MEAL PREP 101

BEGINNERS GUIDE TO A SUCCESSFUL MEAL PREP

I am pretty sure you’ve all heard this saying before, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” I know, harsh isn’t it? Well it’s inevitably true; especially when it comes to eating healthy. Whether you’re a single mother, a student, or working full time, most of us are too busy in our day-to-day lives to prepare our meals at home each day. This is where meal prepping can quickly become your best friend!

What is meal prepping?

Meal prepping is a dieting tool most often used by professional athletes, physique models, and bodybuilders alike. Meal prepping allows dieters to accurately track and consume the proper amount of macronutrients required to achieve a desired dietary outcome. Nonetheless, meal prepping is also a method that can be beneficial to the average individual; especially those looking to eat healthier and/or save time and money.

Benefits of Meal Prepping
1. Makes it easier for you to eat clean and healthy!

When you prepare your own meals, you know exactly what you’re eating. You can hand pick each ingredient, measure it out to your own specifications and cook it according to your preferences. The closer you are to the production of your own meals, the more confident you can be that you know exactly what you’re putting into your body. While most restaurants do make their ingredients available, there are many aspects of the cooking process you will never see. This isn’t to say that anyone is harming the food they’re serving you; it simply means you have little to no control of the nutritional value of your food. Whether you’re using an online program to count calories, tracking your macro nutrient breakdown, or simply working to avoid allergens, prepping your own food gives you ultimate control.

2.  Helps you save money on food expenses.

When you prepare your own meals, you know exactly what you’re eating. You can hand pick each ingredient, measure it out to your own specifications and cook it according to your preferences. The closer you are to the production of your own meals, the more confident you can be that you know exactly what you’re putting into your body. While most restaurants do make their ingredients available, there are many aspects of the cooking process you will never see. This isn’t to say that anyone is harming the food they’re serving you; it simply means you have little to no control of the nutritional value of your food. Whether you’re using an online program to count calories, tracking your macro nutrient breakdown, or simply working to avoid allergens, prepping your own food gives you ultimate control.

3.  Makes preparing your own meals quick and easy.

Not only will meal prepping help you save money, but it’ll also give you more time in the evening to relax or better yet, hit the gym. When prepping your meals, you’ll be cooking in bulk, which means you’ll have plenty of leftovers. This is such a lifesaver! I mean let’s be honest, after working 8 hours, sitting in traffic, and rushing home to make dinner, most of us lose the motivation to do anything else. We’re either too tired or its too late in the day.

Meal Prepping 101

Well before starting your actual prep, let’s make sure you have the essentials. Because you will most likely be measuring your foods, you’ll need to invest in a food scale; nothing fancy, just a basic scale that reads in grams or ounce—or both. If you do not already have one, don’t panic; you can order them online or purchase one fairly cheap at Wal-Mart or Target. You’ll also need measuring cups, and some good quality tupperware containers. These can be plastic or the glass variety. Keep in mind, you are going to be reheating your food in these, so you want to choose ones that are BPA free and won’t fall apart in the microwave/oven. Also, if you are going to be prepping for a number of consecutive days, it can be a good idea to buy containers that are the same sizes so they can be easily stacked—lets avoid you having to play Tetris in your fridge.

Planning

The next thing you need to do is set a prepping routine. Remember, “failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” so it’s important you find a routine that works well for you. If you’re just starting out, the last thing you want to do is overwhelm yourself; it defeats the whole purpose. Cooking up a whole week’s worth of meals is a big task; even the best of us can struggle to get it done from time to time. I’d recommend breaking your prep up into two days to help you get you used to the process. This means you’ll have two designated prep days; ideally, one at the start the week and another in the middle of the week. Nonetheless, this will ultimately take some trial and error before you can expect to get settled into a routine that fits your lifestyle and preferences.

Cooking

When prepping, focus on foods that are easy to cook in bulk, and can be packaged and stored easily. I’d suggest you start by mixing and matching from these categories:

  • Protein: Boneless skinless chicken breast, lean ground turkey, flank steak, and pork tenderloin.

  • Carbohydrates: Leafy green vegetables, oats, brown rice, wild rice, whole grain pasta, wholegrain tortillas and bread.

  • Healthy fats: Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, almond butter, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.

Now it doesn’t matter what you choose to prep, if it doesn’t taste well you’ll probably dread eating it. Unless you are a hardcore clean eater, cooking up five pounds of plain chicken breast and steamed broccoli probably won’t float your boat. Let’s make meal prepping not only convenient, but also an enjoyable experience for you. Now, this doesn’t mean I expect you to chief up gourmet concoctions like chicken parmesan and sushi wraps; save the decadence for a fresh meal—when you actually have the time. Nonetheless, there are so many ways to prep your food so that it tastes amazing, without compromising the nutritional integrity.  

Start by incorporating a variety of flavors, using original spices, homemade marinades, and dressings. Personally, I cook my food with very little seasonings to avoid high sodium; instead, I like to flavor my lean proteins and veggies with different spices or some sort of hot sauce. Hot sauces and spices not only make your food taste that much better, they’re also low in calories and have huge metabolic benefits. 

How much time should I spend meal prepping?

Well, it all depends on how much food you’re prepping and your experience level. Nonetheless, spend as least time as possible in the actual kitchen. Personally,

I spend maybe an hour in total prepping my meals for the week; this includes, chopping/cutting, seasoning, cooking, cleaning, and packaging. I’ll explain how:

  1. I pre-heat my oven to 350 degrees (also depends on what I’m cooking), marinade or season my proteins, place them in a baking pan with foil over the top, set a timer, and pop it the oven. I do the same with my potatoes.

  2. ​I also have a rice cooker (I recommend investing in one). So when I cook rice, I just pour the desired serving size into the cooker, add twice as much water, put the lid on and press start. It’s that easy. I do the same with my vegetables—only, I use a pot instead of the cooker.

  3. I clean my dishes as I go, so I don’t have a big mess to clean afterwards.

  4. While my food is cooking, I can get other things done such as cleaning my house, laundry, and/or meal planning for clients. Sometime I even leave my home to run quick errands.

What about the foods that I prefer to eat fresh?

It’s okay to prep specific foods on a day-to-day basis; there are just some foods that taste absolutely disgusting reheated. For example, I love my veggie omelets in the morning, but no one likes three-day-old chopped tomatoes and reheated eggs. Therefore, if I wanted to prepare an omelet for breakfast I would chop my ingredients and portion them into separate containers ahead of time. This way, my only tasks would be a mixing my ingredients and cooking the eggs. This is an excellent example of how meal prepping can be flexible to fit your lifestyle and preference. 

Conclusion

Once you’ve finish cooking your food, complete your prep by packaging and storing your meals in their rightful place—which is most likely the fridge. And whallah! You’ve officially completed your meal prep. You should now be ready to conquer the week with a healthy, fresh mindset. Just grab your packaged meals on your way out the door, and reheat them as needed. After reading this article, I hope you have a better understanding of what meal prepping is, and more importantly, how to do it! Remember to customize your prep so that it’s comfortable for you and is convenient to your lifestyle. 

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