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Healthy Meal Planning

Ever since I started working, I’ve subscribed to the meal-planning concept. As a web developer I often come home late. Especially when the projects’ launch date is approaching. I therefore want to have my dinner ready to eat within a few minutes of arriving home. However, as I am also quite picky in that I want not only a quick meal but also a healthy meal, I need to make a strategy! So here are my meal planning tips.

1. Choose healthy recipes

I always make Thai food. Not just because of the flavours but also because of the fresh herbs and vegetables. Traditional Thai cuisine is often co-related to plant based cooking as we use a lot of fresh herbs and veg. Sometimes my boyfriend asks me whether I use meat only “for seasoning”. Well, compared to traditional Danish food, for Thai food far less meat is generally used in the preparation of a meal. With the influence of Western culture, though, Thai people of my generation have started to consume more meat than their parents’ and grandparents’ generation. I don’t have a stat for that, but that’s what I’ve observed.

2. Variation of choices

I often dedicate my Saturdays for cooking. I shop all the ingredients the day before so I have time to cook for the whole day. I always make three or four different dishes at a time. Each dish takes three to four hours to make, including time for preparing the ingredients, actual cooking, cooling down of the food to room temperature, packing in portions and cleaning utensils. Even though making many dishes at the same time is more time consuming than making just one huge portion of the same dish, eating the same dish day in and day out would just kill you.

3. Beware of mushy vegetables

When a meal is cooked and served immediately you can really feel the crunchiness of vegetables. However, in some some vegetables that crunchiness is lost when re-heating after storing for a while in the fridge or the freezer. I often use carrots, potatoes, onions, eggplant, pumpkins, long beans, etc. in my recipes because they barely get mushy after de-freezing. If I occasionally want a bit of crunchiness, I serve my de-frozen meal with a side dish of fresh cucumber, bell pepper or cabbage.

4. Label each bag tightly

When all the dishes are frozen you cannot distinguish them. The only way to distinguish is by using a name tag. I therefore always write down the names of the dishes on pieces of paper which I attach to each bag. I use post-it paper since it seems to handle being kept in the freezer better than paper from my notebook. I write with a rolling ball pen because it has water-proof ink. I then attach the name tag at the top of the bag so I can easily see when I open the freezer. To make sure the post-its stay and don’t fall off, I finally use a stapler.

5. Stepwise temperature changes

I always apply a three-step approach to temperature changes when cooling down or heating up my meal. That is, boiling temperature to room temperature to fridge temperature to freezer temperature, and vice versa. When a dish is cooked, I first let it cool down to room temperature. Second, I start packing into bags/boxes that can be used for freezing food. Each bag/box is estimated for a portion size that should be served with rice. This is a further benefit if you want to control the amount of food you consume. Third, I put all the bags in a big tray and store in the fridge overnight. Fourth, I take out the bags from the fridge and dap to remove condensed water. I then transfer the bags to a freezer tray covered with kitchen papers underneath and around. The kitchen paper will prevent the bags from sticking the tray when they are frozen.

At night I grab from the freezer a bag with the dish I want to eat for dinner the next day. I put it in a plate and leave in the fridge the night over. When I get home from work I take that bag and microwave it for 2-3 minutes. I also have a rice cooker that can be programmed for the time when I want my rice to be ready. In this way I have and a healthy meal with freshly cooked rice ready-to-eat in just minutes.

I hope you like my meal planning tips. You are more than welcome to implement them yourselves or share with your friends. Let me know how it goes.

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