I’ve alway been a packed lunch sorted of girl. I think it’s the way I was brought up; we hardly bought food when we were out because well, “there’s food at home” and if we were going to be out all day then my Mum would say “pack a snack.” She wasn’t stopping for a Happy Meal; eat your snack or wait until you get home. Even now I take packed lunch to work, uni and sometimes even Church. When I started looking after myself and eating healthier I took it up a level and started to meal prep. You may have heard of this concept and I highly recommend it if you’re trying to stay on track of a healthy lifestyle and you’re busy or don’t like cooking.
‘Meal prep’ is a phrase commonly used in the fitness, weight loss and body building world. It’s pretty simple really; to meal prep is to prepare your meals in advance. It’s not a process unique to those trying to live healthier lives, people do it all the time; mothers might prepare a day’s worth of meals for their babies in advance, busy students might cook two day’s worth of meals or those working night shifts may cook meals in ahead of time.
The reason meal prep is so popular in the fitness realm is because eating healthy foods and avoiding tempting junk food is a big struggle but when you’ve already planned and prepared what to eat, avoiding temptation is much easier. Planning a day of healthy meals and snacks is the easy part; it’s preparing them and actually eating them that can be hard. After a long day at work it’s much easier to order a takeaway or grab something sugary out of the cupboard or even skip dinner but if you’ve already prepared a meal, all you have to do is heat it up. When trying to lose weight especially, knowing what you’re going to eat each day is crucial. Leaving it to chance or ‘how you feel’ can result in disaster. Your heart might feel like salmon and green beans but your stomach might feel like meal number 4 from the local chicken and chip shop.
Meal prep is NOT about eating the same thing every day. The reason most people, myself included, prepare the same lunch and dinner for a week is simply because it is easier. If the thought of eating the same spicy quinoa and lentils every day makes you feel sick then that is perfectly fine. You can meal prep for one day or for two or for a whole seven days – it’s up to you! The only essential element is that your meals are healthy and meet your personal goals. Meal prep is about convenience; whether it’s 7 days worth of meals in tupperware ready to grab and take to work or a huge pot of bulgar wheat in the fridge ready to add to a salad when you get home. Do whatever works for you and your goals.
Personally, I don’t like to cook. (I know, I’ll make a terrible wife but we’ll cross that frightening bridge when we get to it) So, for me meal prepping is perfect; I only have to spend time in the kitchen once a week and I know I’ll be eating healthy meals all week. I used to work longer hours so I would prep 6 lunches and 6 dinners and then on Saturdays eat something else, once upon a time I even prepped breakfast, (egg muffins) but now I prep lunch and then cook a fresh dinner at home. Choose what you will do depending on the time you have to cook during the week and the discipline you know you have in terms of choosing healthy meals.
So here is how I do it: (please note that everyone’s body is different and so my meals may not be ideal for you, I eat according to my personal goals and what works for me. For a personalised healthy meal plan please get in touch and I’d be happy to help.)
Step 1: Plan your meals
Don’t just cook up huge random pots of brown rice, sweet potato, green beans and a tray of baked salmon because you’ve seen everyone else doing it, plan a week’s worth of food according to your goals and write them down. I like to use the ‘notes app’ on my iphone but you could use a diary or notepad. For advice on putting together a healthy meal see my posts on clean eating. Decide what you will be eating every day for the next week for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
Step 2: Write a shopping list
Now that you know what you will be eating, you need to go and get all of the ingredients. Make a shopping list with the food you’ll need for each meal and stick to it; this saves time, money and ensures that you don’t end up throwing Ben & Jerry’s into your trolley. Also, you’ll need tupperware for all of your meals.
Step 3: Get cooking
Most people meal prep on Sundays, ready for the working week. Most Sundays I still have leftovers from the past week so I usually meal prep on Mondays. Again, do what works for you and your weekly schedule. Your first meal prep cooking session might take forever, especially if you’re cooking multiple meals but after a few weeks you’ll get the hang of it and you’ll be whipping up 14 meals in no time.
Step 4: Portion your meals
Food portions are extremely important. Just because the rice is brown it doesn’t mean you should eat half the pot for dinner. You could use a food scale to weigh out portions sizes or go by rough guides such as the one below. Try to make the majority of your meal fruit or vegetables, then protein and then finally your carbohydrate or starch of choice. Portion your food out into your tupperware and then once they have cooled you could put them in the fridge or freezer. Most meals will last a couple days in the fridge but you could freeze things if you’re prepping for longer periods of time or you don’t think the food will keep.
Step 5: Enjoy!
If you don’t like it then don’t cook it. The whole point of this is to have healthy meals on hand to avoid making bad choices. If you hate the taste of asparagus soup then you’re not going to eat it; you’ll end up buying a burger instead. Cook tasty meals that you will look forward to whipping out of your bag at lunch time or coming home to. Meal prepping is about convenience, discipline and avoiding unhealthy temptations. Do it because you love your body and want to fuel it properly. If you need help with yours then don’t be afraid to contact me.
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