Meal Prep 101: The ultimate how to guide. Plan, prepare and get organised. Save time and money. Make healthy living easy and reach your goals!
Meal prep isn’t just for competitors, gym junkies or the like. It doesn’t mean weighing all your food or calorie counting, or never eating out. Meal prep is something we do every single week, and I’d recommend everyone to do. Whether you work long hours, are motivated to maintain health and fitness goals, or simply want to enjoy a long healthy full life, you can master the art of meal prep and reap the healthy rewards of this simple routine. Planning a weekly menu and cooking all these meals at once may seem time-consuming, but prepping food in advance can actually save you an incredible amount time.
- You will save time in the kitchen during the week because all your snacks and meals will be prepared.
- You will save money by not making impulse purchases due to an empty fridge or wasting food you have bought but not used.
- You will have confidence in knowing that your meals are balanced and healthy and contain good quality nourishing ingredients so you know exactly what’s going into your body.
- You can conquer unhealthy eating habits, live a healthy lifestyle and reach your personal health and fitness goals because you have created a routine. Consistency is key.
Meal Prep Basics:
You will have to adjust your food prep according to your needs, goals, and lifestyle. For me personally that means 4 meals and 1 snack a day, for my partner it’s 5 meals a day. We usually cook on Sundays and Wednesday nights, so we are only eating food cooked a few days in advance at most. If I need to I freeze foods that wont be eaten within 3 days.
Additionally, we focus on REAL food and use herbs and spices, mustard, citrus, apple cider or balsamic vinegars to create flavour . This means nothing processed or artificial, no bottled sauces (with the exception of Tamari and Sriracha Hot Sauce that we are partial to!) and avoid foods known to be GMO (genetically modified).
Of course on occasion I deviate from my set weekly menu. A piece or two of chocolate here, a glass of wine or a dinner out with friends there — food is meant to be shared and enjoyed not cause you anxiety over.
With every meal try to focus on plants first, then a balanced ratio of good quality protein, fat and carbohydrates. Fill 1/2 of your plate with a mix of colourful in season vegetables. A palm sized serve of protein such as chicken, fish, eggs, lean pork, turkey, lean red meat (keep red meat to about 500g per week) and vegetarian sources like tofu and tempeh. Starchy carbohydrates should take up about 1/4 of your plate. You can adjust this if you prefer to take advantage of nutrient timing (for example I eat a larger serve post workout and less later in the day). Good slow release carbohydrates include potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, oats, teff and buckwheat. Then use good quality fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and seeds and nuts for cooking or snacking. If you love fruit, keep to 1-2 serves per day either in meals or snacks on their own. Then there are plenty of options for occasional healthy snacks like natural Greek yogurt, hommus dip, homemade banana bread or muffin, protein balls etc. Use these ingredients and assemble your individual meals according to your desired portion size.
MEAL PREP 101:
- Create a meal planner template.
It’s so much easier to simply type or write into and stick on your fridge in front of your eyes. It’s also handy for creating grocery shopping lists. (Feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll happily send you my own template to use).
- Start by planning out how many meals and snacks you eat each day.
For example I have 4 meals and 1 snack. It’s just what works for me – it really doesn’t matter how many you have so long as it suits your lifestyle and goals.
- Plan out the meals you eat out and include some “free meals”.
This stops you buying food you won’t use. Even if your being a little more restrictive or sticking to a plan, give yourself at least 1 “free” meal a week where you can eat out or cook whatever you feel like. Trust me from experience that 1 free meal will not ruin your goals and it does not mean you aren’t healthy! Food is there to nourish your body yes, but it’s also made to be enjoyed and not for obsessing over. If you are trying to lose weight, factor in your treats. It keeps you accountable and stops you overeating.
- Plan out your meals and snacks for the week, then write a grocery list
This is vital to keep you organised. We cook dinner fresh at home & my partner cooks his breakfast fresh in the morning. These are easiest to plan compared to pre-prepared meals which you have to consider how long they stay fresh for. Then if it suits you, make enough extra of it to pack and serve for lunch the next day.
- Don’t OVERCOMPLICATE it!
This isn’t Masterchef, you aren’t being judged for plating up a beautiful restaurant quality meal with 100 ingredients. Keep it simple or you will never stick to it.
6. Ensure plenty of variety.
Eating the same meal 3 times a day isn’t doing you any favours. You can stick to the same macro (protein, carbs, fats) breakdown for your meals if you have a particular plan, but switch up the macro source and veggies. It gives your body (and mind) variety of micronutrients whilst sticking to your goals. I.e. If you always eat chicken, brown rice and vege for lunch, alternate it with roo, salad and sweet potato; swap oats for quinoa flakes. ALWAYS go for lots of colourful veg.
7. Eat food you actually love!
There are plenty of healthy real food options to choose from and there is no one “superfood” that does it all (or magical meal plan that makes you lose weight for that matter). So if you don’t like kale, don’t eat it.
- As soon as you become bored with a meal, change it.
It will keep you excited to eat the food you prepare instead of looking elsewhere.
10. Use BPA free or glass containers for storage and avoid microwave reheating where possible
So there you have it, hopefully all the info you need to get you started or keep you on track with your health journey. Happy cooking!