These are trying times. There is no getting away from that. The last year, and perhaps a considerable amount of the year ahead has been, and will continue to be, extremely tough on our mental and physical health. As such, now more than ever, we should be aiming to keep ourselves in the best shape possible. As you will know only too well, meal prepping is the perfect way to make sure you are fuelling your body with all the nutrients it needs. More and more studies are also pointing to the fact that what we eat can affect not just our physical health, but our mental health too, so meal prepping is, in fact, a double-pronged attack on both issues associated with the body, and the mind too.
Depending on just what your ‘lockdown life’ consists of, many of us will either be finding the days long and empty, or extremely busy and frantic. Those who have unfortunately lost their jobs, or perhaps been put on a furlough scheme can find themselves living a life that feels rather monotonous and empty. On the other end of the scale, some of us are trying to balance working a full-time job from home, while simultaneously trying to teach the kids or troubleshoot internet problems for the entire family. Either way, we are often missing some organisation in our lives right now.
Keep your life structured
Meal prepping can be something that brings a little structure back into your world, while also making sure meal times are set, and ready to go. It is easy to let things get on top of you in a busy household, while trying to do a hundred things at once, or on the other hand not noticing time going by when one hour feels indistinguishable to the next. Get your meals prepped, and at the very least you will have a set time to eat, and the right nutrients being put into your body.
Stress itself is particularly bad for the immune system, which as you most probably are aware, is an area of your wellbeing that really needs to be looked after right now. Leaving yourself very little time to cook when in a busy household adds to this stress, while a little planning and prepping can allow you more time to concentrate on your new priorities at home, and relax when the time comes to sit down to eat.
Boost your immune system
When deciding what types of food are best to meal prep, obviously it is important to have a balanced diet, but if you wish to give your immune system a particular boost, there are a few foods that will pack a serious punch:
- Citrus fruits are a great source of vitamin C which aids in the production of white blood cells
- Broccoli is packed with vitamins A, C, and E, along with many other antioxidants
- Garlic has heavy concentrations of sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin
- Spinach is high in vitamin C, numerous antioxidants, and beta carotene
- Almonds are high in vitamin E, which is important for a healthy immune system
- Yoghurts can help stimulate the immune system and are a great source of vitamin D
- Chicken contains high levels of vitamin B-6, which is vital in building new red blood cells
- Shellfish is choc-full of zinc, which aids the function of the immune system in general
If in doubt, a balanced diet is always best, and most likely to provide your body with everything it needs to help fight off illnesses, but if you are looking to give it a little extra help, these ingredients should be included in your weekly meal prep.
Keep away from poor choice snacks
With lockdown being a period where many of us end up snacking on things we really shouldn’t be, practising portion control is one of the many benefits meal prepping can provide you with at the moment. Those times when you are feeling down, or even just a little bored, are the most dangerous when it comes to overindulging with chocolate, crisps, or other poor choice snacks. Knowing that you have your meals ready, and even a healthy snack bowl already prepped, can make all the difference in your self-control.
The meal prepping itself can also be a wonderfully stimulating part of your regime, and if you currently have a house full of chaotic little characters also looking for a something to occupy their time, it is a great excuse to get the family prepping together. Teaching kids how to prepare meals that will save them time in the long run, and work out cheaper than buying individually is not only a great skill to teach the young, but an invaluable one to instil in older children who will be flying the nest at some point in the near future. Meal prep together, and show them that they don’t have to live on takeaway pizza for the first year of their university life when the world eventually returns to normal!
Caring for the elderly and vulnerable
One reason many of us like to cook in general is to show our loved ones what they mean to us. Providing a nourishing meal has been part of how we show each other affection since time immemorial, and at times like this, many of us will be worried about older family members who are perhaps shielding at home due to being in a higher risk category than the rest of us. For those family members, even going to the supermarket can be a slightly daunting task right now. There is nothing stopping you from meal prepping their dinners and lunches, dropping them over to their house, keeping a safe distance, and showing them just how much you care. Not only can you keep an eye on just what they are eating (you can pack the meals full of all the added minerals and nutrients to keep their immune systems bolstered), but you also get to show them that they are on your mind, and you are thinking about them during this troublesome period.
Keeping your body fuelled with the right food groups will help you feel physically and mentally more prepared for this extremely difficult period of time. With any luck, the end is almost in sight, and we can go back to living our normal lives soon. Until then, look after yourselves, look after those who you love, and keep prepping!