I’m a very analytical person so I always want to know why I’m doing something whether that be for a client or myself. I think in life especially when it comes to fitness most people focus so much on the how and what they need to do and don’t really ask themselves why they’re doing it. But, for the scope this article we’re going to only focus on the why behind meal prepping.
First things first!
Why is meal prepping beneficial?
1. Saves Time.
We live in a time where we’re always on the go; especially during the week. Our jobs need us, our kids need us, we have significant others needs we have to meet, and then that leaves little time to consider ourselves including our own health most of the time. This normally leads to eating the “whatever diet” where we eat things like vending machine or fast food. Trust me I was the king of fruit snacks at my job. This can also lead to unplanned intermittent fasting or what I like to call the “starvation diet” which normally leads to a binge once we’re able to get some food. (check out my previous blog about intermittent fasting if you want a deeper understanding)
2. Saves Money.
I know most people believe “eating healthy” cost a lot of money, but have you ever sat down and checked your account to see how much money you spend per week eating out and purchasing unnecessary things that you want, but don’t need. My vending machine addiction was costing me 20-30$ a week not to mention eating out a couple nights a week! What I came to realize is eating health isn’t as expensive as we tend to believe it is and if our health isn’t a top priority than disease is by default.
3. Produces Results.
The fitness industry is predicated on selling the next best diet, workout plan, or supplement that promises to get us in the best shape of our lives in the next 30, 60 or 90 days. Yes, some of those things are effective and I’m not against any of that, but it's about the habits and effort first. The byproduct of good habits and effort are the after picture and great health we all want. Meal prepping is a habit that takes effort especially in the beginning that can be sustained long term and adapted to fit our different lifestyles.
8 Pillars Of Meal Prep:
Review Your Upcoming Schedule For The Week - Look at the times and days you’ll be busy, when will you be out and about? What challenges might come up for you during the week that you can anticipate? Then plan 2-3 days out of the week you can meal prep. Also, you can have food ready to be cooked like a marinated steak or chicken breast seasoned that sits for 2 or 3 days, chopped up veggies and fruit, or bagged up nuts & seeds. You can have a spouse or older child bake the food or toss the ingredients in something like a slow cooker if you’re not able to be there.
Have A Plan Before You Shop For The Week (No Aspiration Buying) - The easiest thing to do is to wing it. We see it from people all over the world during new years and I see it constantly when new diets and exercise programs come out. We never stop to make a plan and like I mentioned in the beginning; asking ourselves why we’re making this change in the first place. So what ends up happening when it comes to making this lifestyle change we end buying all this food and don’t know what we’re going to use all of it for. Most of it goes bad and we say things like “it's too expensive to eat healthy.” The bottom line is we must have a plan of what you want to make before doing anything else.
Set Goals (Why) - This comes back to why you’re doing this in the first place. The reason you meal prep doesn’t have to fitness related. It can be to budget money, save time or all three. Having a plan and following through with it consistently is key.
Multitask In The Kitchen - You don’t have to prepare one meal or food at a time. You can bake your chicken breast, asparagus or sweet potatoes while the rice and hard boil eggs cook on the stove. Once you have your plan decide on how you break up each part of the meal efficiently. This becomes easier the more you prep. Once your food starts cooking you could be cleaning up some dishes used and once your foods almost finish you can prepare your prepping and storage containers.
Enjoy Your Kitchen Time - This is a time you can be feeding your mind with a personal development podcast, YouTube lectures, or sermons. You can put on your favorite shows from Netflix or Hulu. You can also call friends and family to talk on the phone.
Use High Quality Containers - When comes to hot food that you will be warming back up you want containers that are BPA-Free (Preferably Glass), airtight, and easy to transport. Plastic is photodegradable, meaning it breaks down when light and heat hits it so even if the container is BPA-Free still be cautious of using plastic to warm-up food.
KISS (Keep It Simple Seriously) - Every meal doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal that we see on the instagram and facebook food pages we follow. You can grill up, bake or cook on the stove a pound of chicken breast and try different seasonings and or grab a rotisserie chicken from a local grocery store, bake or grill asparagus spears, bake, saute or roast cauliflower, cook a pot of brown rice or quinoa, mash red or sweet potatoes and mix match these foods to get some variety on a daily basis while still keeping it simple.
Take A Break - It’s okay every once in a while to take time off from meal prepping and trying different foods. It’s also a time to indulge in some foods that you enjoy. This does not mean you stop meal prepping, but maybe you decide to take 2 days off every 2 weeks or you do a month of meal prepping and take a week off afterward.
What about portion sizes?
There are two practical ways you can figure out how much you should eat. One is by calculating your total energy expenditure (TEE) in other words calculating calories and the other way is through what I like to call intuitive eating. I’m not going to get into how to calculate calories here, but there are tons of calorie calculators online that can give you an estimate of the amount calories you should consume.
What is intuitive eating?
I’m a huge believer in the intuitive approach for many reasons. One I think we spend way to much time focusing on the scale and numbers that we don’t actually pay attention to how we feel and our daily habits. Also I believe are ancestors didn’t count calories instead they were in tune with their bodies which in essence is what intuitive eating means. I think counting calories has place especially if you need to be specific weight for a job or in certain time frame, but the average person should focus more on developing good habits. When you intuitive eat you can ask yourself:
How do I feel after I eat this specific food?
Do I feel bloated and gassy (or have the itis)? These are not okay things even though we tend to laugh and joke about these things.
How are my clothes fitting?
Do I feel energized or sluggish after eating or have midday crashes?
Is my breath fresh or do I need a tic tac or mints? (Your breath can smell bad if you haven’t eaten in a while or eat extremely low carb calorie restricted diets because the body starts to produce an abundance of ketone bodies in order power the brain and when these ketones in the blood reach the lungs oxygen, carbon dioxide and aromatic ketones are expelled)
Am I drinking enough water? (This is almost always overlooked in every diet plan, but is the most important nutrient the body needs - for more info on the importance check out my post on the benefits of water)
For each meal do your best to follow these portion sizes for each macronutrient:
PROTEIN - 1 palm size (3 - 4 ounces)
CARBOHYDRATE ½ - 1 fist size (½ - 1 cup)
NON-STARCHY VEGGIES - 1 - 1 ½ full hand (2 - 2 ½ cups)
HEALTHY FATS - 1-2 thumbs (2 Tablespoons)
**If you find yourself still hungry after a meal increase the amount of protein first; also you can eat as much green leafy veggies as you like per meal.**
Our lives are the result of years of decision making, some those decisions being good and some not so good ultimately leading to certain habits and the results we have now. These habits and results can’t be undone in a few days or weeks. It takes consistent effort and choices to either change the outcomes that no longer serve us or to continue down those same paths. Choose right now to make steps in the direction you want to go!
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Thank You for reading.