With the hustle and bustle of daily life, we can’t ever seem to get a break.

However, I’ve found that one thing always seems to persist as the biggest pain of all, at least when it comes to daily tasks and responsibilities: food.

meal-preppingFiguring out what to eat and cooking meals– especially lunch and dinner– always seems to be such a chore. If you’re anything like me and are always trying to find ways to be more productive, especially when it comes to more mundane but necessary tasks, but you also want to be physically healthy, there’s one thing you need to start doing: meal prepping.

Your diet is a bank account. Good food choices are good investments.

– Bethenny Frankel

Eating healthy and being more intentional with your diet while juggling everything else in life can seem impossible, but meal prepping allows you to streamline the entire process and not only make meal time easier, but also make healthy eating easier too.

“If we don’t plan or prep, it’s much easier to fall into the rut of eating the same few things over and over or to become less mindful of our choices and how we enjoy food,” says Cara Harbstreet of Street-Smart Nutrition. 

Here are seven meal prep tips for a healthier and more streamlined diet:

1. Organize your workspace

In order to maximize your meal prepping efficiency, you need to organize the space in which you prep those meals.

“Decluttering can set up your environment for meal prepping and make for a more efficient process and make mealtimes less stressful,” says Harbstreet.

So, take the time to organize containers, sauces, tools, dishes, frequently used ingredients, and anything else relevant in a way that makes it easiest for you to cook.

2. Mix it up

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Photo Credit: Brooke Lark on Unsplash

After a while, you might find it difficult to come up with new ideas for meals. That’s when mixing and matching becomes a godsend.

Instead of thinking you have to come up with one hundred percent unique recipes every time you prepare a batch of meals for the coming week, think of what meals you’ve already made. How can you put a new and different spin on them? This can be done either by adding something new to a particular meal or combining two meals into one.

This is also important because you’ll quickly become bored with the same meals over and over again, so you need a simple way to mix things up.

3. Spices are your easy button

Not a professional chef? Can you make mac n’ cheese? Great, you’re hired. I’ve got one word for you, a word which you’ll come to know well if you’re not a halfway decent chef but you are trying to make a halfway decently tasting meal: spices.

Spices are truly one of the most important aspects of cooking, even for professional chefs. The cool thing is that with a little practice, they’re pretty easy to use, and they can add a lot of flavor to your dishes– and a lot of variety.

In fact, you can take the same dish and add two different kinds of spices and seasoning and they become entirely different dishes, from soy sauce and rice seasoning for an Asian flare to Lowrys, cumin, or jalapenos for American, Indian, or Mexican-inspired flavoring.

4. Use the magic of sauce

Healthy eating can be tough, there’s no doubt about it. However, it’s hardest in the beginning when your taste buds haven’t had enough time to adjust to the new flavors you’re consuming.

An answer to that? Sauce. Sauce is to eating what spices are to cooking, they offer an easy and low-calorie option for improving the flavor of your dishes. Something like pesto, Caesar, or ranch dressing can even make veggies taste great, so they’re a great option for anyone who finds the idea of healthy eating excruciating.

Plus, they take absolutely no time to prepare, just pick up some sauce containers (but do look at the nutritional info and go for the least processed option as possible), throw them in your meal container, and you’re good to go.

5. Be consistent with veggies in small quantities

Obviously, we don’t all share the same love of veggies as our rabbit friends, so you need to make an intentional effort to bring more veggies into your diet.

Buy large batches of things like broccoli and spinach that are dark green (the darker, the more nutrients) and easy to consume. By including small amounts in each of your prepared meals (I just devour them first-thing when eating my meal to get them out of the way), you greatly improve your diet and make healthy eating easier.

6. Use meal prep or bento box containers for easy portion control

The great thing about meal prepping is that it makes portion control super easy. Buy some basic meal prep containers or some bento boxes, and you’ll have a simple way to gauge the perfect portion size.