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You Won’t Believe How Easy Meal Prep Could Be! And how Much Money It Can Help You Save!

You Won’t Believe How Easy Meal Prep Could Be! And how Much Money It Can Help You Save!

Dealing with getting lunch at work can be a real downer. If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll be stuck with the often unhealthy and unnaturally large portions available at fast food joints and other restaurants.

If you’re trying to eat healthy, you’ll find limited options, and expensive ones at that.Leave your days of $12 salads behind by doing meal prep in advance so you can bring your own healthy — and delicious — lunch to work every day.

How to Meal Prep Like a Pro

The key to getting started with meal prepping is to not try to do too much too fast. If you’re accustomed to never packing a lunch, start with prepping a couple of days a week. Once it becomes a habit you can work on packing lunches every day.

Think about what kinds of foods you like to eat that can be eaten cold or easily reheated. Because we’re talking healthy lunches, think about salads, soups, grain dishes, beans, sandwiches and wraps. We’ve got 10 great recipes to get you started below, but you’ll definitely do better sticking to your healthy lunch plan if you’re making things you like.

Another great idea is to choose items that will freeze well. Many soups, grains and beans do well in the freezer, so you can make a big batch and freeze it in lunch-sized portions to be pulled out in future weeks. Score!

Check your kitchen for supplies you can repurpose to help with your meal prep. You’ll need small plastic or glass food storage containers (Mason jars are excellent for this purpose). You may also want a bento box or divided lunch box if your meal will consist of multiple items. They’re also adorable.

Prepping once for the whole week of healthy lunches is a great habit to get into, and a great way to spend your Sunday afternoon or evening. But be aware of food safety and don’t keep foods for too long after you prepare them.

How long can you keep your food?

Salads will be best in the day or two after you make them. Meat can hold in the fridge for three or four days. Vegetarian items can go longer, and things that have been kept in the freezer are good for at least six months in cold storage and for a few days after thawing.

Here are some great starter recipes to get you excited about meal prep and healthy eating.

Mason Jar Salads

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    Maybe the classic meal prep lunch is the Mason jar salad. There’s a good reason for that: they are cute, easy to make and you can make a great variety of salads, both with greens and with pasta, by following this same basic structure.

    Organize Yourself Skinny has the lowdown on what makes a Mason jar salad work — basically, you put the dressing on the bottom, then some hard-vegetable barrier between the dressing and the greens or pasta — and links to more than a dozen ideas you can make yourself.

    Her Greek Mason jar salad, pictured above, calls for chicken but you could also sub chickpeas to make it vegetarian and to save money, though either way these salads are only a couple of bucks a serving.

    Homemade Instant Noodles

      Ramen is a meal you might have left behind in your poor college student days (or not), but you can give that classic broke food a serious and healthy upgrade with the tips from Serious Eats.

      This homemade instant noodle recipe is a perfect make-ahead for lunch. Start with partially cooked noodles and fresh vegetables. Add seasonings (and some fresh veg like chopped green onions on the side).

      When you’re ready to eat, all you need is some boiling water to make your coworkers jealous. The most expensive item in this recipe is probably the shitake mushrooms, but you’re still looking at pretty cheap eats. Keep scrolling down that page for other variations, too.

      Buddha Bowls

        A classic of vegan fare — I won’t tell if you add some meat — Buddha bowls are a great meal prep basic to have in your arsenal because they can be made a million different ways.

        Usually these bowls include some kind of grain or blend of grains, vegetables and often beans or tofu. The Southwestern Buddha Bowl from Simply Sissom adds chicken, but you don’t have to.

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        This recipe is a good one because she gives tips for making it ahead and freezing the components to make prepping it faster the next time.

        Once you’ve made a recipe like this a few times, you’ll start making your own grain bowls by throwing together whatever sounds good, what produce is on sale this week or what you have extra of in the fridge. It’s the ultimate use-everything meal.

        Chicken Salad

          If you’ve roasted a chicken or bought a rotisserie chicken for another meal, using the leftovers for chicken salad is a perfect way to get a make-ahead lunch on the cheap.

