Like many young college grads, Kelvin Tsoi found himself in a tiny city apartment with little kitchen space and even less time to cook for himself. Realizing he and his friends were not alone in their desire for convenient healthy food, they started their own meal prepping business.By preparing ready-to-eat meals days before they’re meant to be eaten – meal prep in a nut shell - the company’s team of culinary experts, now known as The Meal Prep, serve fresh, seasonal and (most importantly) healthy meals for local delivery in Southern California. It’s a dream come true for anyone who’s resolved to eat better and spend less time in the kitchen throughout the week.
“I know when to eat and what I’m eating every meal,” said Vuong Nguyen, a co-founder. “And meal prepping is a chain habit. Because I easily eat on schedule, I wake up on schedule and go to the gym on time and more often. Before I knew it, I lost 20 pounds after I started.”
And he’s not the only one catching on to the meal prep craze made popular by busy, health-conscious consumers, many who are posting their own do-it-yourself tips on social media. Other delivery businesses and even supermarkets are catering to their needs.
The Meal Prep team shared their tips for preparing healthy, pre-made meals, to save time without sacrificing flavor and quality.
Choose Whole Food Meal Prep Recipes
The foundation of any effective diet is healthy food, so when it comes to meal prepping, it’s important to shop for whole (unprocessed and unrefined) foods and quality ingredients.
“You want to choose food options that are (fresh) and locally prepared,” said Andrew Johnson, The Meal Prep’s head chef who has 24 years of restaurant experience and farms fresh food on the side.
Before cooking, choose healthy proteins, nutrient-rich vegetables and/or complex carbohydrates versus simple ones, for example whole fruits rather than fruit-flavored drinks. He also advises avoiding fatty starches such as French fries.
And when you do head to the stovetop, cook your food in a way – like poaching and blanching – so it won’t overcook when you reheat it later in the week.
The ingredients of every meal will depend on your diet or allergies, Johnson said, but making healthy choices no matter what is key. And ideally with proper planning doing what’s right will be second nature.
Control Meal Prep Portion Size
Measuring portions when meal prepping is a great way to keep your food and diet in check.
“It’s also a great way to avoid food waste,” Johnson said. “If you can batch meals and properly store them, you can maximize your life.”
For each meal, choose between 5 and 6 ounces of lean protein and 3 ounces each of a healthy carb and veggie. You can also avoid carbs altogether and double up on vegetables, he said.
Food scales help control portions when meal prepping or even when you’re cooking for the moment.
An added benefit of meal prepping, said Tsoi, is having a fast meal option ready to go.
“Sometimes you want or need the best meal you can get in two minutes and before, if you had no time, you’re only options were frozen or fast food,” Tsoi said.
Pick Food-Grade Meal Prep Containers
It took Tsoi, Johnson and Nguyen about a year to perfect their process for The Meal Prep when launching in 2015, and one important factor was choosing the right, high-quality food-grade containers. Be sure your containers are labeled to withstand the heat of the microwave, oven and dishwasher and have a great seal.
“Oxygen is the thing that ruins food,” Johnson said. “And high-acid foods – like tomatoes – will break down certain types of plastic.”
The Meal Prep dishes are sectioned to separate the entrée and sides, and similar meal prep containers can be purchased for home cooks.
If meal prepping at home sounds too time consuming or beyond your culinary prowess, check out companies near you that offer premade options to keep your health up and belly happy this New Year!Photo courtesy of The Meal Prep