Introduction: Beginners Meal Prep for Very Strict Diets
Meal prep is a great solution for busy mom's and dad's and it worked for me for many years when I was working a full-time job and raising my children. I was inspired to write this instructable for my niece and her family members and many of you who are on very restricted diets due to chronic illnesses.The past few months we have gone through this same thing. Unfortunately, my husband's list of foods he can eat are extremely limited. In the beginning it was very difficult to dream up different entrees and make the food taste good. The hardest thing for me was finding a tasty recipe for bread and create recipes that satisfied his craving for carbs; so he would not cheat on his diet; which is not an option for him because the diet is the only prescription for him, because his body rejects the only medication available for his condition.
I could think of no better way, than to share my experience and what I have learned in an instructable. When I noticed the Meal Prep contest it motivated me to get with the program and share my meal prepping journey and what I learned in the process. I know a lot of people whose doctors have prescribed special diets for their patients and those who are committed to eating the diet, are noticing a huge improvement in their blood work numbers and over all health.
Let's get started. . .
Step 1: Things to Consider Before the Journey
Even though I have been cooking this strict diet for several months, cooking mass meals did not come easy for me this time. I realized that more planning was needed to pull it off smoothly enough to make numerous meals at one time.I recommend starting out with a couple of recipes you have made multiple times with great success and see how it worked for you.
I am elderly and I get too tired after market day to do any cooking so I began cooking extra portions the day before shopping day. Two to three times a week I would bake bread as well as meals for the next day. It became a routine and it worked for me unless I was not feeling well. I knew I had to prepare better for those days.
The next time I do this, I will start stocking up on bone broth, soups and breads because my husband will heat them up and eat them on the days that I can't cook. This system will benefit us more than if I make several different types of entrees.
The most consuming part of cooking, would be prepping the produce and measuring the ingredients. If you are working and have a family, investing in kitchen tools like Vita Mix, a kitchen scale, stand mixer, and other popular tools would certainly save you a lot of time and be worth the money in the long run.
A larger refrigerator and a freezer might be a good investment if you are serious about meal prepping.
I plan to look for food storage containers or bags that are non plastic or bulky.
It is helpful to know which types of foods are safe for freezing and which ones should be blanched, how long certain foods keep in the refrigerator, and how to store them to preserve their freshness. When I looked into this, I discovered some things about food storage that I did not know. I read an article from the FDA that the only thing that will eliminate e-coli is heat, but I noticed a lot of links in the captions say vinegar will do the trick, I trust the FDA's report.
I plan to find reliable sources on what not to cook in a slow cooker after stumbling across an article about that. Apparently beans should never be cooked in a slow cooker and according to Dr. Gundry, beans must be soaked before cooking.
Step 2: Bread Recipes Using Almond Flour
I found plenty of recipes using almond flour and I tried a few but was greatly disappointed in the rise, and some bread recipes had a light purple tint to them, some the flavor was bland, and the loafs were heavier than I liked. I made one recipe and my husband liked the flavor so I decided to make it again but I wanted a higher lighter loaf with more flavor. I made it numerous times and adjusted the recipe bit by bit until he loved it. I was still not satisfied with the tiny loaf it made. Certainly not a sand-which size loaf. I began to try different methods to get a higher rise. I searched the internet to find out ways to increase the lift and stumbled across this recipe and made it because vinegar was added to the recipe but I did not achieve the lift I was looking for. I decided to try whipping the whites. Cloud bread is made by whipping the whites but it is not made using the whole egg. I modified the recipe (link above) by separating the cold egg yolks from the whites and whipped the egg whites at (room temperature) until very firm. I reduced the salt by 1/2 and doubled her recipe and baked the bread in a large loaf pan.It is helpful to gently press the dough into the loaf pan according to some experts. I got a great rise from the loaf and so far it is my go to sandwich bread recipe. If you decide to try her recipe using whipped egg whites, I suggest using her measurements and whip the egg whites and whip the egg yolks as well.That is another reason I like this recipe, you use the whole egg! If you don't like the bread, you won't feel like you wasted your time and money. Definitely use a smaller loaf pan though.
I have used this method on our favorite almond flour pancake recipe, with good results. If I were to make this bread again, I would make two loaves at the same time and wrap them in a cotton dish towel after baking them and wait until evening and slice and freeze them.This bread has a lot of moisture and could easily mold if place into a sealed plastic bag at room temperature. Freezing the loaf works best for couples or single people who don't eat a lot of bread because it will not keep fresh as long as store bought bread with preservatives. I have not tried storing the bread in the refrigerator.
There is another issue with some low carb bread recipes and the issues is the bread has a light purple color and the problem seems to be the brands of Psyllium Husk Powders that are used. I have had good success with Now brand. I have read that sometimes baking powder will do the same thing if you don't use aluminium free baking powder.
I pre-measured the dry bread ingredients and when I made this loaf I notice it saved me a lot of time. It is an easy method to use for meal prepping and does not require a lot of time. This is something that I will do about once a month.
Step 3: Bone Broth
Bone broth is a necessity in our household now. It is not labor intensive but it requires a long cooking time, perfect for a crock pot. I placed beef bones into the crock pot with salt and pepper and threw in 2 stalks of celery cut in half and cut an onion into four chunks and turned the pot on high until it boiled and then reduced the heat to low for 24 hours. I removed most of the food particles from the pot and poured the liquid into a colander to strain and after it was cool enough to ladle into a container or freezer bag, I dated and labeled it and placed it in the freezer.
