said. “You have to align your actions with your intentions.”
  • Plan strategically. “Meal-prep doesn’t have to take place on Sunday afternoons,” Rachel Meltzer Warren, a New York-area R.D. and nutrition writer says, though many find that to be a convenient time. Using grocery delivery apps and preparing food in increments can help you “carve out time in a busy schedule,” she adds. It’s also helpful to “know when your energy is,” University of Maryland’s campus dietitian, Jane Jakubczak, says, laughing while explaining that she makes salmon at 6 a.m.
  • Shop smart. Having a general idea of the foods you want to purchase can minimize food waste, Warren says. She advises clients to fill out grids – which become grocery lists – when mapping out meals for the week. “I know I have big eyes when I shop,” Warren says, chuckling. “If I have no plan, I grab everything, and [then] the food goes bad.”

Meal Planning on the Fly

To stay on track when shopping while still allowing room for creativity, Chewning considers each meal as a triangle; it’s three points are the macronutrients. “At every meal, if you want full balance to keep you satiated and to keep all the little cells in your body happy, you have a protein, you have a carbohydrate and a healthy fat,” she said. “In the center of the triangle, you have a big empty space, and that’s where fruits and vegetables come in.”

The carbohydrate sources Chewning, a lacto-ovo vegetarian, enjoys include rice, potatoes, peas, beans and corn. For protein, she likes tofu, seitan and fish prepared in olive oil, a healthy fat. “If I plan to have those foods cooked, it gives me the freedom and the ease to eat them in a way that sounds good to me at that moment in time,” Chewning said.

Jakubczak purchases salmon, chicken and lean meats in bulk, the cheapest option per-unit, she says. After cooking proteins on Sundays, she portions them into labeled containers and freezes them – essentially “creating [her] own frozen food.” She takes the containers out to thaw and uses a microwave to accelerate defrosting before mealtimes. “If we don’t plan and prep in advance, it’s almost too easy to get take-out,” Jakubczak says. “Make the healthy option the easy option.”

  • Plan for chaos. A busy schedule shouldn’t stop you from consuming balanced meals and snacks. Dillon plans to cook two longer-to-prepare recipes, two 15-minute recipes and one “super easy” recipe weekly, for nights when “life happens.” Warren keeps frozen riced cauliflower on hand to fry with tofu and eggs for times when she lacks fresh ingredients. Jakubczak bags vegetables and portions watermelon into containers in advance so she can grab them on busy mornings. “Prepare to be unprepared,” Warren says. “Have ideas that can be thrown together without much prep.”
  • Make it simple. “In the end, having canned peas versus fresh peas isn’t going to make a difference,” Dillon says. “If you can try not to be too [much of a perfectionist] or all-or-nothing, then you will be able to be honest with where you are now. Then you’ll be able to start cooking.”

Dena Gershkovich is a dietetics and journalism double major at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is hoping to become a registered dietitian and nutrition writer. To read more of Dena’s work, check out her blog, The Artsy Palate, for original recipes and tips for how to stay healthy in college and beyond.

Healthy is Better Than Perfect: 5 Must-Know Insights

Healthy is better than perfect

Ever feel like you have to do something dramatic to turn your diet around or get a grip on your eating habits? Like put a lock on your pantry or only drink green juice?

Well, let me tell you, the drama isn’t necessary. And the participants in my most recent 30 Day Nutrition Upgrade program are proof: eating healthy doesn’t mean restricting yourself or being anywhere close to “perfect.”

Here are 5 takeaways participants had (along with extra resources) to help you bring balance into your own diet:

1. Perfection isn’t the goal. Awareness is.

“I weighed myself for the first time since doing the 30-Day Nutrition Challenge and was down 8.5 lbs, all because I was more aware of the type of food I was eating.”

A little awareness can go a long way. A lot further than a set of arbitrary rules which, once you break them, ultimately lead to giving up. If mindful eating sounds like a drag or a bore, check out this article on How We Get Mindful Eating Wrong.  Also, check out these Four Ways to Eat More Mindfully. 

2. You can stay on track without logging everything you eat.

“This approach keeps me mindful of what I’m eating without all the logging.”

Keeping a record of everything you eatcan be a very effective tool for improving your eating habits. Most people start to drift away from the habit after a week or two–often, when they have a day they’d just as soon be “off the record.” And the benefits of that increased awareness and accountability gradually slip way.

