Make-Ahead Meals, Plus How to Splurge Smart!

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Hi Hungry Girl,

I'm having trouble sticking to my diet, mostly because I forget to plan ahead, and I find myself super hungry without anything smart that's ready to eat. Got any make-ahead meal ideas for me, so I don't end up at the drive-thru?

Ann Needs a Plan

Hi Ann,

Glad you asked... Meal planning is definitely an important part of weight loss and maintenance. We all tend to make poorer food choices when we let ourselves get crazy hungry. Luckily, I've got a whole bunch of guilt-free make-ahead meal options to keep your hunger in check...

For breakfast, growing oatmeal bowls are fantastic! Before you get all, "Don't those take a while to make?", hear me out. You can make the oatmeal at night, and let it chill in the fridge. Then in the morning, just heat it up, and give it a stir! (Add a tiny bit of water if it's gotten too thick.) Much more filling and delicious than instant oatmeal, and way smarter than an a.m. trip to the drive-thru! You can do the same thing with HG oatmeal parfaits -- the oatmeal is meant to be chilled, so all you have to do in the morning is assemble 'em. Egg mugs, while not "make-ahead" meals, are super-duper fast and filling -- GREAT for people pressed for time.

When it comes to lunch, most of us need options that can be made in advance and that travel well. Click here for a grilled 'n chilled sandwich and an amazing new chicken pasta salad. Slaws and salads are perfect because they often taste even better the next day -- the flavors really soak in overnight. Check out this Cold Dog Slaw, Zucchini-Ribbon Salad, and this no-cook stir-fry! And I love scoopy deli-style salads (like chicken and tuna) as make-ahead lunches -- whip up a batch at night or over the weekend, and pack a serving with a couple of slices of light bread or a high-fiber pita on the side. (Just assemble at lunchtime.) Click here, here, and here for some tasty scoopable options.

For dinner, slow-cooker meals are THE BEST. You can even do most of the prep work, like chopping veggies and measuring out spices, the night before. Then toss the ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning, and dinner'll be ready by the time you get home. Click here, here, and here for some AMAZING slow-cooker recipes. Spaghetti squash recipes are also ideal as make-ahead meals, because you can cook and prep the squash strands, and then store them in the fridge -- just heat and use like cooked spaghetti. There are also lots of Hungry Girl casserole recipes that make quite a few servings and keep well overnight... like these two kid-friendly dishes, this comforting baked chili, this veggie-loaded ziti, and this hearty Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole.

By the way, don't forget about emergency snacks! They can help you avoid that ravenous premeal state. Click here for my top picks.

There you have it -- HAPPY CHEWING!!!

Hey Lisa,

I've got a special event coming up, and I want to be able to really indulge. How do I prepare for a splurge-worthy night that I won't regret the next day?

Urge to Splurge

Hi Urge to Splurge,

I think it's important to let yourself splurge every once in a while. But there are some things you can do to avoid consuming crazy amounts of calories. Here's some advice...

Eat light, but don't skip meals during the day of the event. You may be tempted to save all of your calories for that night, but that'll just leave you starving and more likely to overdo it. If you have this night planned a bit in advance (which it seems like you do), be extra careful about what you eat during the days leading up to it. This way, the extra calories that one night won't have too much of an impact.

Get in some exercise that day. You're going to EAT extra calories, so make it a point to BURN extra calories! Same goes for the day after...

Once there, survey the scene and prioritize. Decide what's really worth indulging in. Then fill up on the lighter stuff, so you don't go too crazy with the splurges. Are you a sucker for sweets? Stick with lean protein and veggies for dinner, and then have a small slice of that triple-chocolate cheesecake. Or if the savory side dishes are calling your name, indulge, but skip the dessert table later on.

Drink lots of water. Do this leading up to the event and while you're there. Drinking water in between bites will slow down your eating, and it'll help you feel full faster. This way you can enjoy the foods you've been looking forward to, but you're less likely to keep gobbling them down once you've had your fill. Nothin' wrong with that...

Most importantly, get right back on track the next day. It's called a splurge for a reason -- it's not supposed to be an everyday occurrence. And if you're not careful, it's easy to let one night of decadent eating turn into several. So discipline yourself to get back on the smart-eating wagon -- then you'll feel more comfortable the next time you want to enjoy a good splurge!

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