What is a resting metabolic rate? Resting metabolic rate, or RMR, measures how many calories you burn at a state of rest (as if you were sitting on your couch watching your favorite TV show all day).

Scientifically speaking, the resting metabolic rate (RMR) and the closely related basal metabolic rate (BMR) measure the amount of daily energy expended by humans. The utilization of energy in this state is sufficient only for the functioning of vital organs like the heart, lungs, nervous system, kidneys, liver, muscles, etc.

So Why Is Your Resting Metabolic Rate Important?

Why is your RMR so important? Knowing your RMR can help you understand how many calories you need to function, plus what you need to intake (or not intake) to reach your health and wellness goals. Having a higher RMR means you will burn more calories at a state of rest (yep – just for doing nothing more than simply existing!) which will also allow you to increase the amount of calories you can consume in one day to reach your goals.

How do you increase your RMR? A good fitness regimen that includes weight training is the only way to do it. You have to build your lean muscle mass. Here are 3 quick steps:

  1. Add weight training in 3-5 times a week
  2. Add cardio in 3-5 times a week for 15-30 minutes to help stay lean
  3. Eat frequent meals – about every 3 hours

Don’t worry ladies, this is not going to make you bulky; your bodies do not produce enough testosterone to have that look. If you are going for a very muscular look, however, it is possible, but it takes a lot of work, a proper weight lifting regimen and eating habits to get there.

Benefits of Increasing Your RMR

  • Burn more calories at rest, even while sleeping
  • Burn more calories during exercise and throughout the day
  • Higher RMR = higher amount of calories you can eat in a day to achieve your goals
  • Have more lean muscle on your body which will result in: lower body fat percentage, lower risk of heart attack/heart disease, lower risk of diabetes, lower risk of hypertension, and an increase your internal age.

Causes of Low RMR

What lowers your resting metabolic rate and how will it affect you? There are some factors you can control, and some you can’t – including the following:

  • Age: research shows that starting as early as your 20s your body starts losing 2-3% of lean muscle mass each decade. This is why a weight lifting program is so important to help fight the natural loss of lean muscle mass over that time period.
  • Hormones: generally, for most women, the thyroid and hormone production will slow down after the age of 40, which have an affect on your RMR.

Regarding what you CAN control, one of the biggest factors is exercise. You can control how much or how little you exercise. Exercise less, and you’ll end up with less lean muscle mass and a higher percentage of body fat. Not only will this result in a decrease of RMR (and our clothes not fitting the way we want them to), but more seriously, it can lead to adverse health problems such as:

  • Increase risk of heart disease and stroke – the 1st and 3rd leading causes of death, respectively, in the US
  • Increase risk of diabetes – the 7th leading cause of death in the US
  • Increase risk of hypertension
  • Increase of overall medical bills
  • Increase of sick days from work

Related: More metabolic myths… busted. Check out this post for 5 main myths about the metabolism and the truth behind them.

Is There a Resting Metabolic Rate Calculator?

There are many resting metabolic rate calculators out there on the internet that will give you estimates of what you roughly burn doing nothing. Some take more factors into consideration than others. For example, while some calculators may measure age, height and weight, some may measure those factors plus the type of work and activities you do. The more information that you can put in the more accurate it is going to be for your body type without actually going in and having an actual test done.

While these tests can be helpful, it is important to remember to consider what information you are receiving. As an example, I used this calculator (based on the the Mifflin St Jeor equation) but changed my activity level from very active to moderately active. If I wanted to lose a healthy 2 lbs per week, it drops me below 1700 calories to 1282 per day – which, for females and the healthy functioning of their internal organs, is way too low. Be careful what information you get and always consult with a registered dietitian before setting an exercise or nutrition program.

FFC has the proper equipment and can help you test for a more accurate RMR and BMR. You can actually set up an RMR appointment just by emailing metabolictesting@ffc.com. You can also click here to learn more information about the tests.

And why would accuracy be important? Let’s say your RMR is 1400, but based on a calculation you found online (not taking into consideration your fitness levels) told you your RMR is 1550. In reality you could be consuming an extra 150 calories a day because the results were based on the general population and not according to your own personal needs. Knowing your RMR/BMR can be very important to reaching your goals.

Of course, while all of this is important, the most important thing is to focus on eating healthy, keeping your portions in control, getting plenty of exercise, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of rest.

Post written by FFC contributor.

