In the quest for optimal metabolic health, what you put on your plate plays a crucial role. Meal preparation isn't just about convenience (although that doesn’t hurt); it's a powerful tool for promoting stable blood sugar, supporting metabolic function, and overall well-being. In this blog post, we'll delve into meal planning tips, nutrient-dense recipes, and the significance of portion control and mindful eating. We will also provide practical tips to help you make informed choices.
Understanding Metabolic Health
Metabolic health is a broad term used to describe a plethora of processes through which our bodies convert and utilize energy. At its core, metabolic health refers to the optimal functioning of the metabolic system, which includes processes such as glucose regulation, insulin sensitivity, and lipid metabolism. A well-balanced metabolism contributes to efficient energy production, distribution, and utilization throughout the body.
Achieving and maintaining metabolic health involves a combination of factors, including a nutrient-rich diet, regular physical activity, and sufficient sleep. A well-functioning metabolism is essential for energy production, growth, and repair. However, factors such as poor dietary choices and sedentary lifestyles can lead to metabolic imbalances, increasing the risk of conditions like obesity and diabetes.
Meal Planning Tips for Metabolic Health
1. Plan Ahead
Planning your recipes can make sure that you have enough ingredients to cook a variety of nutrient-dense meals for multiple days without running back to the store. Making a grocery list can be incredibly helpful.
2. Batch Cooking with an Extra Few Meals
Prepare larger quantities of meals in advance and store them in portion-sized containers. This can save time during the week and prevent reaching for unhealthy food choices when your tight for time. Some days you may be hungrier than others and if you want to avoid the urge to grab the first thing you see (which is usually unhealthy) prep an extra meal or two. Plus, some days you may not feel like eating what you prepped so having an extra option or two can come in handy.
3. Check Your Plans
Take a look at what you have scheduled for the week. If you are going to be on the move then prepping soups or other foods that don’t travel well may not be the best option. If your meals need to be re-heated make sure you will have regular access to a microwave and pack your food in microwave safe containers.
4. Prioritize Protein, Healthy Fats, & Fiber-Rich Foods
The cornerstone of metabolic health is what we put on our plate. The typical Western diet is very heavily dependent on processed food and carbohydrates, which is not a recipe for a healthy metabolism. Prioritizing protein, in which most Americans are deficient, helps to keep us feeling full for longer. Healthy fats can decrease insulin resistance and help to reduce the risk of stroke and type 2 diabetes. Fiber aids in digestion and helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
5. Hydration Matters
Staying well-hydrated is essential for metabolic health. Water helps to optimize transportation of glucose throughout our bloodstream. It also plays a crucial role in promoting insulin sensitivity as well as supporting overall metabolic function.
Foods to Incorporate into Meal Planning
A focus on protein, healthy fats, and fiber will help to build a healthy meal that keeps you full, stabilizes blood sugar, and provides a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals. Here are some examples of foods to start incorporating into your meal plans.
Protein can come from either a plant or an animal source. Proteins from animals are usually easy to identify (beef, eggs, shrimp, salmon, Greek yogurt) and they are commonly complete proteins. Plant-based protein sources can be slightly harder to identify. Soybeans, nuts, quinoa, buckwheat, rolled oats, hemp seeds, and amaranth are great sources of plant-based proteins. Try mixing up your protein source in order to meet your daily protein requirements. You can check out our Ultimate Guide to Protein for more protein sources, daily recommended intake and timing of protein consumption to meet your goals.
2. Healthy fats
Fat can sometimes get a bad reputation. However, healthy fats play an important role in the absorption of vitamins, improving insulin sensitivity, reducing inflammation and supporting brain health. The key is to identify what fats are healthy (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and which fats are harmful to our health (saturated fats and trans fats). Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel), nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios), seeds (chia, flax, pumpkin), avocado, and olive oils are all examples of healthy fats that can be added to your meal prepping recipes.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that can help us to feel full, lower cholesterol, improve digestion, and stabilize blood sugar levels. Pears, carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, peas, beans, lentils, whole grains and some frits are examples of fiber rich foods.
4. GOOD IDEA
If you’re on the move and working on stabilizing your blood sugar, GOOD IDEA can be a valuable tool in your meal-prep kit. We already know that staying hydrated can help our body to properly process our meals. But GOOD IDEA goes a step further and lends a hand in balancing blood sugar levels. With multiple peer-reviewed research studies, GOOD IDEA has been shown to reduce post-meal blood sugar by an average of 25%. Drink 1/3 of a can before your meal and finish your GOOD IDEA with your food to help stabilize glucose levels.
Nutrient Dense Recipes
Nutrient dense foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that our bodies need for optimal function. Incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your meals can contribute to a well-rounded, nourishing diet. Here are a few meal-prep friendly and nutrient dense recipes to get you started.
1. Salmon and Avocado Salad
For a quick yet filling meal-prep option, try the salmon and avocado salad. This recipe is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and nutrient-dense vegetables.
2. Tuna and Cheddar Wraps
The tuna and cheddar wraps can be prepped in advance or made on the go with no cooking required. This recipe is packed with protein, boasting a whopping 29 grams of protein and only 360 calories for every serving. Try the tuna and cheddar wrap recipe.
3. Curried Fish Jicama Tacos
If you want to try something different to spice up your meal prep, try the curried fish jicama tacos. A tasty combination of halibut, cabbage, and coconut flakes contains just 294 calories with 25 grams of protein and 17 grams of carbohydrates (don’t get scared by the carbohydrate number, many of these carbohydrates come from blood sugar stabilizing fiber).
4. Spinach and Tomato Frittata
With only 15 minutes of meal-prep time you can deliver a dish with 23 grams of protein. As an added bonus, the spinach and tomato frittata refrigerates well, making it an excellent meal-prep breakfast option. Each serving contains only 280 calories with 23 grams of protein.
5. Chopped Power Salad with Chicken
If you’re on the hunt for meals that are nut-free, soy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, high protein, and low carbohydrate, look no further. The chopped power salad with chicken has a total prep time of 20 minutes for four servings .
6. Chicken Curry Cup of (Zucchini) Noodles
Check out the chicken curry cup of noodles for a portable and flavorful option with a healthy dose of high-fiber veggies. This recipe is also low-carb, nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free, high-protein, egg-free, gluten-free, and low-calorie. It takes 30 minutes to meal-prep 6 servings.
Incorporating these meal planning tips, nutrient-dense recipes, and mindful eating practices into your routine can be a great step toward achieving and maintaining metabolic health. Remember, small, sustainable changes can make a significant impact on your overall health. Happy meal prepping!
Author: Dr. Colleen Gulick