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Healthy Family Style Meals Take Center Stage – Post Pandemic

We have all been hunkered down starting back in March of 2020 with the onset of a worldwide pandemic, hibernating like bears has subsequently followed us deep into the heart of the winter of 2022. Couple the fast-spreading virus with the extreme seasonal temperatures and we have a recipe for complacency.

Likely driven partly by fear and the desire to comfort ourselves, we remain most of the time in the safe haven of our own homes. It’s no wonder many people are suffering from a mild form of depression. That seasonal sadness typically experienced in winter used to be referred to simply as the doldrums is now magnified to epic proportions affecting our mental health in staggering numbers, all thanks to Covid.

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According to a study by Kff.org “During the pandemic, about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder. A share that has been largely consistent, up from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019.”

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Depression and anxiety often lead to unhealthy behaviors. Overeating, alcohol consumption, cravings, and lack of energy. As a society we are becoming lazy and who could blame us? From food to fashion, the way we go to work, school and the way we even socialize leaves us seeking out ways to comfort ourselves.

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Contrary to what we may think, working and attending school from home has not helped us to break the fast food habit. According to a published fast-food industry statistic about consumerism during the 2020-2022 pandemic, we are still indulging ourselves with crispy, salty french fries and fatty sauce-laden foods. Maybe partly due to the fact that ordering a bucket of chicken, a burger or both has never been easier from your phone. Simply click that app open and you never have to move farther than your own front door. 

 

 

More often than not, when we do manage
to venture to the outside world
we tend to sit in our cars
while others serve our food to us
from the drive through window. 
Even our weekly shopping list items
are wheeled out on a cart 
by a grocery clerk
and placed in the trunk of our cars.

 

 

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Being at home more often also means we have ramped up the art of couch-potato snacking. It is easy to add up the calories while binging an entire season of the most popular show. Savvy marketers tempt us with ads for cheese puffs and M&Ms and try to deepen our addiction to junk food. This strategy is highly successful for them, just think about how many times you hit the pause button during your last binge watch to get up from the couch to fetch a snack.

Family watching TV

Our bad food habits are not just happening on the couch or in our cars. In 2021 entertaining at home has become popular. We now have pizza and game nights, football and wings, and potluck suppers featuring big pots of stew and homemade breads. Along with that type of socialization comes the indulgence of sweet soda, beer, wine and other alcohol. All adding up to unwanted pounds.

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Fashion has fed into our need to feel coddled with its everyday stretchy waisted Athleisure styles. It is perfectly acceptable to wear yoga pants on business zoom calls and even out to dinner. In the off chance that you want to wear a dress, check out the selections that designers are touting these days and all you will find are oversized frumpy prairie dresses and skirts. For men the selection is slightly better but still very relaxed. 

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We love being cozy and feeling loved. The Covid fashion trends hide all those extra pounds under all the elastic waist bands and further boost our desire to feel soothed. This plays well into the fact that the only people we really interact with in person are close friends and relatives who will accept us the way we are. 

 

 

The piper will eventually have to be paid. Fashion is a cruel industry and next year it will have us all being rewarded for showing off flat abs and thin thighs. The dresses and shirts will show every curve and we will all be back in more formal clothing, if not at least business casual.

With spring fast approaching and bathing suit season to follow we do not need not panic, there is time to start making small changes that can add up to a more rewarding lifestyle even in the future. Changes that allow us to embrace the new ways of life with all its modern post pandemic conveniences.Health professionals tell us in order to shed pounds we must incorporate lower calories, higher fiber, and exercise. This means less junk, more fruit and vegetables and getting off the couch. 

Get Off The Couch!

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Just as in 2020 as we designated spaces for a home office and classrooms, perhaps in 2022 more of us will convert a room to a home gym. According to Forbes “The craze for home fitness technology saw some manufacturers such as Peloton do extremely well during the pandemic”. They go on to say “if CES 2022 was anything to go by, that trend shows no sign of slowing down.” Whoop, a start up fit tech company, was recently valued at 3.6 billion.

Set Up A Home Gym

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As the warmer weather approaches we can expect the popularity of family time and exercise to blend, Perhaps we will see the return of local neighborhood softball leagues and kick ball games. It would be great to see children playing outdoors playing tag, jumping rope, or simply chasing fireflies while parents keep watch nearby.