 

I recently was listening to a podcast with Oprah and Geneen Roth, an expert on body acceptance and reducing compulsive eating. One concept they discussed that struck me was that your relationship with food is a microcosm of your relationship with yourself and your broader life.

It’s never just about the food – which suggests we can look to other aspects of our lives to see what seems to be missing or incomplete, or out of alignment. Once those areas become more in balance, we can relax around food; it holds less power over us and becomes a little less interesting or important.

Related: do you have a “fear of missing out on food”? Here’s how to eat more mindfully.

Think of Food as Two Separate Categories

I learned something similar when I studied to become a health coach (before I became a dietitian) at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition: thinking of “food” as two separate categories, primary food and secondary food.

Secondary food is literal food, like fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, bread and pasta, animal protein, oils, sweets, even junk and processed foods. But primary food encompasses everything that “feeds” us in addition to actual food, like spiritual satisfaction, feeling fulfilled with your work and extracurricular activities, robust relationships, and ample exercise.

The reason these are labeled as primary food is because they can be considered in some ways to be even more important than the secondary food. Why? They nurture and nourish us in ways fat, protein and carbohydrates simply cannot. When our primary needs are well taken care of, our need for secondary food decreases, and we certainly depend on it less for happiness and fulfillment, and instead use it for its ideal purpose, which is strength and sustenance.

Your Relationship with Food

Think back to a time when you were depressed or anxious. You might have gained or lost weight, ate fast food or lots of sugary desserts, using food in a dysfunctional way to somehow feel better. But if you think back to your childhood or of a time when things seemed to have fallen into an easy rhythm, you might have eaten more lightly, focusing on other things and viewing food more as an afterthought.

Take some time to think or even jot some notes down about these four areas of your life currently: career, spirituality, relationships and exercise. Where could you put some more attention? Notice how bolstering these areas of your life affects your hunger for food.

Post written by FFC Boystown and East Lakeview Registered Dietitian Cindy Klinger. 

Sign up for a free nutrition consultation

Eat real food. This simple nutrition tip can drastically change the way your body looks and feels. So many of the things we find on our shelves at the grocery store sound like they’re healthy – the front label might use words like “natural”, “organic”, or “GMO-free”. There might even be commercials for certain products that show wholesome family meals, with mom packing the kids’ lunch boxes before everyone heads out for a busy day. This type of marketing can make it tricky to find nutritious “real food”, but all you really need to do is look at the label. Even if you have a sweet tooth! It all comes down to real ingredients.

Find Healthier Food

Speaking of ingredients, this is the first place you should head when looking for healthy, real food. See anything with “high fructose”? Put it back on the shelf. Anything you can’t pronounce? You probably shouldn’t eat it. Nutella was one of those foods I loved…until I read the label: palm oil… soy lecithin. What are you doing in there? Then, when I realized dairy wasn’t my friend, I knew I had to come up with a recipe that got back to real, whole ingredients: hazelnuts, almonds, dates, cocoa powder and vanilla – instead of the jarred kind that is made with palm oil, tons of sugar and dairy milk.

Enter this vegan Chocolate Hazelnut New-Tella recipe – naturally sweetened with dates! Got a sweet tooth? Enjoy it as a dip for fresh apple slices or strawberries.

Chocolate Hazelnut “New-Tella”

New-tella 30-minute recipe

Level: easy
Servings: 24 / 3 cups of “New-Tella”
Ready in: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1 cup dried pitted dates
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup almond milk, plain, unsweetened
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Fresh apple slices, pears, or strawberries, for serving

Directions

Roast the nuts: spread almonds and hazelnuts on a baking pan and roast at 350 F for 12-15 minutes. When the nuts are golden brown, remove from oven and let cool.

Soak dates in warm water for at least 5 minutes to soften.

Start the New-Tella: when nuts are cool enough to handle, place hazelnuts in a clean dish towel or paper towel. Roll around to peel off the skins. Voila! Tip: the skins are bitter so remove as much as you can.

Place the almonds and peeled hazelnuts in a wide blender or food processor. Purée for about 5 or minutes or more, until the nuts start releasing their oils. Remove from the blender.

Drain the dates and squeeze out excess water. Also feel for any pits.

Place the dates, almond milk, vanilla, and salt in the wide blender or food processor. Purée until creamy. Add the nuts back to puréed date mixture, along with the cocoa. Purée until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed.

Garnish with chopped hazelnuts and serve with fresh fruit. Serve warm even more intense flavor.

