As a lover of exercise, I tend to slack on the nutrition side of things thinking that if I just burn every calorie I’ll be fine! Newsflash: it just doesn’t work that way. When you hear people say that healthy living and weight management requires 20% (some say 30%) exercise and 80% nutrition, believe them. Especially as we get older, our health and waistlines truly start to mirror what we put in our bodies. If you eat clean, lean foods, it will show. If you eat fatty, non-nutritious foods, you’ll start to see that on the outside as well.
If you’re looking to improve your nutrition, one of the best ways to keep your meals in check is through meal prep. It’s a not-so-new phenomenon that your mom probably used when she baked a huge pot roast at the beginning of the week and served it up in multiple variations all week long. With meal prep, you can prepare all your foods for the week so that there are no surprises, fewer temptations, and lots of healthy, delicious foods to eat all week long! If you don’t know where to start with meal prepping, keep on reading for 4 steps to get you on your way!
Step 1: Make a Menu
This step is similar to writing an outline before you dive into a serious essay. The easiest way to figure out what foods to put on your grocery list is to make a menu of several dishes you want during the week. I like to make two large dinner options, a light lunch, and keep breakfast really simple. Make sure your menu covers you for about 5 days, which means 5 breakfasts, 5 or 10 snacks, 5 lunches, and 5 dinners. For breakfast, you could make a pot of oatmeal, or bag up smoothie ingredients for 5 days. For lunch, you could make a large soup and add a salad, or use the protein from your dinner to top a salad or sandwich. I usually grab a few pieces of fruit or yogurt for snacks, and sometimes a few protein bars to jazz it up. Then for dinner, I always make two dishes, like a large piece of fish, and several chicken breasts because I don’t like to eat the same dinner 5 days straight. And there you have it! Your menu can be as fancy or simple as you want it. Here’s my most basic meal plan menu below:
- Sample Menu:
Step 2: Buy Groceries (and containers)
Once you have your menu, grocery shopping is a breeze. Before you go shopping, jot down all the ingredients you need, and make sure that you purchase quantities that will last you all week! Also, you’ll want to purchase enough containers to hold each meal separately so that everything is already pre-portioned for you all week long. I like glass containers as they are better in the microwave, and easy to clean! You can buy a whole set at Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Step 3: Get to Cookin’
This step is simple enough. Most people cook everything on Sunday and some split it up. I usually do my cooking on Saturday, but save some crockpot/slow cooker item for Sunday (I only have one crockpot people!) Whenever you decide to do it, just be prepared to be cooking for a while (typically for 2-3 hours). Especially if you make a number of meals like I do, since I’m not a fan of 6th time leftovers. But the beauty in meal prep is that it’s all up to you!
This is the last and most important step. The way you package your food will be essential to sticking to your meal plan, and making sure everything lasts you all week. Sometimes I make the mistake of keeping my chili stored in the Crock Pot and serve it up as I like. This never, ever works for portion control. Instead you should pack entire meals separately, if you can. For example, I’ll put one serving of chili and spinach in the same container and pack up three separate containers of that meal combination. If you are using your dinner item (turkey burger) with salad for lunch, pack up a small amount of the dinner item and then pack the dry salad ingredients together. If you really want to stay on track, it can be a huge help to label your containers by the day of the week. That way, you may deter yourself from eating Thursday’s dinner as seconds on Tuesday night. I personally do not label my containers, but it would only help me at this point!
What are some of your meal prep tricks?
Any favorite recipes that you like to use for a big batch of food?
Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time, keep it moving (and cooking)!
Copyright GetFitLikeThat.com September 2015