Seasonal Meal Prep: How to Optimize Nutrition in the Springtime
This blog is the first in a new on-going series I’ll be writing about seasonal meal prep! As a holistic nutrition consultant, I believe one of the most useful habits we can develop to improve our nutrition is meal prepping.
When I talk about meal prep, I’m not talking about that typical fitness-focused meal prep a lot of us think of initially. A kitchen island covered entirely by Tupperware containers full of rice, steamed broccoli, chicken breast. Nuh-uh. No shade to you if that’s your thing, but I love variety with all my meals and so variation is a big part of my meal prep strategy!
In fact, switching up your meals every day isn’t just more tasty and satisfying, it’s also a great way to make sure you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients!
So in today’s post, I’ll cover why meal prepping is a great habit to develop, how to make the most of your meal prep (regardless of the season), and how to optimize your meal prep specifically in Spring.
Why You Should Meal Prep
No matter your unique situation or health goals, meal prep is an amazing tool to support you on your health journey. Even during strange times like these, where many of us are actually stuck at home, meal prep can still be an extremely valuable habit to cultivate.
In fact, one could argue that we need it now more than ever! I know I’m not alone in feeling that life has been a bit of a rollercoaster lately—some days are good, some days not-so-good. On those not-so-good days, when we’re feeling a little more on edge and vulnerable, comfort and convenience reign supreme when it comes to diet. So, your body would thank you for having some staples already prepped so you don’t have to rely on take out.
Generally speaking, meal prep is useful just because of the convenience factor. Having some dinner and lunch staples already prepped makes cooking a flash. It’s also a great tool because it allows you to be intentional about what you’re eating and staying aligned to your specific needs and goals.
How To Make The Most of Your Meal Prep – No Matter the Season
No matter what is going on in your life, you can always use meal prep as a tool to support you. By assessing at the beginning of the week (I like to do all my planning and prepping on Sunday), you can plan a week’s worth of meals based on your needs for that specific week.
In fact, there are a few strategic questions I always ask myself before I write my grocery list to make sure I am planning meals that will support my body, mind, soul (and bank account!) in the best possible way.
Here are some of those questions:
– What do I already have in the fridge and pantry that needs to be used up?
– What is in season and/or on sale right now?
– What is going for me this week? Physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, etc.
– What’s the weather going to be like?
By answering these questions before writing your grocery list and menu for the week, you can ensure that you’re giving yourself the nutritional support you need for whatever your week ahead looks like.
For example: If I have a week where I have a Zoom call every night for work around 7 p.m., I focus on quick and nutritious dinners. If I know I will get my period in the upcoming week, I focus on protein, iron, and vitamin C rich foods. If my hubby has a cold or flu, I’ll plan some really nutritious immune-boosting meals. Weather matters too—if I know it’s going to be 25 degrees all week, I’m definitely not going to be making soups or stews!
Optimizing Meal Prep for the Season: Spring
Of course, as I’ve mentioned above, my meal prep looks different every week. However, there are some things I always consider when it comes to meal prepping in the Spring.
The first is what’s in season? Where I live, potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, beans, rhubarb, apples, asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, and herbs are in season in May/June.
Spring is all about the bloom for me. As everything turns lush and green and colourful, I use that as inspiration for my springtime meals. Whereas in the winter my focus is on a lot of grounding root veggies, soups, and stews, with lots of herbs and spices to keep my immune system on point, in the spring my diet gets a lot lighter. Salads replace soups and curries and I incorporate a lot more cooling and hydrating fruits and raw veggies.
To give you an example of what a Sunday meal prep session in spring might look for me, here’s a typical meal prep “menu”:
– Wash and chop a few bunches of kale
– Steam some quinoa in my instant pot
– Make a big bowl of Greek salad (I love Greek salad in the Spring and Summer because it’s so refreshing, the cucumbers and other raw veggies are cooling to the system, and unlike many other salads, this one actually tastes better after sitting for a day or two!)
– Steam some edamame and arame (seaweed) for a super quick super savoury salad
– Marinate some chicken thighs in an easy Greek and/or Asian marinade using olive oil, fresh herbs, lemon juice, etc. (Kristian’s favourite)
– Roast your favourite veggies for a quick side for dinner. I like sweet potato, asparagus, sweet peppers, red onion, and garlic.
– If I’m feeling really ambitious, I might make a batch of some banana hazelnut muffins (find the recipe here)
As you can see, this menu is pretty veggie heavy. Typically I plan to buy enough chicken, fish, lamb, lentils, chickpeas, etc., on Sunday to eat throughout the week as we typically have some form of protein at every meal, but I don’t like prepping it ahead of time as leftover meat isn’t the best.
There you have it! If you find the idea of meal prep daunting, it really doesn’t have to be. I love my Sunday morning ritual of sitting down and answering these questions to write my menu and grocery list for the week. Then I hit up my favourite grocery store and farmer’s market, and spend a few hours that afternoon preparing everything I listed.
Every week is different. Sometimes, my meal prep list is only two items long, sometimes it’s six. But I always prep something to make sure I have access to some healthy meal options throughout the week! Remember, when you choose specific foods and meals based on what your body needs, you’ll actually crave and enjoy them so much more than something easy from a takeout menu. Meal prep is a fun self-care activity I recommend trying whether you’re a Michelin-star chef or total noob! Nothing feels better than taking your health into your own hands 🙂
Happy meal prepping!
PS– If you have any questions about what I like to prep, or if you want to tell me your go-to meal prep items, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!