Chef’s Tip: for a pourable “fondue” version, add 1 cup of almond milk to the recipe. Serve in small crockpot, with fresh fruit and toothpicks.

Post written by FFC Boystown group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Boystown and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com.

"New-tella" sandwiches

Apple + “New-Tella” sandwiches

 

Fitness is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise. I have read this mantra many times in different forums and articles. While I don’t know if the ratio is 100% accurate, what I do know is that nutrition is an extremely vital part of a good fitness plan. The only problem is, I never truly internalized this fact until I started seeing Alicia Huggler, registered dietitian at FFC Park Ridge, who helped me change my perspective on nutrition.

Time for a Change

I began my journey a bit over 2 years ago at the age of 26. I finally decided it was time for a change after years of laziness and poor diet had done its damage to my body. I felt awful most of the time and I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror. In December of 2015, I signed up for a membership at one of the budget gyms in the area, looked up a workout program, and started hitting the weights hard. After about 4 months of going consistently, I definitely felt much better. However, I wasn’t seeing much progress on the scale or in the way I looked. This is when I started doing more research and discovered the 80/20 guideline.

I started a meal-prep regimen based on (as I look back on it now) a lot of “bro-science”. Breakfast was always eggs and oatmeal. Every lunch and dinner consisted of either chicken or frozen fish, a vegetable (peppers, broccoli, asparagus), and either brown rice or quinoa. I avoided snacks like the plague and ate 3 massive meals per day. The meals were bland, boring, and repetitive, but the new diet was effective. My weight plummeted from 215 to 195 in a little over 2 months.

Related: food prep sound overwhelming? Here are some tips that will make the process as easy as possible so you can stick to it!

From Progress to Plateau

However, my body fat percentage wasn’t changing as drastically (I went from around 25% BF to 20% during this time). This sudden change wasn’t without issues. I had very little energy throughout the day, leading me to skip many gym sessions (until I stopped going altogether). I lost a lot of progress on my lifts. Cheat meals became a regular occurrence. The meal plan wasn’t sustainable, and I slipped back into my old habits. My weight rebounded past where it was originally, and just like that I was back to square one.

Despite all of this, I wasn’t ready to give up. In December of 2016, I recommitted to my fitness plan. Thinking I would be more inclined to go if I paid more for the membership, I canceled at the budget gym and looked for pricier alternatives. I decided FFC had all the equipment and amenities I was seeking, in addition to being in a convenient spot. I looked up a new workout program and restarted my meal-prep regimen. Progress was going great for a while, but over time I began slipping into the same patterns. Cheat meals, skipped meal prep, and missed workouts due to the lack of energy became the constant. I was frustrated and almost quit again.

Changing My Perspective on Nutrition

On a whim in May of 2017, I decided to see Alicia. It was a game-changer and she completely changed my perspective on nutrition. During our first session, she asked me what my current diet consisted of and what foods I enjoyed/didn’t like. She gave me some basic nutrition advice to get me started while she developed my full meal plan. The second session was where I learned that I was on a good path before, but I wasn’t doing the little things that would have made my diet consistent. My proportions were off: I was eating too much protein and not enough carbs or fats. I love the taste of red meat, but I had cut it out before in favor of lean white meats. To compensate, I wound up overeating red meat (pound or two of steak per meal) when I cheated.

This time around, Alicia built lean red meats into my meal plan. She informed me that snacks weren’t the enemy and in fact necessary to avoid overindulging during meal time. Variety keeps the meal plan interesting and staves off the propensity to cheat. Cheating was even OK as long as it was responsible and limited. “Have a burger every once in a while,” she said, “just don’t get the triple stack with bacon.” I’m paraphrasing, of course, but you get the idea. She even opened my eyes to delicious healthy whole foods and substitutes that I had never heard of before: chicken sausage, chickpea pasta, farro, nutritional yeast, and Halo Top ice cream to name a few. Additionally, she was a great resource for tasty recipes that fit my meal plan.

Alicia is a very warm and open person; always upbeat and energetic. She won’t just take measurements and talk about nutrition in the sessions but will also take a genuine interest in you. She never chastises you for falling off the rails one week and instead encourages you to do better the following week. She’ll even let you know what sweets she indulged in that week, so you won’t feel as bad. Her attitude was a key factor in helping me stay the course.

