Helping Shoppers Meal Prep – Interview with Cookbook Author Toby Amidor

Helping Shoppers Meal Prep – Interview with Cookbook Author Toby Amidor

August 16, 2017

By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor

In our interview, Toby Amidor, MS, RD nutrition expert and author of The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook: Easy and Wholesome Meals to Cook, Prep, Grab and Go discusses how “meal prepping” could be used at supermarkets to help shoppers enjoy meals at home that are delicious, balanced, quick, and portable.

What is the main focus of your new cookbook?
One of the hottest trends right now is meal prepping. Consumers are scheduling and planning time to prepare and cook several meals at a time and packing them so they’re ready to grab and go. Meal prepping also allows advanced planning for super-quick meals during the week, so all the necessary ingredients are on hand.  

What do you feel are the biggest barriers individuals and families have regarding creating healthier meals?
The biggest barrier to eating healthier meals is time. Many individuals wait until the last minute to prepare a meal during the weeknight rush and find they don’t have the energy to go to the supermarket and pick up ingredients, prep and cook them. With weekly meal prepping you will spend some time in the kitchen on a set day but overall you will have more quality time with loved ones during the week. Another barrier is money. It’s a misconception that eating healthy is more expensive. When you meal prep, you can actually save money! You know what you are going to cook and purchase accordingly. 

Supermarket RDNs need to direct people across the entire store for meal solutions and drive awareness to new, better-for-you products. How does your cookbook promote all store products?
I incorporate easy-to-find foods from a wide variety of departments at the supermarket including whole grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy, healthy fats, and lean protein. I am an advocate of using canned beans, lentils, and peas, along with frozen fruit and vegetables. Also, writing a shopping list in the order of where the foods are found in the store makes total store shopping easier. 

What promotional programs could be used to engage shoppers in meal prep? 
A retail RDN can demonstrate a meal prep recipe or even show customers how to use a slow cooker to their advantage during a busy week. Stores can also have authors come in for cookbook signings and cooking demonstrations, to promote meal prepping. Having recipes and cookbooks available at the store can help guide customers to proper meal prep at the point-of-purchase.

What key meal planning tips have you found to be most effective with helping families eat healthier meals at home?

  1. Start simple: Begin with simple meals that are easy to pull off and enjoy. The recipes you’ll find in The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook usually contain 7 to 10 easy-to-find ingredients 
  2. Plan a prep day: You will need time to select recipes, generate a shopping list, and cook the recipes. Start with 2-3 recipes and then build your way up. 
  3. Use ingredients you already have: Meal prepping should make your life as easy as possible—and using common, easy-to-find ingredients is just another way of accomplishing that. 
  4. Have the right storage containers: A good storage container helps protect the flavor, color, and texture of the food. The right container reduces the food’s exposure to air, which helps maintain the quality of the meal. Choose containers that are leak-proof, stackable, and BPA-free. 

How can supermarkets use social media more and/or better to help customers plan and prepare balanced meals?
Supermarkets can create a meal prep marketing campaign via social media. First, they can post or link to several healthy recipes. Second, remind customers to create a shopping list (or the supermarket can generate one and put it out on social media) and head to the supermarket. Third, recommend that clients start their meal prepping (one day over the weekend). Message about balancing meals using a variety of foods and give examples of healthier meals and snacks. 

Links to Toby’s cookbook and a sample recipe:
Tuna Nicoise Salad: