25 Jul Smart Meal Prep for Beginners + Sheet Pan Lemon Chicken with Carrots and Potatoes
Want to lower your stress level when it comes to feeding yourself and your family?
Hands down, meal prep is the answer.
When I meal prep, I feel like I’ve conquered the world. Meal plan made. Grocery list complete. Food shopping done. Groceries in their rightful place. Prep work assigned, sorted, completed and stored. Even if I have 2 meals or prep done I feel like I’ve moved mountains.
When I don’t, it’s a nagging feeling all day–what are we going to have for dinner? What’s in the freezer? Do I have any leftovers I can use? Do we have anything thawed out? Bottom line–it’s a last minute scramble to figure out what to put on the table that’s quick, healthy and something we can enjoy eating. To add insult to injury, when I don’t meal plan, more food waste accumulates. That’s another blog post……
I sat down (okay, we emailed) with Toby Amidor, RD, author of The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook and The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook for Beginners for a mom to mom conversation about the down and dirty when it comes to meal prep and how it changes the family dynamic. I’ve known Toby for years and can say that she has, without a doubt, hit the nail on the head when it comes to meal prep.
My takeaways from our conversation?
First, it takes time and work to meal plan but it’s oh-so-worth it in the long run.
Second, it’s okay if you don’t meal plan every single meal–but have back up items available.
Finally, meal prep is a family affair and is a smart way to teach kids about life skills when it comes to a healthy lifestyle
See below for our full Q and A:
RP: What is the #1 reason you hear from parents/caregivers about why they don’t meal plan? I know—busy—but at the granular level, what are the real reasons?
TA: Many folks don’t realize that there is work involved in meal planning, especially when you’re meal prepping. You need to find healthy recipes, plan which days you’ll eat everything, go food shopping, and then actually shop and box everything for the week. It takes real work!
RP: We’re both busy working moms. I can tell you what happens if/when I don’t meal plan—STRESS! What happens-or used to happen before you meal planned—if a meal wasn’t planned?
TA: If a meal wasn’t planned, then I would have a few backup menu items on hand like cereal and milk, omelet with leftover vegetables, or just a PB&J sandwich. These are still my emergency meals, but I would rather plan for well-balanced satisfying meals instead of relying on PB&J 4 days of the week….although I love it, there is such a thing as too much!
RP: How has meal planning changed the dynamic of your family at the dinner table?
TA: My kids have been getting involved in the process. They select recipes with me and help me create my food shopping list (they always help me check the pantry and spice cabinet for ingredients before it goes on my list). Also, I specifically find advanced planning and meal prepping batches especially important at breakfast—that way they can easily grab-and-go whatever is on the menu.
RP: Have any of your children adopted your passion for cooking or meal planning?
TA: My girls absolutely love cooking. My middle daughter Ellena is a baker. She enjoys baking cakes, cookies, and especially cupcakes whenever she can. My youngest daughter Micah has become fluent in reading recipes and measurements and correcting my recipes during testing. She actually gets upset if I test a recipe without her!
RP: If it’s a dinner out with the family, what types of foods/cuisines do you lean towards?
TA: I tend to eat Mediterranean style cuisine. My mom is Israeli and I spent my summers in Israel. I tend to have a lot of chopped salads, fresh cut vegetables and fruit, hummus, olives, chicken, and fish on the menu. I do round that out with lean beef and dairy foods. My kids and I also love homemade pizza and Chinese food (I make a few healthy versions at home).
Sheet Pan Lemon Chicken with Potatoes and Carrots
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Nonstick cooking spray
¼ cup olive oil
2 lemons, 1 juiced and 1 thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1-1/2 pounds new potatoes, quartered
5 medium carrots, cut into ½-inch coins (about 1 pound)
2 medium parsnips, cut into ½-inch coins (about ½ pound)
Preheat the oven to 425-degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a sheet pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips to the dressing and coat to toss. Gently pour the vegetables and chicken onto the prepared baking sheet, making sure they are in a single layer. Top with the lemon slices. Place in the oven and roast for 40 to 45 minutes until the chicken reaches a minimum internal cooking temperature of 165-degrees Fahrenheit.
Into each of 4 containers, scoop about 2 cups of chicken and vegetables.
Storage: Place airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. To freeze, place freezer-safe containers in the freezer for up to 2 months. To defrost, refrigerate overnight. To reheat individual portions, microwave uncovered on high for 2 to 2-1/2 minutes.
RECIPE CREDIT: Copyright Toby Amidor, Smart Meal Prep for Beginners, Rockridge Press, 2018.
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