How I changed my perspective of nutrition and lost 11% body fat

Seeing Sustainable Results

I could continue about my experience and how awesome Alicia is, but what’s really important is results. My initial measurements when I first started seeing Alicia were 218 lbs and 25% body fat. I can happily report that I’m now down to 196 lbs and 14% BF. Pants I purchased a year ago no longer fit and I’m down 2 belt loops. I feel a great sense of pride in my new physique when I look in the mirror. My lifts are steadily improving. More crucially, I feel much better. I have consistent energy throughout the day and will have maybe 1 caffeinated beverage a week if I really need it. I’ve only been sick once in the past year and I fought off the illness swiftly. Looking and feeling great has been an incredible confidence booster. Proper perspective on nutrition really has changed me for the better.

Even though I’m in the best shape of my life at 28, I’m still not satisfied and hopefully never will be. Fitness is a lifelong journey and I have a long way to go. I can now embark upon this journey armed with proper knowledge about nutrition. If you have been going the gym consistently like I was and aren’t seeing the results you want, proper diet may be the missing piece – you may need to change your perspective on nutrition. If you have any questions about nutrition or are curious about what a registered dietitian can do for you, I encourage you to seek one out and talk to (or email if you’re shy). And if you decide to start a nutrition program with her and stick with it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Good luck on your own fitness journey and I will see you in the weight room!

Post written by FFC Park Ridge local’84 Cafe attendant Andrew Wrobel.

 

Typically, colder weather brings cravings of routine and hibernation, changes in our eating habits, and sometimes, mood. Welcome to the winter blues.

In the summer, when we don’t want to turn on the oven, salads are an easy go-to for incorporating tons of fresh vegetables into our diets each day. But once the temperatures cool down, a salad isn’t necessarily going to warm us up.What will warm us up, and deliver all the nutrients we need to maintain our mood and energy? Try these hearty, organic recipes that spotlight vegetables and keep us healthy all winter long!

Have your spaghetti!

Just replace the pasta with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles. A quick saute with your favorite sauce, and you won’t even miss the heavy carbohydrate load!

Turn your sandwich into a melt.

Start with one slice of whole grain or sprouted grain bread, top with protein and vegetables, and one slice cheese. Melt in the oven for a few minutes, and serve with a perfectly ripe apple or crisp raw vegetables. Yum!

Related: click here for a free 30-minute nutrition consultation at FFC!

Warm up a salad.

Who said they have to be served cold? Try roasted butternut squash on a bed of greens with pomegranate seeds, OR combine that butternut squash with Brussels sprouts and a sweet honey dressing.

Add color (and immunity) to your soup!

Blend broccoli, spinach, kale, tomatoes, or your favorite vegetables into any soup you like, homemade or low-sodium canned.

Related: more reasons to try the souping diet? Check out this post!

Remember: No matter your goals, fill 1/2 your plate with non-starchy vegetables at each meal for a dose of vitamins and minerals to keep away the winter blues, and keep you feeling great!

Water makes up 60% to 65% of our total body weight. When we exercise, we lose water through sweat – this water needs to be replaced. Even a 2% loss of body weight through sweat (i.e. 3 lbs of loss for a 150 lb person) can put you at a disadvantage. If this fluid loss is not replaced properly, dehydration will occur. This is a serious condition that can diminish energy and impair performance, among other symptoms. However, it can be easily spotted and prevented. Here are a few ways to prevent dehydration and keep up with your water intake.

Signs of Dehydration 

Thirst is one indicator of dehydration, but it is not an early warning sign. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Other signs of dehydration include:

  • Feeling dizzy and lightheaded
  • Having a dry or sticky mouth
  • Producing less urine and darker urine

Related: have other nutrition questions? Talk to one of FFC’s on-site registered dietitians! Click here for a free 30-minute consultation.

How to Prevent It

Drink Fluids

Preventing dehydration starts long before the activity. The easiest way to avoid dehydration is to drink lots of fluids, especially on hot, dry, windy days.

How To: the night before, as well as before your workout, you should intake the following fluids:

  • 16 ounces of water before bed
  • 16 ounces of water in the morning
  • 4-8 ounces every 15 minutes

Related: speaking of the night before, here are some meal prep tips you can use in addition to these hydration hacks to make sure you’re staying on track!

Be sure to also replace your fluid loss post exercise: 24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost!

Water is usually the best choice, but you can also get fluids from water-based juices and smoothies!

Dress Appropriately

Always dress appropriately for your activity. Wear loose-fitting clothes and a hat if you can, this will keep you cooler and cut down sweating.

