Written by: Julie Tang, MS, RDN, CNSC
When it comes to adopting healthy eating habits, one of the first places to begin this process is in the kitchen. While most people are not interested in becoming professional chefs, many seek to have basic culinary skills to be able to easily prepare nutrient-rich foods. With convenience being a major factor in our lives, cooking may be perceived as time-consuming and this could be a barrier to homemade meals. However, if meal planning and preparation can be done ahead of time, cooking can actually become an efficient process. Cooking will not only save you time and money, but research shows it is often linked to better dietary quality, contributing to an overall healthier lifestyle (1).
To stay on track and find success in reaching your health goals, one of the key elements is to plan ahead. Planning healthy meals and snacks ahead of time, shopping with a grocery list, and writing down a meal plan for the week can be extremely helpful. With the help of technology, there are many tools to help you get recipes and quick meal prep ideas.
When you’re prepared and have a plan, there is little room for excuses. When you’re stressed, overwhelmed and unprepared, there are more chances of choosing the easiest, and usually least healthy, food choices such as ordering takeout, buying from the vending machine, or grabbing a frozen meal from the local supermarket.
Utilizing a meal planner such as Meta Nutrition can help save the trouble of planning meals. The meal recommendations are personalized so you know exactly what your body needs and what groceries are needed to make your next nutritious meal.
Whether there is a barrier to cooking due to lack of time or knowledge, don’t let that stop you. There are several ways to help ease your way into cooking more comfortably and make it work for your schedule. Consider learning a few basic culinary skills from a friend or family, utilizing social media tools such as YouTube, Instagram or Pinterest to watch video tutorials or learn from a professional by attending a cooking class or hiring an instructor. Whichever learning method you choose, make sure it is fun and easy to follow to give yourself the best hands-on experience. Another way to help you become more comfortable with cooking is to have a few essential kitchen tools on hand before you start cooking. This will make your time in the kitchen efficient and less of a fuss. Anyone who cooks or meal preps knows having the right kitchen tools will take the stress out of prepping lunch or dinner for the week ahead.
Here are must have kitchen tools for cooking
- Chef’s knife – Good knives such as stainless steel types are worth it. Chopping, dicing, and slicing become so much easier and more effective when you have good knives.
- Set of chopping boards – Choose a few non-slip grip ones so that you can designate specific boards for different types of food to prevent cross-contamination. You can find color-coded ones that will indicate its use for fruits and vegetables, raw meats and cooked meats.
- Set of measuring cups and spoons – Get these to help measure your serving sizes. And they’re useful to measure out ingredients when following recipes during meal prep.
- Measuring scale – Some recipes call for weight measurements, so food scales come in handy. They also can be used to help with portion size.
- Can opener – This is an essential tool to have on hand whether you are meal prepping or not.
- Set of pots, frying pan, and saucepan – Invest in a quality set such as ceramic non-stick types that will be long-losting. You will be using these gadgets frequently.
- Baking pan – They’re an ideal way to cook large quantities of meat, roast vegetables, or bake cookies.
- Colander – This is also known as a strainer. Use it to rinse and wash fruits or vegetables and strain beans, noodles, and pasta.
- Food wrap and/or aluminum wrap – Lining a sheet pan with aluminum foil makes cleanup easy. Have this essential item on hand because you’ll use this often especially during meal prep.
- Blender – This tool is great for smoothies, soups, sauces, and blending dry ingredients. If you’re just starting off, you might choose between a blender or a food processor, either will work.
What about tools for meal prepping?
If you’re interested in prepping and cooking portions of your meals for several days of the week, then a few more added kitchen tools will help make the process easier. If you are just starting to get into meal prep, start by preparing one or two meals or snacks for the week and build from there. By starting slowly, you will feel less overwhelmed than if you were to jump right into prepping every meal for an entire week.
Here are must have tools for meal prep:
Set of clear, microwaveable-safe, BPA-free Tupperware with lids
You can use any BPA-free container for your prepped food, but finding a good set of clear glass ones is highly recommended because they won’t leach harmful chemicals into the food like some plastics. Choose clear containers so they are easy to identify what foods are stored. It is also helpful to get a set so everything matches and they are easy for storage.
Instant pot with multi-use programmable pressure cooker
This gadget is great for batch cooking things like rice, beans, soups, ground turkey, shredded chicken, and so many more things. Throw in the items, set the programmer, let the food cook while you sit back.
These great storage containers and can store pretty much anything. The wide mouth Ball mason jars work well for salads or soups and smaller pints can be used for yogurt, granola, or overnights oats.
This little tool can make meal prep so much fun and versatile especially if you’re trying to get more vegetables in. You can make zucchini noodles, sweet potato noodles, and more.
Whether you are cooking breakfast, prepping snacks, or trying out a new plant-based diet, having essential kitchen tools will make a huge difference in your time and cooking experience!
- Mills, S., Brown, H., Wrieden, W., White, M. and Adams, J. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017; 14: 109.