March is National Nutrition Month and a great time to highlight the health benefits of eating clean and batch cooking. As a certified wellness practitioner and yoga teacher, I often get asked this question. What do you mean when you say eat clean? Eating clean is simply eating foods that are not processed, packaged, or from fast-food restaurants. To break this down further, think of eating clean as eating foods that are in its natural state. Clean foods include locally grown tomatoes, fresh spinach that is not frozen or in a can, and fresh wild-caught fish that does not include food coloring from pellets, which is usually found in farm-raised fish.
Eating clean is not a diet, rather it is a healthy lifestyle approach to consuming foods that are healthy and provides the body with good-for-you ingredients such as fiber, potassium, magnesium, and essential nutrients that promote health and wellness. When you adopt a clean eating lifestyle, you avoid consuming foods that are processed with unhealthy ingredients such as high amounts of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, salt, saturated fat, genetically modified ingredients, and harmful food coloring and preservatives. It can be hard to know where to start when you want to change your eating and lifestyle habits. However, the best place to start eating clean is in your kitchen. When you cook your own meals with fresh ingredients that do not come from a can or box, you are essentially cooking clean meals.
To help with the transition of eating clean, I would suggest that you start batch cooking. Batch cooking is simply preparing all of your meals for an entire week, so that you can have healthier meals ready when you need them. As an example, I batch cook my weekly meals on Sunday. I begin to plan my menu on Friday and try to purchase the items on Saturday or Sunday morning.
Let’s explore batch cooking and learn how batch cooking can help you reach your health and wellness goals. First, let’s address the cons of batch cooking, so that we can get this out of the way. One of the disadvantages of batch cooking your meals for the week is the amount of TIME it takes to prepare a large quantity of different foods. Batch cooking a variety of foods can easily take up to three hours, which includes prep and clean-up. Here are some strategies to get around this obstacle. First, find something that will allow you to enjoy the process. Meaning, maybe listen to your favorite playlist or watch your favorite recorded show while you are cooking. When I batch cook, I usually turn on some jazz music or catch up on some of my favorite series on my DVR or on Netflix.
Now that we have gotten the cons of batch cooking resolved, there are way too many positive things about batch cooking that makes the length of time totally worth it. First, you will be eating healthier foods. Second, it is much cheaper to batch cook than eating out at restaurants; especially, when you consider the cost of including a 15 to 20% tip. Third, batch cooking will allow you to lose weight because you have complete control over how many calories you are consuming. Also, when you cook your own meals, you control the amount of salt and sugar that is included in your meals, which is a win-win for you and your family. Finally, one of the best things about batch cooking includes the amount of time that you will free up after work to do things you love such as exercising or taking a walk in the park.
I hope you find these suggestions useful and sincerely hope you give batch cooking a try. You will find that once you start batch cooking, it will get easier and you will have so much free time to enjoy other things that make you happy. To get you started, here are some helpful batch cooking guidelines to follow.
Five Tips for Successful Batch Cooking
1). Plan out your meals before the end of the week. I usually suggest using one of your weekly lunch breaks to jot down what you would like to eat for the following week. This plan would include writing down a well-balanced meal for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and also don’t forget to include adding some healthy snacks, like a handful of unsalted healthy nuts, probiotic-rich yogurts, or fruit with a nut butter, like almond butter. Your well-balanced meals should include something like steel cut oatmeal, protein pancakes, or a protein shake for breakfast. For dinner, you should have veggies, proteins, healthy fats, grains, like brown rice or quinoa, grass-fed meat or wild-caught salmon or some other light wild-caught fish of your choice. Finally, for lunch, you should include a healthy salad with lots of healthy vegetables and nuts, with a measured amount of a low-fat vinaigrette salad dressing.
2). Once you have a well-balanced list of items for the following week, you should write down a list of items you will need to purchase at the grocery store. However, before you go out and purchase any new items, take a quick scan in your pantry and refrigerator to see what items you may already have or need to replace to make your meals.
3). The next step is to pick a day from Friday through Sunday morning to actually go out and purchase your items. You can quickly scan online grocery stores for sales, to see which store(s) have all of your items on sale.
4). Pick the best day during your weekend to get your batch cooking completed. Remember, most items that you batch cook can be put in the freezer for up to four weeks. Especially, soups, stews, and some pasta.
5). Find something you really love to do with all of the free time you will have during the week like exercising, taking a yoga class, or volunteering in your community.