Fitness tip: if you can’t remember how much water you drank today, you haven’t had enough!

Seaweed? For dinner? Seriously?

Yes, yes, and yes! Chances are you’ve had seaweed as part of a sushi roll or even as a side dish or salad at a Japanese restaurant, but have you considered adding it to your regular weekday at-home dining experience? Now might just be the time to try it!

Seaweed has been growing in popularity, making it more widely available in grocery stores, and it is absolutely chock-full of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, and even trace elements.

Trace elements are dietary elements that are essential to the body for things such as growth, metabolic function and other processses but are only needed in very small quantities (aka trace amounts) and include (but are not limited to) selenium, copper, magnesium, iodine, etc.

Why Should I Care?

The purported health benefits as to why you should be eating seaweed range widely from estrogen regulation (leading many to speculate that seaweed consumption may help lower the risk for breast cancers) to reduction in blood pressure (and therefore a reduction in heart disease). Further research is needed to examine all potential health benefits of seaweeds and determine their maximum therapeutic potential in terms of disease prevention and risk reduction.

Related: click here to register for a free nutrition consultation at FFC!

Seaweed’s most well-documented health benefit is that it is a phenomenal source of iodine, an essential element needed for thyroid regulation. The thyroid, which is a gland located in the neck, secretes and regulates various bodily hormones involved in everything from growth to metabolic regulation. Consuming healthy, adequate levels of iodine is key to maintaining a healthy thyroid – inadequate iodine can cause goiters, extreme fatigue, and even intellectual disability. However, as with all good things, moderation is the key to success! The same way too little iodine can be harmful, so can too much. Be sure to curb your intake if there are medical reasons to limit iodine.

How to Buy Seaweed 101

The 411 on common edible seaweeds: seaweeds are members of the algae family and are typically available in three varieties; red, green, and brown. The most commonly eaten varieties are red seaweed, which is used to form nori, and brown seaweed (such as kelp or wakame), which frequently finds its way into in soups and salads.

Related: try the souping diet! Check out this post to see why.

  • Nori – a red seaweed used most commonly for sushi rolls is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and B12 while being lower in iodine than many other varieties of seaweeds.
  • Dulse – another red seaweed, this varietal is frequently consumed in its dried flakey form as a flavoring for soups, but can also be sautéed with a little butter and garlic for a lovely side dish.
  • Kelp – also known as “kombu,” this brown seaweed is very high in iodine and is often used in combination with dashi to make broth for soups, particularly miso soup.

30-Minute Recipe: Wakame Salad

(adapted from Karman Meyer, RD)

5 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz dried wakame, rehydrated per package instructions
  • ½ medium seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into ⅛” slices
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded with a vegetable peeler or zoodler
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2.5 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

Drain all liquid from the rehydrated wakame and tear wakame into bite-sized pieces, as needed. Set aside in medium mixing bowl.

In a small dish, stir to combine: sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, and garlic. Pour this over the wakame.

Add sliced cucumbers and shredded carrots to the wakame dressing mixture and toss to combine. Refrigerate to chill before serving; for best flavor, allow to marinate for 24 hours prior to serving.

Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top just before serving.

Post written by FFC contributor Carla Schmitz.

Are you someone who’s wondering how to shop organic? Or even wondering if you should? Even if you’re not ready to commit to buying EVERYTHING pesticide and additive-free, here is a quick guide on how to shop organic – plus some must-have items for your grocery list.

Beef

Due to the recent findings about red meat, it’s even more important to choose beef that hasn’t been given hormones or antibiotics, both of which can cause health concerns for humans.

Produce on the “Dirty Dozen” list

What’s on this “Dirty Dozen” list, you may ask? Produce such as apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas, and potatoes are all included. Why? Because these foods have very high pesticide residues when grown conventionally.

During the winter months in Chicago, it can be difficult to find these local and organic produce because there must be some amount of pesticides added in order for them to grow in colder temperatures. Therefore, it’s up to you to decide which is more important to you and your family.

Related: have nutrition questions and want to set up a free 30-minute consultation with an on-site FFC registered dietitian? Click here!

Eggs and milk

Some studies suggest that organic eggs and milk are higher in nutrients and lower in pesticides and hormones. Although this isn’t proven, it’s still worth the money to buy these items organic—if for no other reason than their great taste!

