Are you finding it difficult keeping a healthy diet? Do you often find yourself spending way too much on food everyday? Well, meal prep could just be the perfect solution for your woes.
What’s meal prepping?
Avoid the temptations of eating at fast food restaurants and your packaged food cravings by preparing your meals ahead of time. Yes, you’re busy and cooking everyday sounds like a lot of work. This is where meal prepping comes in. Meal prepping is cooking a few dishes and portioning them out for a week’s consumption.
It is very common that people fail to stick to a healthy diet because of poor nutrition decisions every time they go out to buy their food for each meal. Opting for meal prep alleviates chances of you making bad choices for your food intake every meal time. Since your meals are ready for you, you just need to eat.
What are the benefits of meal prepping?
By now, you should be pretty convinced to try meal prepping. But let’s breakdown what you are actually getting out of this:
First, planning your meals is cost efficient. If you breakdown the cost of your grocery shopping, compared to how much you really spend buying food every meal time. You will realize how much money you can actually save if you only spend a little more time planning your meals ahead of time. Aside from this, you can also avoid unnecessary add-ons to your meals that you only got tempted to buy at the last minute or out of a sudden craving.
When you start meal prepping, you only need to have the discipline of sticking to the food you prepared. And this could be as easy as avoiding going out of the office on breaks, or reducing your daily allowance so you literally cannot afford buying more food.
Second advantage of meal prepping is that you can monitor exactly what you eat. This is especially good for people who have a sensitive stomach or allergies. When you cook your own meals, you know what exactly you put in your mouth. Meal planning will also help you achieve your fitness goals easier. You can easily reduce sugars in your diet or increase your protein intake when you have more visibility on what you eat.
Lastly, meal prepping requires less time. You are probably asking now how this is possible if you have to dedicate some time of your sweet weekend cooking when you can just relax and pay for cooked meals. You might not be counting the time you spend deciding what to get or the hours you wait to be served your food.
With meal prepping, you only dedicate a few hours of a weekend for a week’s worth of food. After this, all you have to do is reheat and eat!
Tips and tricks to get you started
Okay, now you’re really sold to the idea of cooking your meals. If you are someone who has never done anything like this before or you cannot even remember the last time you cooked yourself a proper meal, it’s understandable that all this could sound pretty overwhelming, and it should not be.
As long as you keep in mind that the goal of meal prepping is simplifying your eating habits, meal prepping should not be burdensome for you. If it is, then you might be doing it wrong, or you could be overdoing it.
Here are some advice on how you can start your journey to better eating habits.
1. Count the number meals you need for the week.
Count how many breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals you will need through the week ahead. Factor in any scheduled dine-outs like dates, client meetings, or get-togethers with friends. This way, you can plan your meals more efficiently and you can avoid wasting food.
Say for example, you need 12 meals for a workweek. You do not need to actually cook 12 separate dishes. You could prepare a few large batches of dishes and divide them into portions. You can also pre-cook meats and vegetables that can be used in different ways. A good example is pesto chicken. It’s very easy to prepare, and you can eat it as a sandwich, pasta, or with greens as salad.
2. Go for simple, easy-to-cook meals.
Grilled chicken sounds really promising, but grilling requires a lot of attention and effort that may hinder you from continuing the habit of meal prepping in the future. It’s recommended to opt for easier methods of cooking such as using the oven or slow cooker. This way, you can just toss a few ingredients and monitor its progress over a period of time.
You should also stay away from recipes that require a lot of ingredients and has complex preparation procedures. Protein, vegetable, and starch — this simple meal format could be your guide in deciding your meals. For example, for lunch you can have salmon, carrots and peas, and sweet potato.
3. Don’t forget to add a few quick snacks.
Let’s be honest, the munchies will hit you. This is typical especially if you have a stationary job and you have to work long hours. Prevent yourself from going for convenience store foods or vending machine when you want to snack on something. Instead, prepare small portions of food that you can eat everyday such as nuts, fruits, or hard boiled eggs.
4. List down your ingredients.
Once you’re done with meal planning for the week, write down all the ingredients you will need. This way you can see which items you already have and which ones you need to purchase. This will greatly help you be more efficient on your grocery shopping.
Organize your list according to categories such as meats, produce, dairy, seasoning, and more. Try to schedule your weekly shopping on Saturday afternoon or early Sunday, so you can have the Sunday night to prepare your meals.
Additional tip: Make sure to have a full stomach before hitting the grocery store to avoid unnecessary food item purchases.
5. Keep track of how long you’re keeping food at the fridge.
Make sure your goods don’t go bad by tracking the foods you store in your fridge. A good practice is labeling them with dates on when you stored them, and their best before date. This way, you can prevent unprecedented oversights and you can make sure you consume the right meals in order.
You can keep cooked meat refrigerated for up to three to four days. If you plan on keeping it longer, you should opt for the freezer instead. You should also be mindful when storing your greens and fruits.
And that’s it! After your first week of meal prepping, you will realize how much more creative you can get with your food. Over time, it would not feel like work anymore and it could easily turn into a habit.
You can gather a list of familiar recipes you love so it would be easier to plan your week’s menu. However, you should make it a point to keep your meals exciting and varied by looking up new recipes to try every once in a while. Effective meal prepping is all about being smart with your food planning and having fun while you’re at it. Enjoy!