When I came to UF, I decided to ditch the dining hall’s meal plan and cook my own meals instead. Turns out, this is easier said than done. Between juggling classes and work, it was a hassle having to cook a nutritious meal after a long day.
The best solution I found was to join the meal prepping community, loved by many of my friends. As I am on my third year of practicing meal prep, I’ve picked up on a few tips and tricks that you can use to become an OG at it.
Make your own meal plan
The first step in creating your meal plan is figuring out what you would like to eat for the next few days. Start by making a list of your cravings and preferences, while making sure that each day includes a balance of protein, carbs and something to satisfy your sweet tooth.
If you’re a little unsure of what type of food would be suitable to store in the fridge for a couple of days, there are several apps that can help you out. My favorite is Mealime, a meal prepping app that gives you easy and healthy recipes based on your choice of diet, ingredients and serving size.
One of the most obvious things that should be a key ingredient to your meal prepping adventure is having a designated “prep day.” Part of this day is dedicated to whipping up your dishes for the week. Sundays and Saturdays are my ideal days to prepare meals since I tend to have more free time then. Other people I know like to do it on Wednesdays and Sundays to have a three-day gap between meal preparations. Whatever day you choose, make sure you are able to set aside two to three hours to get everything done.
Aesthetic-ize with tasty rainbow meals
There is an Arabic saying that I grew up hearing quite often that goes, “The eye eats before the mouth,” meaning that your food has to look at least a bit appetizing in order for you to enjoy it. When I first started meal prepping, pasta was my main go-to choice of the week, and the only difference between my first and second meal was the sauce or shape of the pasta. Although it was super easy and time efficient to make a whole box of pasta and divide it up throughout the week, it got pretty boring after a couple of angel hair and penne dinners.
So, I began to browse through all of my saved Tasty videos on Facebook and chose some recipes that rely on the same base food, such as pasta. Grains like lentils, rice and quinoa are great ingredients that are really versatile to use as bases. From there you can build your meal by stacking it with vegetables and protein. Cooked farfalle can be turned into a pasta salad by adding some pesto sauce, cherry tomatoes and olives or turned into baked pasta by adding some spinach and cheese.
Also, be adventurous in adding a little color to your dishes. I recommend that there be at least three different “rainbow colors” in every meal. Foods like carrots, avocados, tomatoes and bell peppers can really spice up your dish and make it more aesthetically pleasing.
Stack up on the containers
Although this may seem like a small part of meal preparation, it is actually very important. Choosing the right container will help you manage your diet and be aware of your food intake throughout the day.
Try to avoid mason jars, and instead, use easy portable containers with divided storage sections. This way, when you’re having a long day, you can easily take your meal and any additional snacks on the go.
If you haven’t considered meal prepping, I suggest that you definitely invite it into your college life. Toss the school’s meal plan, give up fast food runs and stack up on those containers to free up a few hours of your day.