The idea of meal prepping or eating clean at home and work sounds great—better food choices make us think clearer and feel better all-around—but for some of us, walking into the produce section (or kitchen to actually begin the process) is a daunting task to say the least. We reached out to Peder Bondhus, brand chef for Flower Child, an organic restaurant chain, to give some of his top tips on how to make eating better easier, more efficient and more delicious than ever.
Choose Your Vegetables Wisely
Nobody wants to buy fruits and vegetables that are going to turn the next day. Instead, opt for the variety that tend to stick around the longest and deliver the same nutritional benefits. “The vegetables that remain freshest the longest are root vegetables,” Bondhus says, which he explains include carrots, radishes, yams or sweet potatoes (basically, anything you can think of that has a root sticking off the end of it). “They seemingly last forever.” These options are great if you are trying to begin meal prepping, as they don’t go bad easily and are easily stored in containers in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them.
Take Time to Prep
If you’ve made the choice to eat healthy, or already do, you should be sure to make the most of your good-for-your-body purchases by prepping them properly (this will also keep them around for longer). “The way I prefer to prep my produce at home is by washing and drying it, first,” Bondhus says. “Not only is this step important because you’re cleaning the produce of any bacteria, but prepping it also extends the shelf life.” Bondhus explains that ensuring everything is fully dried before storing it away is critical.
Bonus tip: “I also like to trim produce down to make it more space-efficient in the refrigerator.”
Don’t Overdo It
Now that the proper food is selected and prepared, avoid ruining it—both the taste and a lot of the health benefits—by cooking it wrong. “I find the best way to cook or prepare vegetables is simply. They just need a little extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and maybe some fresh herbs,” Bondhus explains, adding that he then recommends roasting the vegetables on a sheet tray in the oven or just grilling them lightly. Even better, both of these preparations work well if you’re trying to cook in advance and store it away for later.
Combine What Works
When I asked Bondhus what vegetable-protein combinations he counts as his favorites—that could be easily recreated at home—I was pleasantly surprised at the foolproof and delicious duos he told me are popular at Flower Child (and couldn’t wait to attempt them myself!). “Roasted sweet potatoes, grilled asparagus and gently-sautéed broccoli all go great with grilled chicken or tofu.”
Know Can Be Done in Advance, and What Can’t
Chopping, seasoning and combining some of your ingredients in advance can be a total time-saver, just like some health foods can be made in batches and stored in the fridge, but it’s important to remember that not all of your ingredients will always be able to be prepared beforehand. “When it comes to batching out ingredients, most of your heartier vegetables can be prepped in advance,” says Bondhus. “But, most greens and lettuces should be prepped the day you need them.”
Don’t Mindlessly Munch
Making smart food choices can all end with one bad snack decision at work. To keep blind snacking at bay, keep nutritious options at your desk or in your car. “The best healthy snack for me is any kind of nut,” Bondhus says, naming almonds and pistachios as his go-tos. “When I have a sweet tooth I reach for dates. They fill you up, taste great and are low-glycemic.”
Study the Menu
Dining at a restaurant can turn a strict diet into a cheat day really quickly. To avoid it, Bondhus says to be cautious of portion sizes, avoid fried food, heavy sauces and dressings. “These can be high in oil and often are high in sugar.” Also, order a glass of water before your food (and cocktail!) comes out to control hunger and keep you feeling full.