Eating away from home for meals or skipping meals altogether is a sure fire way to sabotage your weight loss efforts. By preparing more meals at home, you can have greater influences over the quality of ingredients and nutritional content of meals and portions.

Nutrition clients often cite time, financial constraints and lack of knowledge as barriers to them successfully preparing more meals at home.

With the right tools and a little preparation, quick, healthy meals can be a breeze.
A few well tried tips include:

1. Keep a well-stocked pantry.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Smart Tips for Successful Meals, a well-stocked pantry can relieve some of the pressure when it comes time to make a meal. They suggest, keeping the following on hand for quick, easy to fix dishes.
Shelf Stable Products
• Dried or canned beans, peas and lentils (such as black, garbanzo, kidney, white and pinto beans; green, yellow or split peas and lentils)
• Canned vegetables with no added salt (such as tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, green beans and corn)
• Whole grains (such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, millet and whole-grain pasta)
• Pouches or canned fish and chicken
• Olive, canola or other vegetable oils
• Herbs and spices
Frozen Foods
• Vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and Brussels sprouts)
• Fruit (such as berries, cherries and bananas)
• Whole wheat pizza dough
• Frozen poultry or seafood

Additionally, store bought rotisserie chickens are a quick easy meal starter. You can add to a favorite dish instead of cooking the chicken at home which saves time. Or simply serve it as-is with frozen vegetables and whole grains from the pantry for a complete balanced plate meal in less than 15 minutes.

2. Batch cooking.
When preparing protein foods--chicken, ground meat, hard boiled eggs--instead of cooking just enough for tonight's dish, make double what you need and use in another recipe later in the week or freeze the remainder for a quick meal later this month.
You can make a dozen eggs at once to eat each morning during the week for a quick breakfast, or to a salad or even eat as a snack throughout the week. Hard-boiled eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. Cooked ground meat and cooked poultry, when properly stored in a shallow airtight container or wrapped tightly in heavy duty foil or plastic wrap, will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator, or up to 4 months in the freezer.

Batch cooking will save you time and money, you can buy the meat when it's on sale in bulk and cooking large amounts at once doesn't take any more time. You also save additional time on clean up.

3. Increase your knowledge and cooking confidence.
Consider a meal kit service that takes the time out of planning the meals, procuring the ingredients and provides step by step instructions on how to prepare the meals.

Cooking for one serving even if you are single: If you are cooking for yourself, consider preparing meals for two and portioning out the meals into a container to eat for lunch. Again saving time and money.

Lastly, there are a variety of meal kit options available on the market; some of the most popular include:
• Blue Apron
• Hello Fresh
• Home Chef

If you have any questions about meal planning and healthy options to avoid fast food, contact an Ireland Army Health Clinic dietitian at 502-624-9713/0408.