There IS a secret to losing weight, getting healthier and avoiding hunger…and that secret is…. preparedness. This means what’s important is a focus on meal preparedness – popularly known as “Meal Prep” – and then just get started.
Meal Prep is the act of preparing your daily and/or weekly meals in advance. In essence, it’s the old “failing to plan is planning to fail” adage applied to your eating!
First, you determine what your daily nutritional needs are. Next, divide those needs up among however many meals you like…3 or 4 is the most common.
You’ll then do a bunch of cooking and store it all in the fridge. Throughout your week, you just grab the next meal or meals as you need them – all ready to go!
It works great, and it’s easy after just a little practice.
On the other hand, we understand for many people it can represent – well, an adjustment of sorts.
If the very thought of meal prep makes you feel anxious, take a deep breath…
It is actually a very simple task, and we’re going to walk you through with this simple, how-to guide. Whether you are looking for benefits in athletics, aesthetics, or just your overall health, we’re going to help you reach your goals!
Why Is Meal Prep the Key?
Have you always associated having a lean, healthy, fit body with being a slave to the gym? Hours of weights and cardio?
If so, you are actually wrong…
(well, sort of)
The fact of the matter is the majority of your success is crafted in your home kitchen.
Now, it’s true: muscles are developed with good, solid workouts.
Also, unwanted bodyfat can be effectively shed with some heart-healthy cardio…
However, the number one determining factor in whether your body becomes lean and fit is your eating (source).
Your nutrition decides whether you succeed, don’t change at all, or change for the worse. It’s all about the pattern and practices of your daily eating.
Most of you reading this are probably aware of that fact, but may not have heard it quite this way.
What it means, of course, is you’ve got to have the right patterns and practices.
The most effective, efficient way to ensure your eating patterns are consistently clean and healthy is to meal prep. Here’s what it does for you:
- Guaranteed healthy food is on hand at all times; you subtract willpower and at least 1-2 entries daily from the “what to eat” equation – this factor is HUGE).
- Diet is a mental game – this is your way of mentally committing to your diet.
- Your portions are all pre-set; no worries about “eating only half your plate”, etc.
- You’ll reduce a surprising amount of stress; because all your cooking is done in large batches, no worries about daily cooking or daily shopping.
- With all your extra time, you’ll have extra options: you can hit the gym for faster results, get more work done or simply enjoy more time with your loved ones.
- Before you know it, your consistent eating pattern yields results…REAL results!
Don’t Make Meal Prep Difficult!
No one seems to quite believe this, so we’re going to say it again…
Meal prepping is SIMPLE!
There is only one rule you really need to abide by. As Jack Lalanne – the original Celebrity Personal Trainer – once said: “If man made it, don’t eat it.”
Rephrased, you’ve got to keep the Menu to unrefined, whole foods.
This includes lean meats, vegetables, legumes, starches and fats from natural sources.
Note: many might include grains in the whole food category; we’ll be sure to list some healthy options here. We’ll also add, however, that others might instead classify grains as refined. This is due to the fact they must be milled to properly digest and absorb, and are often fortified…
Food for thought (so to speak):
We’ll leave that decision to you!
Whatever your individual preferences, here are items you can definitely consider for your Approved Grocery List.
Your Approved Grocery List
Protein Sources: best choices include almost any meat, fish or fowl, plus eggs and (with shakes/smoothies in mind) a quality protein powder.
Of course, meat alternatives and vegetarian options are also available – bean and veggie burgers, the “impossible” meats, and so on.
Carbohydrate Sources (non-starchy): asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, peppers, green beans, onions, spinach, kale, squash, mushrooms. There are obviously many more to choose from, but these comprise the more popular and widely available choices.
Carbohydrate Sources (starchy): those vegetables with slightly more carbohydrate concentration include peas, carrots, all varieties of beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams.
Carbohydrate Sources (grains): most popular among the healthier selections are amaranth, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, and steel-cut oats.
Fat Sources: can’t-go-wrong sources of this important macronutrient include extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, avocado, coconut, coconut oil, nuts and seeds. Nut and seed butters, dairy butter and cheeses are also legit candidates.
