Meal prep: The phrase inspires yawns and sometimes dread. Yet investing time in cooking healthful meals will help you achieve your health and wellness goals. To transform the task into something pleasant or dare we say fun, read on for expert ideas to add pep to your prep!
NOURISHMENT – Stoke the Fire
9 Ways to Make Cooking Fun
By Dina Cheney
Without preparation, your cooking session won’t be relaxing. Make sure you’ve purchased all the necessary ingredients and straightened up your kitchen, ensuring ample counter space. “If you find yourself constantly setting up and rearranging items or washing dishes, you may begin to associate feelings of dread with the meal-prep task,” says Demi Dee, fitness trainer, health coach, and founder and CEO of The Knockout Room.
Invite others into your kitchen
Food brings us together, so it’s only natural to combine socializing with cooking.
Share on social media
If inspiring others helps inspire you, consider livestreaming your meal-prep process. “Sharing [my] recipes with friends, family and through social media has created a … motivation to complete [my] meal prep,” says Alysa Boan, NASM-certified personal trainer at FitnessTrainer.com and RealFitnessMaven.com. Celeste Rains-Turk, an NASM-certified personal trainer and bikini competitor, agrees. “[My Facebook and Instagram feeds] are a great way to show that the lifestyle can be very enjoyable and that I practice what I preach,” she explains.
If still photography is more your (shutter) speed, capture your most camera-friendly dishes and share the images on Instagram. Whenever I come up with a new recipe concept or cook up a particularly photogenic dish, I reach for my Canon and post to the app.
Cook with others—from your partner to your neighbors
Invite a friend over or form a cooking club. “Bringing friends over helps make the time fly and helps the kitchen get cleaned up faster,” says Leanne Ely, cookbook author and founder of Saving Dinner. If you want to cook with a far-away friend, “forget binge-watching a baking show; video-chat and have a ‘meal-prep date,’ suggests Lauren Holmes Larry, yoga teacher, barre instructor and health coach. “You’ll find a new way to be accountable and might even get some help with your knife skills.”
Or set up an assembly line and have your kids chip in, Dee recommends. To add some spice (literally and figuratively) to your relationship, cook with your partner. Listen to some jazz, sip wine and call it a date night, Ely suggests.
Wellness expert Olyvia DuSold, of AlignMii, reaches out to her community on meal-prep days. “When I see neighbors walking by, I wave at them and greet them on my doorstep so my dog can say ‘hi,’” she says. “We never chat for more than a few minutes, and I love when people ask what smells so good.”
To associate cooking with comfort, shed your heels or tight workout pants and change into your coziest pj’s, sweats or socks. Before you get started, reach for a light snack (if you’re starving). Ysabel Montemayor, registered dietician for the organic ready-to-eat meal delivery service Fresh n’Lean, schedules her cooking sessions to end right before her usual mealtimes so she “finishes hungry but not hangry.” She also tastes dishes throughout the cooking process to make sure she is heading in the right direction, flavor-wise.
Pick your poison—whether it’s tea or coffee for energy, wine for relaxation or green juice for refreshment and nourishment. Montemayor, who opts for coffee, says that a little caffeine gives her energy when she’s not motivated to cook. During cooking sessions, this writer rewards herself with the most top-shelf loose-leaf teas in my collection.
Learn something new
“It’s important to be adventurous with meal prep because it can be a very tedious and boring task if you let it,” Boan admits. To spur on discovery, consider taking a cooking class, suggests Jenn Nicken of The Chef & The Dish.
Or, for spur-of-the-moment novelty, try working with a new kitchen appliance, Montemayor suggests. “Pressure cookers and air fryers are a growing trend, and I am with them,” she says. “They help simplify and speed up the cooking process, especially for delicious, more difficult meals that I would have dreaded making before. With the pressure cooker and air fryer, I can easily cook things, such as crispy wings, tender ribs and hearty stews!”
Wade Brill, of Wade Brill Life Coaching, seeks out produce and pantry items she’s never cooked with before. “The fun of meal prep begins at the grocery store. This is your opportunity to get excited about ways to fuel your body,” she says. If you run out of ideas, ask a friend or family member to challenge you with a new healthy ingredient to try, such as jicama, Larry offers.
Travel to another country
Pick an international theme for each meal-prep time. Both Dee and Montemayor find selecting themes, such as Mexican or Italian, a way to inspire creativity. “Choosing a theme for each session helps guide the spices and ingredients I choose to cook with while making meals more interesting and fun,” Montemayor says. For deeper meaning, explore the cooking of your heritage, asking relatives for family recipes.
Cook with intention
To motivate yourself, reflect on the importance of cooking. Giovanna Abraham, a lifestyle coach and natural bikini athlete, focuses on how preparing and eating healthy food helps her meet her goals. Read: Dicing carrots equals nurturing yourself and your family. It’s not merely manual; it’s also meaningful.
Feed your ears while you work on feeding your body. “Turn your kitchen into a concert venue,” suggests Montemayor, who uses portable speakers with “good bass” or places her smartphone in a cup (with the speaker toward the bottom) to amplify the sound. To “set the mood and help create an exciting environment for mundane cooking tasks,” she creates multiple playlists ahead of time.
In this writer’s kitchen, we listen to the “Release Radar” and “Discover Weekly” playlists released by Spotify each week. During a lag in hands-on cooking tasks (say, while I’m waiting for water to come to a boil), I’ll save a track, adding it to my music library.
Don’t forget to dance while cooking, Brill says. “Cooking is a great form of creativity, so allow yourself to express yourself—from how you groove to what seasoning you use.”
Meanwhile, Rains-Turk watches movies, and April Tafoya, a personal trainer and healthy lifestyle blogger, listens to podcasts. “Time flies when you’re listening to something engaging, and it feels like you’re being extra productive,” she says.
Inspired to cook up some fun in the kitchen? By making meal prep pleasurable, you’ll encourage a habit that will help you achieve your goals. Sounds like a recipe for wellness and happiness.
Video credit: Videoblocks
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