I purchased (bones from organic grass fed and grass finished cows ) from a nutrition center in our town for 20 bucks. I do not know how much they weighed but the clerk at the counter told me he uses one bag in the crock pot and can re-use the bones 3 times before composting them. I think there were about 8 large bones in the bag.
This is our base for the soups I make. Had I not been making different meal preps, I would have started two pots of the bone broth and froze one and made soup from the one as soon as the broth was ready. This type of food prep is perfect for beginners who want to make multiple meals at one time, especially if you are just beginning the journey and can't purchase ready made stock because of diet restrictions. It may take you two days to make, but it is a start.
Step 4: Breakfast Ideas
I made boiled eggs, and hamburger patties seasoned with salt and pepper. I followed the recipe on the cranberry sauce package and swapped out the sugar with a substitute sweetener and used 1/2 cup of water and all spice and followed the instructions on the package. I also made jicama hash-browns for my husband's breakfast meals. After everything was cooked, I placed them in a bag in the fridge for his breakfast for a few days.The hash-browns were a lot of work~
I made them because a lot of people have told me that they craved bread and potatoes since being on their diet. Jicama fries or hash-browns require several steps to come close to the texture of fries and hash-browns but the flavor is very close to the real deal. We find them very satisfying when we have a craving for potatoes. If you are just starting a special diet, you will notice in the very beginning you will crave the foods you used to eat but the good news is your taste buds will change and your cravings will crave healthy foods that will nourish your body.
Cauliflower and Daikon radish are great potato substitutes.The moisture content in the Daikon and Jicama will not make crispy fries or hash- browns without several necessary steps to make them. They are not as crispy as the fast food fries even though they appear to be crispy at first. They tend to lose crispiness as they cool, however I have managed to make them crispy enough for our taste. Cauliflower definitely makes great mashed potatoes. They are steamed then mashed and seasoned with salt, pepper and butter.
Firstly Jicama or Daikon radishes should be washed and peeled. The skins should be removed until you see the nice white flesh.
The next step is to cut them into fries or grate them. If you cut them for fries they should be cut thin, otherwise they won't be crispy after frying. I tried several methods to accomplish this. The method that worked the best for me was cutting them into skinny fries or grating them like hash-browns.
Then using a paper towel, wipe off as much water as you can from them, sprinkle them with salt and let them sit for about fifteen minutes. Remove all the excess water again with a paper towel.
Microwave them for about three minutes and remove them from the microwave and place a plate over the bowl to allow steam to cook them a bit longer. After they have cooled down, carefully wrap the fries or hash browns in a lint free cotton towel or cheese cloth and gently squeeze the moisture out of them trying not to damage them, then fry them in hot oil, roast them in the oven, or air fry them. Remove them from the pan and allow them to cool and then fry or roast them the second time.
If you are making hash browns, before pan-frying, add one lightly beaten egg, salt, and pepper, then mix well and form into patties. Pan-fry both sides until done. Remove them from heat and allow to cool. If they are not crisp enough for your taste, pan fry the second time.
Step 5: Cheat Days
There have been a few times we had to cheat on the diet because of unexpected events. Someone sent me a link from a man who shared fast food places that people can go to when the only option is eating out. He did a great presentation for Fast food options I have not printed out a copy of all the places but when I do, I will hand them out to people who are on restricted diets to keep in their car or in their purse.
My son's family have been cooking from a very nice cookbook and have made a lot of the authors recipes and have liked all of them so far. He said one of his favorite recipes in her book was the lasagna and I was totally shocked because he makes lasagna completely from scratch using some of the finest ingredients. That says a lot about how delicious her recipes are, coming from a foodie. He mailed me the first one on the list. As I looked through the book, I found we could modify many of them for my husband's diet. We have just been too busy to try them out right now.
When the doctor told us there were some exceptions to the rule for my husband's diet, if we prepped the food properly before making a recipe. All peppers, and tomatoes must be de-seeded and skins removed and pressure cooked. Beans are not permitted unless they are pressure cooked, except my husband can't have them because of the carbs. I have not found very many ready made items that he can have but there are a few that might help other people with their transition. Pomi tomatoes from Italy are permitted for his diet restrictions because the company de-seeds and de-skins and pressure cooks them. Eden beans is another item you can find in the grocery sections of most stores. There is only one cheese for our diet that we can have according to our doctor and that is Manchego cheese. We also learned some people can eat Organic Valley heavy whipped cream with no problems.
I hope some of this information will be helpful to you.
Step 6: Sunshiine's Final Thoughts
The new diets can be difficult to follow when you can't find the things you are permitted to eat, such as non gmo's, organic, grass fed and finished meats and dairy, and so many others. Many people have told me how difficult it was to find good tasting recipes especially for breads and sauces that do not contain soy, wheat, corn,sugar, and many other ingredients. I gave up trying and have been making my own. I have learned a lot through this experience and am happy the diet is working for my husband. We both have more energy and feel much better. I eat the same things he does just because I did not want to make two separate meals three times a day. I was surprised how much the diet has helped me.
We wish you success in your journey to make delicious food and organize your schedule in making them.
Thank you for stopping by and do have a safe and happy winter~
Runner Up in the
Meal Prep Challenge