What Should My Portions Look Like?
Our guess is most people reading this article are probably not training to get on the bodybuilding stage. This is a very important distinction.
It’s where the myth of just how hard meal-prepping is seems to come from, so let’s help to clarify…
The fact is you don’t need to calculate every last calorie or the macronutrient ratio of every meal. You don’t need to weigh out every food item before you place it carefully into your Pyrex or Tupperware either.
Instead, you can use a much simpler method of portioning out your food…
First, plan to have 3 meals and 2-3 snacks each day, and plan to eat every 3-4 hours.
Portions for Men
Meals for men should consist of 8-10 ounces of protein, one cup of veggies, and one cup of a starch. That’s it – nice and easy!
Snacks are a convenient time to eat healthy fats by choosing nuts or some cheese.
You can almost always opt for a tasty protein shake as well.
Try to keep your snacks somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 calories, and we suggest protein and/or fats first. Think jerky, cheese, nuts and seeds.
Portions for Women
The only practical difference for women is making your protein intake just a touch lower. This is due to what is likely your smaller body size and the resulting amount of lean muscle mass. Easy…
Meals for women should include about 6-8 ounces of protein per meal. Vegetable and starch intake can remain exactly the same!
Again, snacks should hover somewhere around the 200-calorie range, and these are an opportunity for some savory, bright flavors. The protein/fat options above are great; depending on mood, some fresh fruit can be just the right thing as well!
Simple Starter Meals
o help get all this going, we’ll also share two very simple recipes here. They’ll only take minutes to make, will taste great and should be enough to eat for multiple meals.
(Note: these recipes are what most would consider Lunch and Dinner options…
If you’re looking for a Power Breakfast, however, look no further than our article right here!)
1 pound of lean or extra lean turkey
(you can also substitute extra lean beef or ground chicken as you prefer)
1 (14oz) tub of pico de gallo
(simply pick your favorite from the fresh food department at the grocery)
Olive oil spray
Completely brown ground turkey
Add in the tub of pico de gallo, then let everything cook for 1-2 minutes more
Salt to taste
Spoon meat onto romaine lettuce cups to make a guilt-free taco. You can also enjoy this on top of brown rice or quinoa, or even in cucumber boats for variety. Try adding a sprinkle of cheese of your choice on the top or add avocado slices.
Most of all, enjoy!
Spicy Cheese Scramble
One can (15oz) spicy charro beans
Pepper jack cheese (to taste)
Olive oil spray
Spritz a small skillet with olive oil spray
Put two tablespoons of spicy charro beans in the warmed-up skillet
Cook 1-2 minutes to heat them thoroughly
Crack 2-3 eggs into the skillet
Combine all ingredients, scrambling the eggs into the beans
Place the thoroughly cooked scramble on your plate and sprinkle a little cheese on top for garnish. You can even add in bell pepper, spinach or onion, and another nice finishing touch is dropping a couple slices of avocado on top!
Bonus Tip: The Crock Pot
If you happen to have a crock pot or instant pot, you’ve moved up a level in meal prep capabilities…
You can do a couple days’ worth of mass cooking with ease.
Just combine all ingredients, set it and forget it (well, for 4 hours or so)!
One of the easiest options here is cooking chicken breasts, beef tenders, and so on.
Give them some finesse with a jar of any salsa verde sauce or red sauce you know and love. These can be slow-cooked, portioned and rounded out later on with raw or cooked veggies or salad…
You’re ready to enjoy some of the easiest, healthiest and tastiest meals you’ve ever made.
Ready to Go!
With basic ingredients and cooking covered, all that’s left to do is portion out your meals and snacks into containers-of-choice…
Just pack ‘em, stack ‘em and rack ‘em.
They’ll be ready when you are!
As it is with anything new, the trick with meal-prepping is just to give it a chance.
After a week or two of steady practice, you’ll find a lot less worry about portions, spices, cooking (and overcooking…
Instead you’ll be appreciating all the newfound, low-stress time you have for work, projects and the finer things in life.
Also – by the way – just how fit, lean and healthy you’re looking and feeling as you get it all done!