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Kitchen counter featuring vegetables in storage containers, mixed salad, and clock.

Benefits of Meal Prep for Type 2 Diabetes

Eating healthy food is an important cornerstone in managing type 2 diabetes well. And yet, with all the demands on your time and energy, it can be one of the more difficult things to do consistently.

Meal prep as a strategy for type 2 diabetes

Meal prep is one strategy people with type 2 diabetes are using to add consistency and convenience to their daily diet. People who meal prep don’t find themselves staring aimlessly into their refrigerators wondering what they should eat. They avoid settling for fast food delivery when they’re too tired to make dinner. And they may even find themselves saving a few bucks by not going out to lunch every day.

With meal prep people find ready-to-go, perfectly portioned healthy meals waiting for them in their refrigerators and pantries. They can grab-and-go a meal or snack knowing that their next meal will support managing their type 2 diabetes well.

How meal prep makes managing type 2 diabetes easier

  • You choose what goes into each meal upfront. Instead of trying to figure out what to eat when you’re hungry or in a hurry, you plan and prepare your meals in advance.
  • Advance prep makes it easier to eat consistently. Once prepared, all you have to do is grab a container, open it, and eat.
  • You save time. Instead of having to think about and cook every single meal, every single day, you can complete the bulk of your cooking in a couple of hours at the beginning of the week.
  • You can save money. Cooking at home costs less than going out. Having ready-to-go meals available makes going out less tempting.

What is meal prep?

Meal prep is preparing and packaging meals and/or snacks for the week in advance. To do this, you’ll cook bigger quantities and package the food in single-serving containers.

Generally, people block out a couple of hours once a week to prepare for the rest of the week. During that time they prepare one or more dishes that can be easily stored in single servings either in their refrigerator or pantry. During the week these meals are ready-to-eat with minimal additional preparation.

Some people prepare a mix of meals: breakfast and lunch, or lunch and snacks, for instance. Others focus on one meal to prep in advance. It all depends on what they decide is most useful.

Some meal prep is aimed at preparing meals that are ready-to-eat. But for meals that can become soggy or are best assembled at the last minute, like yogurt with rolled oats, meal prep can mean portioning out the ingredients in travel containers and putting the meal together right before eating.

Tips for adding meal prep to your routine

  • Get the family involved. Planning meals and cooking together is a good way to bond and reinforce healthy habits for the whole family. If you can bond with your kids over a batch of cookies, who says you can’t bond over preparing lunch for the week?
  • Use the cooking tools and techniques you already know. With meal prep you’re cooking all the kinds of foods you would normally, just in bigger batches. A food processor makes quick work of chopping vegetables. Quick pots cook meats, stews, and soups in record time. Use the tools and techniques you already know to make your meal prep efficient.
  • Try some one-dish and single-pan cooking techniques. Casseroles, as long as they’re not carb-heavy, can offer a quick way to make a full diabetes-friendly meal in one pot. Pan roasting offers a quick and easy way to cook protein and vegetables together. As a bonus, when you cook a whole meal with one pot or pan there’s less to clean up.
  • Use pre-cut vegetables and sauces from a jar. Of course, you have to be mindful of the ingredients in any prepared food, but these already prepped ingredients can save you time in the kitchen.
  • Leftovers can be part of your meal prep. Nothing says that you can’t include leftovers in your meal prep. It’s like getting a two-for-one out of preparing a single meal: dinner one night and lunch another day.

Pitfalls to avoid

  • Getting bored of eating the same thing again and again. Make more than one dish for the week. Or make variations on the same dish by using different seasoning or sauce. Split up the days you eat your prepped meal. For example, go out to lunch on Wednesday or make brunch on Sunday.
  • Avoid letting your prepped meals develop soggy bottoms. Dressed salads become drenched messes in a matter of hours. Store dressings and sauces in a small container and add them just before eating.
  • Add “problem” ingredients just before eating. Some foods, like tomatoes, throw off moisture when cut. Other foods, like avocados, brown with oxidation. Avoid cutting them in advance or store them in a separate container and add them just before eating.
  • Avoid smelly foods. Some foods, like tuna, have a strong aroma. Other foods, like chopped broccoli, develop a gassy smell. You may want to use them sparingly.

Supplies needed for meal prep

Storing the food you prepare as single-servings may require adding some supplies to your kitchen. Here are the basics of what you’ll need.

  • Meal-sized containers. I prefer glass with snap-on lids. Glass is particularly eco-friendly. It’s durable and won’t be damaged by acidic food in the microwave like plastic containers can be. Glass can safely go from the fridge to the microwave. Most importantly, glass doesn’t affect the taste of the food.
  • Silicone cups. These are really useful when you want different parts of your meal to stay separate. For example, you wouldn’t want your berries to roll around in the food container and get crushed. Silicone cups are also really handy if you want to bake eggs or make low-carb baked goods part of your meal prep. Pretty much anything cooked in a silicone cup can go directly from the cooling rack to the meal container.
  • Small covered containers or bottles. These are for storing your sauces and condiments separate from the rest of your food. Since your meals will be stored for hours or days you won’t want to add these ingredients until just before eating, or else your meal will get soggy.

Give meal prep a try

Give meal prep a try. You just might find it makes it easier to consistently manage your diet and type 2 diabetes.

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