Meal Prep 101
WHAT IS IT AND HOW DO I DO IT?
As our lives are so busy, we are often on the go and it becomes a challenge to eat healthy and consistent. This is where meal prepping can make a big difference. Meal prepping involves pre preparing your meals in advance for a set number of days or meal times.
If you are unsure how to meal prep, you are not alone! These tips, ideas and a step by step guide to meal prep guide may help you get started.
Tips to meal prep with ease
Don’t try to prep it all
When starting out, don’t try and make ahead your entire weekly meals. This will completely overwhelm you. Start slow. The first week prep 1 or 2 meal times plus snacks and as you get comfortable with the process you can begin to prep more.
Choose which meals, if made ahead of time, would make the biggest difference in your week
If you are short on time or don’t have the energy to prepare a lot of food then prioritise your meals. Which meal times, if made ahead of time, is going to make your week easier? If mornings are busy for you and you tend to run out of time for a healthy breakfast then focus on preparing breakfast in advance. If it’s lunch or dinner that brings you the most stress then meal prep for these first. Or again, if it is the 3pm sugar hit that gets you then put together some bags of nuts or dried fruit or make some protein rich snacks. Before choosing what to prep, think about when and prep for the times that it’s going to make it easier for you to eat healthier during the week.
You’ll spend less time grocery shopping and meal prepping if you have a plan and staples to work with. Before you hit the shops plan what meals you will be prepping. Write a list and stick to the basics. Don't try over complicate it with fancy recipes, save these for days you want to treat yourself. Having protein, carbs and essential fat staples in your weekly meals makes it easier to create meals that you know will be simple and healthy. Staples such as chicken, salmon, white fish, sweet potato, brown rice, steamed veggies, greens, grains, hard boiled eggs, nuts, apples, bananas, oatmeal to name a few can easily create a variety of different meals.
Having the proper meal storage containers is essential to prepping success. Find containers that are easy to stack in your fridge and are microwave, freezer, dishwasher safe, and BPA free and make sure they are all the same size for each meal time. For example buy a packet of 10 disposable containers that are all the same size and use these for your lunch time meals, similarly purchase a set of smaller containers for your snacks. Not only will this ensure portion sizes are the same each day, you will save space in your fridge and time on clean up.
Don’t try new recipes
When starting out with meal prep it is best to stick with recipes you already know, or simple recipes. This way you are confident in the outcome of the recipe and the only thing you need to focus on is preparing it ahead of time.
You don’t need to cook all the food you prep
Food prep can be anything. You don’t necessarily need to cook all your meals completely. It can mean dicing up meat or vegetables ahead of time for recipes. Washing fruits and vegetables so they are ready for snacks. Portioning out nuts, dried fruit, or other food items for snacks.
Every bit of prep makes a difference
There are always going to be weeks when time is limited. It is important to make the most of the time you have and do what you can. Any food prep is better than no food prep at all. Some weeks you might not have time to prep all meals, but in these cases, aim to at least prep your daily snacks or lunch time meals.
There is no right or wrong
There really is no right or wrong way to do meal prepping, the options really are endless. So, just like any change to your lifestyle, in order for it to become an every day habit, it has to be sustainable. This means you have to do what works for you. If the only thing you want to prep each week are dinners, then that’s fine. Do what works for you and what you enjoy.
Give yourself time
Remember it takes about 3 weeks to form a habit. Meal prep is no different. If it all starts out too overwhelming, don’t give up, just adapt and overcome. Expect to make adjustments along the way. Yes, meal prepping takes a little effort and time upfront but it is about making your life easier and it is worth it. It’s all part of changing the game, it is a process, but it will pay off.Beginner's Guide to Meal Prepping
Your step by step to meal prep:
1. Pick one day a week as your ‘plan and prep’ day.
In order to make something a habit, you need to be consistent. Choose the same day (or days if you are only prepping 3-4 days at a time) and ensure you shop and prep on this day each week.
2. Plan your meals for the number of days you wish to prep for.
This is vital to meal prepping. How are you going to know what you need to prep if you don't know what you are going to eat. Plan meals using the following guidelines:
Ensure meals are created with your macros in mind. Protein + Carbs + Fats. Ensure each meal includes the required macro for that meal time. Breakfast and Lunch should include Protein + Carb dominate foods. Meals after lunch should be Protein + Essential Fat dominate foods. Carbs and fat will most likely be present in all meals, it’s just a matter of making it a dominate macro or not for that specific meal. For example if you add rice or sweet potato to a meal of meat and green veggies it will now be a carb dominate meal rather than an essential fat dominate meal, of course protein is always the staple to the meal and snacks should also always be protein based.
3. Write a shopping list.
A shopping list is essential for meal prep. Once you have done your planning, write a list and stick to it. Refer to my Shopping for Success article on ways to make this easier.
4. Time to prep.
After shopping you then want to prep your food. Peel, chop, cut all raw veggies and any fruit that requires cutting. Divide the fruit (and any vegetables that are to be consumed raw) into containers and store in the fridge for later. For any dry snacks you may have such as nuts or dried fruit divide these include containers or zip lock bags and store away for later.
Move on to prepping your protein and vegetables for cooking. Depending on your protein choice and meal preference, dice, slice or mince your meat and cook accordingly. For meats such as chicken or red meat, buy in bulk and divide into 3 and add different seasonings / flavour to the each one. This allows for quicker food prep and prevents you getting sick of eating the same thing each day. Chop all vegetables you will be cooking.
5. Time to cook.
Cook enough meat and vegetables to be divided between how ever many meals you are prepping for. Keep in mind your portion sizes here. Refer to your meal plan that has been created for you based on your goals. Vegetables are best steamed or boiled and meats are best grilled or baked, however how you cook is not vital to food prep, just try to avoid frying or using large amounts of oils, marinades or dressings.
If you have chosen to prep snacks that require cooking, such as boiled eggs, protein balls or muffins, cook these up while your meat and vegetables are cooking.
6. Divide and Conquer!
After cooking your meals, evenly divide them into containers. If you chose, weigh out your portion sizes. Weighing is not necessary and generally when you are using the same containers each time you will get an understanding of how much is required for each serve, however if you feel it will help you then please do it.
Divide any snacks you may have cooked into containers or zip lock bags.
Grab your prepped fruit, vegetables and dried snacks from step 4 and place with the remainder of your prepped meals. Divide meals and snacks into groups for the number of days you have prepped for. Store meals in their groups in the fridge so each day you have your pre prepared meals there for you ready to go.