Do you meal prep? If you're following a specialized diet, don't have time to cook every day, or are looking to eat clean without having to pay for a food-delivery service, then meal prepping is for you. The premise behind meal prepping is to take one or two days a week and prepare all of your food for the next three to four days. You can prep just one meal (dinner) or all three meals and snacks ahead of time. The key to successful meal prepping is having a PLAN.
SCHEDULE A DAY (or two)
Make a plan. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. If it helsps, put an alert on your phone or google calendar to set a reminder- you might think this is silly, but if you’re a beginning you’re introducing a new habit and this is going to feel like work in the beginning. Sit down and write down your plan for meals for the week and make yourself a shopping list to make sure you have all the ingredients you require. If you don't mind leftovers, then meal prepping will be a breeze. Otherwise, perhaps meal prepping twice in the week is a better choice for you (maybe Sunday and Wednesday).
Here are the basics to planning any meal: pick a protein, a starch and a variety of vegetables (if you’re my client, that food exchange list will be your best friend!). Stick to condiments (again, clients this is that approved condiments list!) that can be heated and won’t spoil your food when they are reheated when it’s time to eat.
I can’t express how important this part of the plan is. If you don’t have the ingredients and items at home to prepare your meals, you have prematurely set yourself up for failure. Make a list, and stick to it – eyes can wonder at the grocery store with all those temptations around.
Make sure that all of your storage containers that you plan to use to reheat are BPA free. It is helpful to have a few sizes that can accommodate either meals or snacks. The 24 oz. containers (square or rectangle) are great for lunches and dinners, while the ½- or 1-cup size is better for snacks. The lock containers I find are the best so they don’t “pop” open by accident in your bag when you’re traveling.
I also highly recommend getting twist on top small sauce containers to separate any other condiments that you’d like to incorporate
1. Cook all of your proteins at the same time. For example, make a batch of turkey meatloaf muffins while the chicken breasts are cooking in the oven. If you are cooking five chicken breasts, for example, season each one with a different blend of spices to keep you from getting bored with what you eat.
2. Vegetables can be raw (salad), steamed, stir-fried or roasted. If you are cooking your vegetables, make sure to cut them into same-size pieces, so that they will be done cooking at approximately the same time. Roasting vegetables brings out the natural sweetness in them, making it our favorite cooking method. Make sure to add some fresh or dried herbs and healthy oil (coconut, olive) to maximize flavor. Be careful with the amount of oil you use (this can really add up the calories) and try to keep a variety of steamed, raw, and baked in your diet.
3. Grains can be cooked up once for the whole week. A pot of quinoa, brown rice or amaranth will last for five days.
4. Bake sweet potatoes, butternut squash or spaghetti squash at the same time you are cooking your chicken in the oven.
4. Do you have a slow cooker? You can put everything in there and let it do the cooking for you. It's also great for making oatmeal.
5. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day as it jump-starts your metabolism and gives your body and brain the fuel it needs to function. Plus, it helps curb cravings later in the day, which will make it easier to meet your calorie goals. You can make egg omelettes in muffin tins, bake up batches of high-protein muffins, get your overnight oats soaking in the fridge, or whip up a batch of high-protein pancakes and portion them out into baggies and refrigerate or freeze them until you're ready to use them.
6. If you are trying to maintain specific macronutrient goals (proteins, fats, carbs) each day, that should factor into what recipes you choose. Knowing how each macronutrient converts into calories will also help provide more accurate information:
1g of Protein = 4 Calories
1g of Carbohydrates = 4 Calories
1g of Fat = 9 Calories
Using a kitchen scale can help you with things like this.
7. Focus on SIMPLE meals – you can add spices etc. later when you are ready to eat your meal. For example – bake some chicken breasts and steam some mixed vegetables and add seasonsings after you have separated them so you have some variety of flavours day-to-day.
8. Multitask- meal prepdoes NOT have to be hours upon hours. You can bake sweet potatoes in the oven the same time you are cooking chicken breasts and perhaps egg omelettes in muffin tins.