Get Outside To Play

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Over the past several years there has been a reinvigorated enthusiasm among men to man their grills and show off their backyard barbecue skills. NPData says “The pandemic compelled consumers to spend on grilling and outdoor cooking, as a way to gather safely, create new experiences with family, and even learn new skills, during increased time spent at home.” According to Bloomberg News, “sales of grills and smokers in the U.S. soared 41% to $3.2 billion for the 12 months ending in March 2021.” The predictions are that the backyard barbecues are here to stay. 

Gather At The Grill

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When it comes to enjoying our homes more, swimming pools are the hottest home improvement and if you are thinking about installing an in-ground pool in your yard be prepared to dole out higher prices and be patient. We have heard that there is a long waiting list for pool construction.

Another popular home improvement project that we are contracting for is fenced yards. This means more playtime for our four-legged and two-legged kids. We can look forward to more games of catch or fetch and more play dates outdoors. There is little doubt we are already reinvesting in the way we live. 

According to Business Wire “The home service industry as a whole is doing quite well, cleaning, contracting and landscaping grew strong in 2021.” This may be due to some shifts in focus, working remotely, or in the realization that we just want to enjoy more time on the weekends with friends and family instead of weeding the flower beds or cleaning toilets. 

Spruce Up The Back Yard

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All companies, regardless of size and or industry, have had to adapt and shift the way they do business. The biggest change for the corporate world has been that the bulk of their workforce now being based from home offices. Given the option to return to the office has been less appealing to a great deal of their employees, with many of them preferring to return to the office only a day or two a week. For some employees the return to the office at all is unacceptable and are willing to seek out employers who will offer a 100% work from home benefit.

Business travel had shifted also. Many large in-person conferences successfully morphed into either virtual or hybrid conferences. According to a survey conducted by Owl Labs, “COVID-19 has taught us that working from the office doesn’t equal productivity. With the right tools and support, people can work from anywhere. Video conferencing technology has become the standard form of communication with 60% of respondents using video more than before COVID-19, bringing new considerations for remote employees.” 

Small businesses and consultants have moved away from the meeting rooms and coffee shops and shifted to online collaboration and learning sessions. Even cooking classes are being brought to you virtually in the safety and convenience of your own home.

Take A Virtual Cooking Class

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This bodes well for those who find themselves seeking out educational information around food preparation techniques. According to Smart Brief “A 2020 survey of 2,200 US consumers found that the intention to keep up with home cooking is especially strong among younger demographics, with 43% of Gen Z respondents saying they too intend to cook at home more after the pandemic is over.”

They are even more focused on the balance of mental and physical health. They tend to engage in fresh air activities and adopt exercise as a way of life. This group of savvy young professionals know that they need to provide nutritionally sound meal options for themselves and their families.

They prefer to prepare healthy snacks ahead of time that can be easily accessed. They know how to structure their grocery budgets and how to design balanced menus that stay on target financially. They understand that beyond planning meals they need to serve meals that are not only simple but also creative.

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That being said, experts strongly agree that some conveniences are here to stay. The financial predictions for popular delivery services are strong into at least 2027. We can’t imagine not using an app to order all the things we need and have them sent directly to our homes. We may not ever spend hours at the grocery store again.

Convenience and fast foods will never completely go away as it serves its purpose when necessary. The future of health is food and the future of food is healthier than it’s ever been. Look at how many fast food places have quickly adopted a plant based option. 

Healthy Food

In an article titled: How to Look After Your Health by MentalHealth.Org.UK
They cite reducing stress as one way to improve mental health, along with exercise and socialization. Finding smarter ways to take the guesswork out of what to prepare for dinner can reduce day to day anxiety. Add in more daily exercise, healthy eating habits and socialization and you have a winning recipe.

Tomorrow’s food consumer will adopt the “everything in moderation motto.” This fits nicely into everyone’s personal goals without being too restrictive. That is why planning what you will put in your body and what you will provide for your family will be the key to getting back on track. Purchasing healthy food, cooking a large variety of more sensible meals at home. 

