What is meal prep?
Meal prep is planning and preparing your meals ahead of time. Usually, meals are prepared 3-5 days in advance to assure proper nutrition and portion size. This can include just meals prepared during the times that are most difficult to get a good nutritious meal, or it can include healthy good snacks that are readily available during your busy schedule.
Why should I meal prep?
Preparing meals ahead of time will help you make healthy choices. Instead of running to the nearest drive thru, you’ll have a prepared meal/snack that can be heated up faster than you can walk or drive down the street. It will also give you more time during your day and save you money while you’re at it.
Doesn’t that take a lot of time?
Essentially, it should save you time in the kitchen and make it easier for you to eat healthier during the week. I am sure you have all heard this saying before “failing to plan is planning to fail”. I know this may sound a bit harsh but it is SO true, especially when it comes to preparing your meals. Most of us are pretty busy in our day-to-day lives. Whether you are a mom, dad, student or working full time, it can be hard (or absolutely impossible!) to cook all of your meals at home each day. This is where meal preparation (aka “meal prep") can quickly become your best friend! Without meal prep, you increase your chances of eating junk or convenience foods if you get busy or caught without food.
How do I plan for meal prep? Before starting your meal prep, the first thing you need to do is PLAN for it. If you are just starting out with meal prep, don’t overwhelm yourself! Cooking up a whole week’s worth of meals is a big task and even the best of us can struggle with that. My biggest tip is to ensure that it is manageable! I recommend sticking to a few days at a time to help you get used to the process.
Having a meal plan is very important! There is no use going to the grocery store tossing random things in your cart and hoping for the best when you come out. In order for your meal prep to work, you need to know what you are cooking and when. Like I mentioned before, organizing a whole week can be intimidating, so try and stick to 3-4 days at a time if that seems more manageable. Write down each breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack you will be eating, then break that down into a list of ingredients, and how much of each you will need to last over that 3-4 day period. It is best to stick to tried and tested recipes so that you don’t end up cooking a bunch of food you don’t really like.
It is also a good idea to use recipes that can be prepared in advance and won’t spoil. For example, egg muffins are a great breakfast that can sit in your fridge for a few days.
What if I don’t know how to cook?
Food prep can be anything. You don’t necessarily need to cook all your meals completely. It can mean chopping up onions, peppers, or other vegetables ahead of time for recipes. Washing fruits and vegetables so they are ready for snacks. Portioning out healthy snacks, or other food items for meal additions. Cutting up chicken or beef to be recipe ready. Whatever is going to work for your plan and schedule. There is no right or wrong way to meal plan. As long as the food matches your fitness plan, it will assist you with being on top of your nutrition game.
How do I know what to prepare?
The options are endless when it comes to prepping food ahead of time, so there really is no right or wrong way to do it. Basically, it comes down to just making time and getting it done. However, just like any weight loss strategy, to be sustainable it needs to fit into your lifestyle. Basically, this means do what works for you. If the only thing you want to prep each week are hardboiled eggs then that’s perfectly OK. Or, maybe you find it helpful to make Mason jar salads, grilled chicken, and a couple slow cooker stews. Whatever will meet YOUR needs. Don’t get bogged down in thinking it has to be done a certain way. Also, it is very important to remember that I have been doing this for years. I have lots of practice and made my fair share of mistakes. What works for me might not work for you. I share the strategies and tips I have learned along the way in hopes that you will take and adapt them to fit into your lifestyle.