Meal Prep 101: The Ultimate How To Guide

Meal Prep: Plan, prepare and get organised. Reduce food waste. Save time and money. Make healthy living easy and reach your goals!

Meal prep isn’t just for gym junkies or self-confused health nuts. 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.

The Benefits of Meal Prep

  1. Time saving: meals & snacks are planned and prepared once (or twice) a week, saving time on multiple grocery shops or searching for somewhere to pick up a healthy meal especially when you are time poor.
  2. Cost effective: let’s be honest, who enjoys paying $15 for a teeny salad that either a) doesn’t satisfy you or b) isn’t fresh and you’re not entirely sure of the quality of food that’s in it. Planning and prepping meals means only buying what you need, which is far more cost effective than regularly eating out.
  3. Health: you’ll have confidence knowing that your meals are balanced, healthy and contain good quality nourishing ingredients. So you know exactly what’s going into your body to benefit your long term health.
  4. Reach your goals: avoid getting stuck with nothing suitable to buy for lunch, conquer unhealthy eating habits, live a healthy lifestyle and reach your personal health and fitness goals. Routine and consistency are key to results.
  5. Enjoyment: when you prepare your own food you have a better appreciation for the food that’s nourishing your body. If you have a partner, spend quality time cooking together without distractions from the TV or social media.

How to Get Started

You can adjust your meal prep according to your needs, goals, and lifestyle. Firstly work out what meals or how many meals you need to make each day depending on your lifestyle. You may only need to prepare lunch and snacks, and have your breakfast and dinner at home. Or you may like to prepare all meals in advance.

For me personally I have 3 main meals and 2 snacks a day, for my partner it’s 4 main meals and sometimes a snack a day. We prepare everything except dinner in advance, as we are out the door at 5:30am to hit the gym for a fasted training session. We cook on Sundays (and sometimes Wednesday night), so we are only eating food cooked a few days in advance. If I need to I freeze foods that wont be eaten within 3-4 days.

Creating Balanced Meals

Your diet should have a balanced ratio of macros (carbohydrates, protein, fats, fibre) and be abundant in micro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants). I’ll show you below how to create a balanced healthy meal, but you can of course take advantage of ‘nutrient timing‘ and post-workout nutrition for those that are familiar with it. Of course everyone is different but the below will give you a good guide to creating a healthy sustainable diet for life.

A balanced meal looks like:

  • 1/2 plate: filled with plant-based food (i.e. non-starch vegetables). Aim for lots of colour and variety across your weekly meals to get a range of micro-nutrients and choose what’s in season as much as possible.
  • 1/4 plate: or a palm sized portion of protein such as organic chicken, fish, salmon, turkey, red meat (keep to maximum 500g per week), 2 eggs or vegetarian sources like tempeh and tofu.
  • 1/4 plate: starchy low GI carbohydrates. Good carbohydrate sources include potatoes, brown or basmati rice, quinoa, oats, teff, buckwheat, barley & legumes.
  • Finish with: high quality healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil (1-2 tbls), avocados (1/4-1/2), seeds and nuts (20-30g or small palm size).

Snacks

Aim for fresh whole foods that contain at least some protein and/or healthy fats which make you feel satiated, and stablise blood sugar levels to give you consistent energy and eliminate sugar cravings. Some of my favourite easy snack options include,

  • fresh fruit and nuts
  • small tuna tin and sliced tomato on 1-2 rice cakes
  • natural Greek yogurt with berries
  • chia pudding
  • hummus dip with veggie sticks
  • homemade banana bread or muffins
  • protein balls 
  • roasted chickpeas
  • protein smoothie

Quality

Focus on wholefoods (i.e. as close to nature as possible) and use herbs and spices, garlic, onion, mustard, citrus juices, apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar to enhance 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 we deviate from our set weekly meal plan. 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.

how-make-mason-jar-salad

MEAL PREP 101

Use BPA free or glass containers for storage and avoid microwave reheating where possible

Studies have shown that chemicals in plastics such as BPA (bisphenol A), DEHP and DBP are harmful to health. These chemicals are also known to exert estrogenic activity and act as endocrine disruptors, which means they adversely affect your hormones. Look for plastic containers with a BPA free logo, or invest in glass containers. This includes your water bottle!

Use 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. If you sign up to the BBN Tribe you’ll receive my Meal Planner template and Shopping List straight to your inbox. (P.s. I respect your privacy and never share emails or spam you, you’ll just receive the latest recipes and articles in your inbox!)

Plan out your meals and snacks for the week, then write a grocery list

This is vital to keep you organised and avoids buying food you won’t use – saving money and avoiding food waste!

Plan out the meals you eat out and include some “free meals”

This is so you remember not to make more meals than you need. Most importantly, you are creating a healthy sustainable lifestyle that makes you happy and allows you to enjoy your food. And your planned meals, whilst healthy, should be food you love! Food is there to nourish your body, but it’s also made to be enjoyed and not for obsessing over. Even if you’re sticking to a plan give yourself at least 1 “free” meal or day a week where you can eat out or cook whatever you feel like. Trust me from experience that this will not ruin your goals! Even if you are trying to lose weight for example, there are plenty of healthy options when eating out.

Don’t over-complicate it!

This isn’t Masterchef, you aren’t being judged for plating up a beautiful restaurant quality meal with 100 ingredients. Keep it simple and easy to prepare.

Variety is the spice of life

By eating a variety of food sources including lots of colourful veggies you will ensure you are getting a range of vital nutrients that your body needs to be optimally healthy.

Eat food you actually love!

There’s so much more to food than macro and micro-nutrients. When you love the food you eat, your body responds so much better. There are plenty of healthy whole food options to choose from and there is no one superfood that does it all (or perfect magical meal plan for that matter). So if you don’t like kale, don’t eat it.

 

So there you have it, you are ready to start meal planning to get you started or keep you on track with your health journey. Now head over to the recipe index page to start searching for recipe ideas and inspo.

Happy cooking!

Tris x

meal prep

References:

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0055387

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222987/

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