Start Meal Prepping

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Where most good intentioned eaters stumble and ultimately fall back upon poor meal habits are in the planning phase. They fail to plan and therefore plan to fail. Read our article: Why Most People Fail at Meal Prep to learn more. Having menus designed that work for your lifestyle and budget, creating shopping lists and sticking to them, meal prepping in advance to save time will curb the desire to eat for convenience. The second area that trips people up is the inability to stick to the plan. That is where accountability to others becomes a good option. Education, planning and accountability along with exercise will help to curb bad behaviors. 

As spring fast approaches; stop binge eating, try consuming fewer processed foods and increasing your outdoor activity. Meal Prep Made is a new alternative to learning how to prepare more healthy meals at home. The program works in conjunction with any popular weight management programs like WW or Noom. Take a meal prep class, join a group for accountability, and get access to pre-designed meal prep menus and automated shopping lists. You will be ready to step into the next season of 2022 with a new confidence and a pep in your step! 

Reasons People Fail at Meal Prep

Reasons Why People Fail at Meal Prep

Problem #1

You Are Busy and Hungry - A Fast Burger Seems Convenient

No one starts out their morning by thinking to themselves,” I am going to make poor food choices today.” But the number one reason people end up eating junk food is the failure to plan. Food planning is not how most folks want to spend their time. It seems easier to grab fast food or graze on snacks rather than pack a nutritious lunch. 

 

The Solution

Discover a few simple meals that you can put together is the first step in the process. They can be as simple as a turkey sandwich, or a few boiled eggs to start. 
This is only to start because if you keep bringing the same foods over and over you will get bored and be tempted again by that junk food burger. 

Problem #2

You're Tired of Eating The Same Thing

This is a common mistake made by those who actually have the intent to prepare their own meals. They will cook up some generic chicken, boil some rice, and roast vegetables. This sounds like a great idea, right?  Wrong!  
After 2 days of eating the same lunch, you will begin to get bored

The Solution

Find a way to use those same ingredients, but season them differently. You could one day eat them warm and the next day or incorporate them into an interesting salad with a complete opposite flavor. On the third and final day, you could put the ingredients into a pita pocket. 

Problem #3

You're Missing the Ingredients Needed to Change Up Your Meal

This comes down to a failure to plan out your meals and make a shopping list. For some making a shopping list is a task that is more mundane than washing and ironing your clothes. However, without a plan, you will be back buying that fast food burger.

The Solution

Create a list of meals you plan to prepare for the next week. If you use an online order system you can simply add the ingredients. If you are shopping for groceries yourself consider utilizing an AI.  An Alexa device has a shopping list feature that works well. It can be verbally updated as you look in your pantry or fridge. When you are at the grocery store you can just pull up your app and check off the items as you source them. 

Problem #4

Meal Prepping for the Entire Family is Time Consuming.

Busy parents often are the targets of fast food commercials. They know you are short on time and convince you that heading through the drive thru is a better option. But is it really? 

A CBS News article quotes Dr. Eliana Perrin, professor of pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine. “Eating too much fast food is bad for children’s health because of the high calorie count coupled with too few nutrients, Perrin said. A poor diet can also lead to heart problems and obesity.”

The Solution

Planning family meals is almost easier since ingredients can be purchased in large quantities. Buying a 3 pound package of ground beef that can be turned into 3 different meals is a good place to start.  When you incorporate the freezer into your planning you can really step up the family prepared meals. Make breakfast sandwiches, quesadillas and soups that can all be stored in the freezer. 

Problem #5

Creating Menus Can be a Big Project

Unless you are a professional chef, the average person has little experience creating menus in advance. That is why in previous generations, days of the week were assigned the same menu. Wednesday was always spaghetti in our house.   If that works for you great!, If not, you may want to look into a way to get some assistance with this project. 

The Solution

We took months to test recipes, add them to a menu, and create meal plans. We do this for a living. If you work or care take for others we may have the perfect solution for you. Check out a sample meal plan.  The good news is once you become a Meal Prep Made member you get so much more than just the menus and meal plans.

You get 5 weeks of live online instruction and support. You get all the recipes with full nutritional information. We even provide auto generated shopping lists and ways for you to customize your Meal Prep Made plans.  We take the hassle out of your planning, so you can spend more time doing the things that you do best. 

Food Safety

5 Dangerous Thanksgiving Food Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Mistake #1

Not Properly Thawing The Frozen Turkey

When it comes to thawing the bird- the key is to think ahead.