Hot peppers and leafy greens (like kale & chard)

The pesticide counts in these products aren’t high enough to make the Dirty Dozen list, but they’re still pretty high. Purchase these organically to avoid the health concerns.

Related: avoid mood swings with these nutrition tips!

Have a question or a suggestions for an upcoming event you’d like to see? Leave a comment below!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Registered Dietitian Amy Silver.

 

As you know, it’s important to not let your travel plans get in the way of your fitness goals. But what about your diet? The best option for traveling is to bring your own meals and snacks, at least for the airport. However, no matter how prepared you may try to be, there will always be a time when planning ahead and bringing snacks just can’t happen. Here are some options covering the best healthy food at the airport to help you stay on track.

Related: need some easy grab-and-go lunches for travel – or even for your desk? Here are some ideas, plus what makes up a well-balanced lunch!

  • Trail Mix: Choose the ones with just nuts and fruit, and make sure you only eat one portion at a time. One handful = one serving. (One serving is 1/4 cup, roughly 200 calories.)
  • Smoothies: With a little searching, you can usually find a Jamba Juice or another smoothie joint. Ask for one with more vegetables than fruit and <20 grams of sugar (no added sugar). Be sure to add protein to help keep you full longer!
  • Starbucks Bistro Boxes: It’s important to notice these are usually full meals in terms of calories, not snacks. However, it’s a great choice if you’re stuck in the airport during mealtimes or to bring with you on the plane.
  • Salads with grilled protein: This is always an okay option when you must eat at a restaurant. Opt out of the croutons, cheese, and bacon and measure out 1 tablespoon (about your thumb size) of dressing. Choose all the non-starchy vegetables you want!

As for those snacks to bring from home? Good options include whole fruit, mixed nuts and seeds and cut-up veggies, which can go a long way in saving calories and money while in transit. As an easy and inexpensive meal, bring a sandwich on whole grain bread or an “adult lunchable” with cheese, hummus, veggies and a hard boiled egg!

Related: to schedule a free consultation with a registered dietitian at FFC, click here!

Post written by FFC Oak Park Registered Dietitian Amy Silver.

 

As a registered dietitian, I’m often asked, “What’s the best thing that I can do right now to eat healthier?” The short answer? Food prep! But today’s dizzying pace of life leaves all of us wishing we had a few extra hours in the day as we struggle to fit in work, family, friends, exercising, and healthy eating. So, shy of skipping out on sleep, what else is a busy health-conscious person to do? Dedicating just one or two hours a week to food prep can alleviate much of the hassle that comes from daily cooking (not to mention that it will help to keep you on track during the week when you might otherwise hear the take-out calling). Here are a few of my best food prep tips for beginners:

  1. Start small

You don’t have to make every meal of the week ahead of time. Simply having a few staple items prepared does wonders. Try keeping fresh cut vegetables, your favorite protein (like grilled chicken), and a healthy whole grain (such as cooked quinoa or brown rice) already prepared and handy in the fridge. With those three simple things prepared, you can throw together a quick stir-fry, an at-home-burrito-bowl, or a fancy salad in only a few minutes.

  1. Plan it out

Once you’re more comfortable with prepping ahead, sit down and make a plan for the items you want to prep for the week. Having a written plan not only helps to guide you in what you need to accomplish in the kitchen, but it also helps you write your grocery list.

  1. Measure twice, cut once

When writing your meal plan and considering food prep tips, try to re-use ingredients in multiple meals throughout the week. This way, when chopping up tomatoes for tacos tonight, you’re also chopping up the tomatoes that you’ll layer onto your salads over the next few days. Now there’s only one mess to clean, but multiple meals prepped!

Related: click here to sign up for a free consultation with a registered dietitian at FFC!

  1. Do double duty

If you’re going to take the time to make one meal, you might as well make a double batch and freeze the leftovers. By doing so, you’ll slowly stock your freezer with healthy “freezer meals” that only need a quick defrost and reheat. Foods that generally freeze well are soups (try this recipe!), stews, chili, and sauces.

  1. Don’t go overboard

Most foods only stay fresh for 3-4 days in the fridge, so too much food prep ahead of time can be wasteful unless it’s intended for the freezer. Using the 2/2/4 rule, remember that things should be completely chilled within 2 hours, stored in containers no more than 2 inches tall, and kept no longer than 4 days.

Did we miss one of your favorite food prep tips? Let us know in the comments!

Post written by FFC contributor Carla Schmitz.