          This is one you should plan to eat within a couple of days of making it, and, of course, keep in the refrigerator or otherwise chilled at work before you eat it.

          You may already have a go-to chicken salad recipe, but if not this one from Add a Pinch is great because it is healthier than a lot of recipes out there. She uses yogurt along with the mayo to lighten it up, and adds grapes, pecans and cherries for crunch, flavor and nutrition.

          Lentil Soup

            There are so many cheap and easy soup recipes out there, and once you are comfortable with the basics of making soup, you can easily make a vegetable soup with just about any extra vegetables you have on hand. You can even use frozen vegetables if you don’t have anything fresh.

            Lentil soup, like this one from Alexandra Cooks, is a great place to start. Lentils are inexpensive and healthy but filling, and they taste great with just carrot, celery and onion and some spices. You can also freeze lentil soup and keep eating from the same pot for a while. Add her homemade bread to make this meal extra special.

            Check out the 20 cheap and easy soup recipes from Wise Bread for more great make ahead soup ideas.

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            Honey Sesame Chicken Rice Bowls

              Another meal idea with a lot of potential for variation is the Honey Sesame Chicken Rice Bowl from Sweet Peas and Saffron.

              Make it as is with chicken, rice, asparagus and broccoli, or change up the vegetables, grains and protein with whatever you have in the house. This is another great one for using leftovers, or cobbling together from pre-cooked meat and grains that are in the freezer.

              Thai Peanut Wraps

                Wraps are another great option for meal prep; just make the filing in advance and wrap it up the day you’re going to eat it.

                These Thai Peanut Wraps are colorful, healthy and full of flavor, and give you a good starting point for entry into the world of wraps. As the recipe from Spiced is written, they’re vegetarian, but you could throw in leftover chicken as well.

                Lots of these meal options would also work as wraps, such as the Buddha bowls and chicken salad.

                Orzo with Butternut Squash

                  Pasta salads are an easy make-ahead meal that can be eaten alone or as a side dish, and it’s easy to make a lot so you’ll probably do both.

                  The Kitchn’s Orzo with Butternut Squash is a great fall-in-a-bowl dish, and you just have to reheat it a little for lunch to be ready.

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                  And any time you make any kind of pasta, planned leftovers are great to eat for lunch the next day.

                  Chickpea Shawarma Stuffed Pita

                    Anything with beans is great for meal prep because you can buy dried beans inexpensively, cook a big batch, divide into can-sized portions and freeze. Pull out what you need for the week and you can use your beans in a bunch of different ways.

                    Naturally Ella has a great recipe for Chickpea Shawarma, which can be made ahead and served with hummus and pita bread as a sandwich or salad. You can also make your own hummus to make the meal even less expensive.

                    White Chicken Chili

                      Your favorite chili recipe is a great meal prep option, and it no doubt will freeze well, making future lunches that much easier.

                      If you don’t already have a go-to white chicken chili recipe — which is a healthier option than many other meaty versions — check out this one from Serious Eats. It calls for soaking the beans overnight and cooking them yourself, which is an economical option that also makes them tastier. Roasted veggies add to the depth of flavor.

                      Featured photo credit: Robin Zebrowski via flickr.com

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                      Sarah White

                      Freelance Writer, Editor, Professional Crafter

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                      Last Updated on August 12, 2019

                      12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

                      12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

                      Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

                      But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

                      I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

                      Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

                      1. Nuts

                      The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

                      Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

                      Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

                      Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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                      2. Blueberries

                      Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

                      When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

                      3. Tomatoes

                      Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

                      4. Broccoli

                      While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

                      Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

                      Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

                      5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

                      Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

                      The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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                      Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

                      6. Soy

                      Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

                      Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

                      Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

                      7. Dark Chocolate

                      When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

                      Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

                      8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

                      Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

                      B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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                      Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

                      Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

                      To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

                      9. Foods Rich in Zinc

                      Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

                      Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

                      Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

                      10. Gingko Biloba

                      This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

                      It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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                      However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

                      11. Green and Black Tea

                      Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

                      Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

                      Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

                      12. Sage and Rosemary

                      Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

                      Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

                      When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

                      More About Boosting Brain Power

                      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                      Reference

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