The Nutrition GPA app was developed as a solution to this dilemma–a way to get the benefits of awareness and accountability without the burden of logging every bit of food every day.

3. Adding foods is more fun than subtracting.

“It hasn’t seemed like the ‘I can’t wait until this is over’ diet plan.” 

Improving your nutrition isn’t just about eliminating unhealthy foods. It’s also about adding healthy ones!

4. Bad days don’t have to mean reaching for Ben and Jerry’s.

“I’m far less likely to succumb to bad choices in weak moments.” 

Strict dieting rules often lead to an all-or-nothing attitude. One moment of weakness derails the entire project. Not so in the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade. Although we use the Nutrition GPA app as a way to get feedback on our daily choices, perfection is not the goal. Cultivating consistent healthy habits means there’s room for a little indulgence too.

But if your sweet tooth is your weakness, here’s something that can help keep those sugar cravings from getting the better of you.

5. Remember: it’s a lifestyle, not a sprint.

“This is a lifestyle I intend to keep up.”

And when it comes to healthy habits, the ones we can sustain long term are the only ones that really make a difference. I’d rather see you cut your added sugar intake by 25% forever than to go 30 days without any added sugar at all…and then go back to your old habits. Remember: it’s not your best days or your worst days but your typical day that ultimately determines the quality of your diet and your results!

Congratulations to all the recent Upgraders.  If you’d like to participate in the next one, sign up  here and I’ll be sure to notify you when registration opens.

For what are we grateful? Let’s start with these people

Faces of Farming

Every Thanksgiving we prep the turkey, mash the potatoes, dice, slice, and garnish the side dishes, and set the table. Finally, the feast is spread before us and we go around the table, each saying what we’re grateful for.

“Family.”
“Friends.”
“The food we’re about to eat.”

But how often do we think to extend our gratitude to the farmers who made it all possible?

Farmers are often the unseen faces behind the food that fills our bellies.  As we focus on what’s in front of us, it’s all too easy to overlook their crucial role.

It’s not just a farmer’s job to grow and produce the food we eat. It’s their life’s work–and it’s truly a labor of love: love for the land, for the earth and its precious resources, for the communities that they nourish and support.  All the dedication it takes to get the fruit, vegetables, dairy, and meat to our table deserves much more of our awareness and gratitude.

Especially because agriculture is dwindling in the United States. A hundred years ago, 1 in 4 Americans was employed in agriculture. Today it’s just 1 in 50. At the same time, we have over 3 times as many people to feed.

A hundred years ago, 1 in 4 Americans was employed in agriculture. Today it’s just 1 in 50. Click To Tweet

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the people who dedicate their lives to feeding us. And I want you to meet them too.

That is why, in the weeks leading up to the American Thanksgiving holiday, I’ve been talking to some people who are helping bring that feast (as well as our everyday meals) to our table on the Nutrition Diva podcast.

You can hear the entire series on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify  or wherever you like to listen to podcasts or scroll down to listen here. Shownotes for all episodes are at QuickandDirtyTips.com

The Faces of Farming from the Nutrition Diva Podcast

Faces of Farming #1: Hear from Dale Huss, as he shares the challenging realities of growing and managing his crops, the risks and rewards, and the pride that comes from producing a great harvest.

 

Faces of Farming #: Meet Dr. Tera Barnhardt, coordinator of animal health and welfare for Cattle Empire, as she explains the ranch’s feeding operations, her “welcoming committee” approach, and how technology plays an unsuspected, yet vital role.

 

Faces of Farming #3: I speak with Tara Vander Dussen, a fifth generation dairy farmer. Learn about her journey to rediscover her heritage, the farm’s cow care, as well as the surprising (and famous) dairy specialty out of New Mexico.

 

Faces of Farming #4: Strawberry grower Greg France talks about how learning to grow organic strawberries changes how he thinks about farming, and a farmer’s unique connection to the land and his community.

 

Faces of Farming #5: LA native Brian Wahlbrink explains why he traded his surf board for a tractor and decided to dedicate his life to cultivating the world’s most popular nut.

2 Minutes a Day = Better Eating Habits

Think you don’t have time to get your diet under control?

What if you could improve your eating habits in just 2 minutes a day?

The Nutrition GPA™ app (recently named by the New York Times as one of 4 Best Food Tracking apps) asks you ten yes-or-no questions about what you ate that day and then gives you a grade for that day’s nutrition. Not happy with your grade? You’ll know exactly what to do differently tomorrow.