    • How many pounds do you have?
    • How many days will you be required to leave it that in the refrigerator to reach its thawing point?

The dangerous mistake occurs when the turkey is not thawed in the refrigerator. Never thaw on the counter or just sitting in a sink full of water.
The FDA guideline states frozen food of any kind should only be thawed in one of 3 ways:

      • In the refrigerator
      • Under continuous running cold water
      • In the microwave. (If food is thawed in the microwave it must be cooked immediately.)

Thankfully Butterball has a calculator that will help you plan

    • How much turkey you need by weight
    • How long to thaw a frozen turkey by the pound
    • How long your cook time will be

Mistake #2

Undercooking The Turkey

Cooking a turkey can be a daunting task if you have never done so. Be sure to remove all the innards and the neck which will be tucked inside. You can use them to make a stock for the gravy.

The danger lies in the internal cooking temperature of the turkey. Turkey is considered poultry and the FDA urges that all poultry must be cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Make sure you have tested your food thermometer. Keep it handy and check various parts of the bird. It is not done until every area you insert the thermometer in reads at least 165 degrees F. To test the accuracy of your thermometer you can place it in a glass of ice water for thirty seconds. If it reads 32 degrees F your device passes the test.

Mistake #3

Not Reheating the Side Dishes to the Correct Temperature

Most people will make at least a few of the Thanksgiving side dishes ahead of time. This makes perfect sense considering how much cooking is involved.

Where this can become dangerous is assuming that since a side dish was once cooked properly it can be served with just the chill removed. All ready-to-heat food is required to be heated until an internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.

The reason you must reheat to an internal temperature of 165 F is that bacteria grow very rapidly as food passes through what is called the temperature danger zone.

The temperature range for the danger zone is 40F-140 degrees F. These little bacteria can make someone very ill. Especially when it comes to children, the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone who may be immunocompromised. Think about who might be sitting at your table this holiday season and use your thermometer to check temps as you reheat the side dishes.

Mistake #4

Leaving The Food Sit Out Hours After Serving

Many people have a sit-down family-style meal where everyone passes each delicious dish one at a time. Other households prefer to serve a wonderful buffet-style meal in which everyone makes a plate from a central location and carries their Thanksgiving dinner to their own seat. 

Regardless of how you prefer to dine food-safety should still be top of mind.

Remember the old days where children were always instructed to wash their hands before dinner? This is still a great idea, in fact in a post-pandemic world, everyone should wash their hands before sharing serving utensils. You as the cook should be washing in between touching each food item.

When it comes to serving your Thanksgiving feast the biggest rule of thumb is to not let any of the food sit out for more than two- hours. Once everyone has had time to eat pack up the food and get it in the refrigerator. If it is still hot or warm simply divide it into smaller containers.

Mistake #5

The Mishandling Of The Thanksgiving Leftovers

Packing food in small containers with leftovers in them makes sense on so many levels.

  • If you are packing that leftover turkey stuffing and gravy into single-use disposable containers your wonderful Thanksgiving leftovers can be offered to your guests as they leave.
  • If the containers are reheatable you can portion out some ready-to-go meals for your family too.

  • In the long run, this is the most efficient way to eat all the lovely thanksgiving food items in a timely manner. We live by the food-safety 3-day rule, by Sunday night all the leftovers must be frozen or thrown out.  Make sure you follow the food safety rules of reheating foods to 165 degrees F also. Yes, you can eat the turkey meat cold, but if want some mashed potatoes and gravy or mac and cheese remember to use the thermometer.

When it comes to food safety you really can not pick and choose. Bacteria and viruses are part of the world around us. We must learn to live with them and use the knowledge at hand to protect those around us.

As the cook and or the host of a meal it is your responsibility to ensure that you have properly warded off the potential spread of viruses and properly killed off any bacteria that can potentially make you or someone you love ill. Having a happy holiday season starts with being healthy.

Remember thaw food properly, cook poultry to 165 degrees F, reheat foods to 165 degrees F,  refrigerate leftovers within two hours,  freeze or discard leftovers after three  days and wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.

Have a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving !
To learn more about safe and healthy meal prep visit our site at MealPrepMade.Com