7:00 am. You rush out the door pretty proud that you remembered your gym bag but with no time to grab breakfast.
1:00 pm. You’ve had meetings all day and no time for lunch…luckily someone left pizza on the coffee bar.
6:00 pm. Time to meet you trainer but you’re dragging through the workout.
8:00 pm. Now you’re starving and exhausted so you hit the drive thru to make a “healthy” choice of “meat” on “lettuce”.
Our busy lives demand a lot of us and sometimes our health and wellness can fall by the wayside. If you find yourself having trouble getting adequate nutrition to reach you goals, fear not, there is a cure: meal prepping.
Simply put, meal prepping is preparing all or some of your meals for a period of time in advance. I’ll be upfront, meal prepping takes time, usually from your weekend to do the upfront work. To be successful, you must plan your meals ahead of time, and for some people, this may mean eating the same meal for 3-5 days. However, the pros of meal prepping far outweigh the cons. It’s almost impossible to achieve long-term fitness goals without smart meal preparation. Having prepped meals allows you to grab and go quickly, and it eliminates the need to make decisions about what to eat or to calculate macros on the fly. The act of prepping your meals also teaches portion control and judgement, as well as saves you money by making the same, or similar meals for 3-5 days at a time. Here are the ABCs of meal prepping to get you started on your journey.
A good container set is one of the best investments you’ll make. While not necessary, it helps to have a set of containers dedicated to prepped meals. If you’re going to take the time to prep meals on the weekend the last thing you want to do is spend 20 minutes hunting for lids or trying to master the triple-foil wrapping technique. An good container should be single-portion sized, ,microwave safe, leak proof, and preferably small enough to fit in a carrier bag. For a more detailed look at container options check out Best Meal Prep Containers – 2018 Buying Guide by Urban Vegan
Be prepared to multitask. Meal prepping requires you to make multiple parts of a meal at one. As a novice, you will instinctively want to start with one item then move to the next. Instead build a plan to prepare more than one item at a time. So while you are boiling the sweet potatoes, you can be prepping the zoodles; while baking the chicken you can work on the coconut curry shrimp on the stovetop. The keys to multi-tasking are to plan ahead, ensure you have all the ingredients, and keep your focus on cooking during prep time.
Choose a meal prep day and schedule it on the calendar. Eventually meal prepping will become second nature, like putting gas in the car, but at the start it can be easy to miss meal prep or run out of time. To avoid this, set aside a 2-hour block of time on your calendar that is dedicated to meal prep and stick to it. Sunday is the most widely used meal prep day because it close enough to the week and often the least busy day. However, the key is to find a routine that is manageable for you, whether you prep for 4 hours on Mondays or 1 hour on Fridays. The key is to be consistent.
Deciding what to eat can be challenging. After all you could be selecting breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next five days. Here are some guide points to get you started:
Determine your calorie count and if you’re advanced list out your macros per meal.
Search for recipes with the calorie count you need.
Make substitutions as need but be sure to check the calories on any substituted items. Use a tool similar to Calorie King to get the nutritional facts on any added items.
Select a protein(s) for each meal
Decide on a dressing for the protein
Add your favorite go-to veggie and starch
Voila! You have a meal!
Need more help? Don’t worry. There’s an app for that. Check out Digital Trends guide to the best meal planning apps.
Easier is better for a novice meal prepper. To start, select only one or two meals to prep. For example, you may choose to meal prep only lunch for the week or only dinner. This will allow you to get comfortable with the process and ensure that you always have a healthy option for at least one meal per day. Over time you can work your way up to a full meal plan.
As tempting as it may be, resist the urge to make beef wellington and instead reach for something simpler like baked salmon with broccoli. Before you say it, there is no need to sacrifice flavor and first bite enjoyment. Instead look for simple options that you will enjoy. For a great list of easy, tasty, and healthy meals check out Kevin Curry’s blog Fit Men Cook
Equipped with these ABCs you should be on your way to becoming a meal prep ninja. Be sure to check back in and share your meal prep stories.
Danie is a fitnesspreneur with a passion for bringing total wellness to the communities she serves. A D.C. native, Danie now lives in Houston TX where she owns a mobile training business. She holds a bachelor's, master's and 10+ fitness certifications.