It’s a fun and easy way to create awareness of how your choices impact your nutrition and health.  And it’s not just about cutting things out of your diet! It’s also about adding more healthy foods to your day.

The daily quiz takes less than two minutes a day (a lot less time than logging everything you eat into a food tracker!) and gives you an accurate picture of how your choices stacked up nutritionally. But the real power is in taking the quiz every day, because your daily scores are averaged to reveal your customized Nutrition Grade Point Average (GPA).

And here’s the good news: Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect in order to be healthy! A Nutrition GPA of B or better means you have a healthy diet, but still leaves room for some treats and indulgences.

READY TO ADD THE JET FUEL?

Knowing is one thing. Doing another. And that’s where the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade™ program comes in. This online group challenge combines the awareness and accountability of the Nutrition GPA with the power of community and expert coaching to create positive momentum that will last far longer than 30 days.

One recent participant wrote:

“This has been a really, really great experience. I’ve wanted to eat healthier for a long time and always got overwhelmed and confused not really knowing where to start. This has been a super easy, accessible way to start. I’m very grateful!”

Another said:

“This program is really helping me fix my attitude towards food. Previously, if I had a “bad” meal, I would write off the rest of the day (or week!). Last night I had Chinese takeout for dinner. Because I’d had such healthful meals earlier in the day, I still scored a B. After I’d eaten, rather than feeling guilty or wallowing all evening, I got up and prepped breakfast and lunch for today so I’m on track for my A. One meal does not a whole diet make (or break!).”

The next round of the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade starts Friday October 19 and I’d love for you to join us!

In a live one-hour kickoff, I’ll explain the research and nutritional science behind the app, how the questions were designed, and why it works. Then, you’ll have daily access to hundreds of current Upgraders and alumni who will cheer you on, plus a direct line to me with your thorniest diet and nutrition questions!

Over the course of these 30 days, you’ll experience how small, sustainable changes can fit into any lifestyle–and will have a positive impact for years to come.

Come join us! Can’t wait to see you there.

The Good Enough Diet: A Drama-Free Approach to Better Nutrition

How many times have you given up on a diet or a detox because you ate one off-plan food?

I already screwed up, you might think, so it doesn’t matter now! And maybe you go from having one extra drink at happy hour to a whole weekend of indulgent food and drinks.

Or maybe you don’t even want to try eating a healthier diet, because you know you can’t live up to that stringent vegan/paleo/no-added-sugar diet your sister or friend or co-worker is touting.

This kind of black-or-white thinking drives me crazy! Continue reading “The Good Enough Diet: A Drama-Free Approach to Better Nutrition” >

Healthy Sources of Omega 3 and 6

This week’s Nutrition Diva podcast talks about the recommended intake of omega 6 fats.  How much is enough? How much is too much?

Here’s a guide to the omega-6 and omega-3 content of a variety of healthy foods. Click on any column to sort the list by that value.

Want a food added to the table? Add your request in the comment section and I’ll do my best to add it.

FoodServingGramsTotal Fat (g)Total PUFA (g)O-6O-3
Brazilnuts1/4 cup3322770
Canola oil1 Tbsp1414431
Chia seeds1 Tbsp103212
Corn oil1 Tbsp1414770
Flaxseeds1 Tbsp11430.52.5
Grapeseed oil1 Tbsp141410100
Hemp hearts1 Tbsp105431
Peanut butter2 Tbsp3216440
Pecans1/4 cup2518550
Pinenuts1/4 cup342311110
Pumpkin seeds1 Tbsp3216770
Rice bran oil1 Tbsp1414550
Salmon, cooked3 oz85730.52
Sesame seeds1 Tbsp96220
Sunflower seeds1 Tbsp3619820
Tofu, firm3 oz855220
Tuna, white3 oz853101
Walnuts1/4 cup302014113

 

 

Should You Eat a Less Varied Diet?

“Eat a varied diet” is a fairly standard piece of advice. The idea is that by eating a greater variety of foods, you’ll be more likely to check off all the nutritional boxes.  But a new report suggests that the enormous amount of variety in our diet may be leading us astray.

When we have lots of different foods on our plates (or on a buffet line), we tend to eat more.  You’ve no doubt experienced this countless times. After eating a bowl of chili, we might feel no desire to continue eating…until a piece of cheesecake appears. Suddenly, we have a little more room.

But we can use this effect to our advantage, by limiting the variety of snacks and sweets that we keep around and increasing the variety of fresh vegetables, for example.

Just for fun, why not take an inventory of what’s in your house right now? How many different types of crackers, salted nuts, chips or other snack foods are on hand? How many different kinds cookies, cereal, muffins, granola bars, ice cream, chocolate, or other sweet treats?  How many types of bread, rolls, tortillas, and other starchy foods?

Now open up that crisper drawer. How many different kinds of vegetables and fruits are in there, ready to eat?  How many different sources of lean protein?

How does the variety (or lack thereof) of various categories of food correlate to your consumption patterns?

If you want to cut down on snacking, try keeping fewer snack foods around. If you want to eat more vegetables, surround yourself with more different kinds of produce.

Protein density of foods

In this week’s Nutrition Diva podcast, I talked about the concept of protein density and why it matters.

Plant-based sources of protein like legumes or nuts often contain a lot of additional calories in the form or carbohydrates and/or fats. It can be challenging to to increase your protein intake using plant-based sources without taking in more calories than you need. This is where the concept of protein density can help. 

We can calculate the protein density of a food by dividing the protein by the calories and multiplying by 100.  Foods with a higher protein density provide more protein per calorie. For example, black beans have a protein density score of 6.6, meaning that 100 calories worth of black beans contains 6.6 grams of protein. Edamame, on the other hand, has protein density of around 10. You get 50% more protein from the same number of calories.  (Although the calories and protein will change with the serving size, the protein density will always remain the same.)

Here is a table of some common foods and their protein density. You can sort this list by any column by clicking on the column header.

FoodAmountWeight (g)Protein (g)CaloriesProtein density
Egg white1 large333.601721.2
Chicken breast3 oz8526.0014018.6
Cottage cheese, lowfat1/2 cup11314.008117.3
Steak, sirloin, broiled3 oz8525.7516016.1
Tuna, white, canned3 oz8522.5515814.3
Bok choi, cooked1 cup1702.652013.3
Hamburger, 90% lean, broiled3 oz8522.1918412.1
Tofu, firm1/2 cup12621.7618112.0
Mushrooms, grilled1 cup1213.973511.3
Pork loin, broiled3 oz8523.2220611.3
Turnip greens, cooked1 cup1444.003611.1
Salmon, baked3 oz8519.0017510.9
Asparagus, cooked1 cup1804.324010.8
Broccoli, cooked1 cup1564.384110.7
Edamame1 cup11813.2412910.3
Bean sprouts1 cup1242.52269.7
Cauliflower, raw1 cup641.89209.5
Kale, cooked1 cup671.78199.4
Egg , whole1 large506.28728.7
Yogurt, plain, low fat1 container (6 oz)1708.931078.3
Collards, cooked1 cup1905.15638.2
Mozzarella, part skim1 oz286.67838.1
Lentils, cooked1 cup198182307.8
Brussels sprouts, raw1 cup882.97387.8
Zucchini, cooked1 cup1802.05277.6
Provolone cheese1 oz287.19997.3
Swiss cheese1 oz287.571107.3
Snow peas1 cup982.74416.7
Black beans, cooked1 cup24014.472186.6
Artichoke, cooked1 medium1203.5615.73
Yogurt, plain, whole milk1 container (6 oz)1705.901045.7
Cheddar, cheese1 oz286.421135.7
Lima beans, cooked1 cup17011.582095.5
Cheese, feta1 oz283.99745.4
Green beans, cooked1 cup1352.01385.3
Pumpkin seeds, roasted1 oz288.381615.2
Milk, whole1 cup2448.001565.1
Tomatoes, canned1 cup2401.90385.0
Bread, whole wheat1 slice324.00814.9
Vegetable juice, canned1 cup2532.35564.2
Peanuts, roasted1 oz286.841654.1
Pasta, whole wheat, cooked1 cup1177.001744.0
Amaranth, cooked 1 cup2469.352513.7
Pasta, cooked1 cup1247.191963.7
Quinoa, cooked1 cup1858.002223.6
Almonds, roasted1 oz285.901683.5
Corn, yellow1 cup1364.111203.4
Egg noodles, cooked1 cup1607.262213.3
Baked potato1 potato2997.862842.8
Sunflower seeds, roasted1 oz284.801732.8
Rice, brown, cooked1 cup2025.532482.2
Butternut squash, backed1 cup2051.84822.2
Sweet potato, baked1 potato1142.291032.2
Rice, white, cooked1 cup1584.252052.1