Meal prep doesn't need to be a grueling task, taking hours upon hours of your precious free time.
Let's be honest: How many times have you had to balance a hectic schedule and in the midst of it think: "I'm too busy to cook, and there's nothing in the fridge, so I'll just get take out!"? We've all been there once or thrice. And even if your workouts HAVE been 100% on point, did you know that you can be compromising all your hard work without the right approach to your nutrition?
When we look at our nutrition, many of us have the best of intentions when it comes to eating well-balanced home-cooked meals. But those nutritious intentions can sometimes be derailed by the constant, daily stimulations that demand our attention. Like our work, our families, personal commitments, and other obligations. In these times, it's understandable to imagine how the idea of planning and preparing your nutrition in advance can seem like a huge chore, making the option to reach for that take-out menu all the more attractive. WE GET IT!
That's why we're here to remind you WHYmeal prep is so important (ESPECIALLY for those of us continuously on-the-go) and HOW you can simplify the process, saving you time and money.
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THE ROAD MAP TO SUCCESS
It's no secret that the key to achieving your goals lies in the execution of a good plan. After all, when you have a clear vision backed by a clear and definite plan, you will be able to control every step, giving you the personal power to execute your strategies successfully.
The principle of goal setting is nothing new when it comes to achieving your fitness and nutrition goals. In fact, creating goals is easy! It's the following through on those goals that is the difficult part. And when it comes to creating healthy and sustainable nutrition habits, if you're failing to prepare, then you're preparing to fail.
WHY IS MEAL PREP IMPORTANT?
Short for meal preparation, meal prep is the act of planning, preparing, and packaging your meals and snacks in advance, typically for the upcoming week. By meal prepping, we're not only supporting the "behavioral goal" of clean eating and portion control, and developing healthy habits for the upcoming days, but we're also creating overall lifestyle efficiencies in the form of saving time in the kitchen, saving money, and the reduction of waste.
The habit of meal prep is the key that helps many people reach their nutrition and fitness goals. In fact, research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicinehighlights that those who spent time on meal prep were linked to better dietary habits, like eating more fruits and vegetables vs going for fast food.
Read on and learn as we share some of the best meal prep hacks courtesy of Fitness Expert, Celebrity Trainer, and Undersun Fitness and Nutrition Coach, Tyrone Bell. With these practical tools and strategies, you’ll be better equipped to stay on track through the busiest of schedules.
Bell is a firm believer in the actual everyday practical application BEING EASY—so easy that ANYONE can implement the process and have the opportunity to truly experience the success they’re looking for.
These hacks are meant to simplify your meal prep, making it approachable, and giving some real-life solutions that will help make meal planning and meal prep as effortless as possible.
Schedule an Appointment with Yourself
To mitigate any possibility of flaking on yourself, make an appointment for meal prep. Commit to a day a week, two days a week, or even a daily allocation of time to prepare food ahead of time that aligns with your personal diet plan.
As Bell says, “it’s up to you and your schedule, but the important thing is you need to lock in a prep day and treat it like an important appointment you have on a weekly basis that you do everything in your power not to miss”.
So, lock it in. Hold yourself accountable.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Meal prep 101: You’ve got to put aside time now to prepare food you’ll need later. Meal prepping simply means you’re preparing your meals and snacks before it comes time to chow down so you’re not left floundering for options that accommodate your diet plan.
It’s the same concept as fast food to 'grab-and-go', only now you’re making it for yourself ahead of time with unprocessed ingredients. AND with the money you'll be saving cooking your own food vs dining out daily, you'll be able to keep both your fridge and bank account full. Score!
Buy Things in Bulk
If you’re going to be cooking food in bulk, you’re going to need to buy your food in bulk.
Buy rice, nuts, and other dry ingredients from bulk-bins at the market. Costco or other wholesale-type stores are a game-changer for stocking up on meats and produce. Bags of frozen fruit or veggies come in clutch for use in smoothies or other recipes.
You’ll save yourself additional trips to the grocery store, AND you’ll save money in the long run.
Win With Sheet Pan Meals
Simplify, simplify, simplify. Your diet doesn’t need to be extravagant or innovative. In fact, the more complicated your meals get, the more likely you are to find excuses to ditch the prep.
Group cooking makes the process much quicker. Find some recipes you enjoy, and make them often. Sheet pan meals are a huge benefit to any meal prep schedule as they cut down on prep timeandcleanup time. For example, roasting multiple items like sweet potatoes, veggies and chicken breast all at once will save you time when you're preparing your meals for the week.
There’s a whole world of sheet pan recipes out there, friends!
Invest in the Tools You Need
The bottom line is that you’re going to need food containers. One per meal you eat, plus additional sizes for snacks, sauces, or toppings. Make sure you’re equipped with a variety of food holding containers andalwayswash them out at the end of each day. Take it from us—those 3-day old Tupperwares aren’t fun to deal with.
If you choose plastic containers, make sure they are BPA-free and that they won’t melt in the microwave or dishwasher. Sturdy Pyrex dishes with lids are also great, as are mason jars.
If you decide to go all-in on the meal prep lifestyle, you might also want to think about getting an insulated bag to carry your meals everywhere you go.
It also helps to have a few kitchen appliances to automate the process of cooking during food prep. For example:
- Rice Cookers accommodate prepping daily carb allocation.
- Slow Cookers are a one-and-done process; Simply load in your ingredients before you leave for work in the morning, allow your food to slow cook for 8 hours, and come home to a week's worth of awesomeness.
- Instant Pots are a useful resource, too, to cut down on time spent in the kitchen.
- Air Fryers create crispy "better for you" recipes without the grease of traditionally fried foods.
Cook smarter and let a few well-utilized kitchen tools do the work for you!
Not into eating the same thing for 4 days straight? No problem! Where food lasts for 3 or 4 days in the fridge, it can last much longer in the freezer.
Things like soups and chili can be made and easily frozen for consumption at a later date. When you’re ready to eat it, all it takes is heating it up in a saucepan or a crockpot, and there’s no further prep necessary.
Consistency is Key
If there were ever a sub-headline to pay attention to, it’s this.
No matter what meal plan you’re following, the most important aspect is consistency. From Lean Build to Keto, Paleo, High-Carb, Low-Carb, Flex-Diets, WHATEVER: the results you’re driven by won’t be achievable without consistent implementation.
This means, day in and day out, you’re implementing the optimal eating habits for success. From the time you get out of bed to the time you lay your head down on your pillow at night, your approach to how you're fueling and nourishing your body does not waver.
That doesn’t mean that you can never veer from your diet plan or indulge from time to time. It simply means you must adopt a committed mindset to your goals and form habits that support them.
“How do I do that?” you may ask. Well, to be consistent, you simply need to be prepared.
In conclusion, food preparation is crucial to maintaining consistency in any diet plan. Just as Bell says, “without hitting the mark day in and day out, you will not see the results you’re after.”
Think of these meal prep hacks as a shortcut to the results you want. By following a strategic meal plan supported by preparation, you’ll form lasting habits. After all, the best results are those that end up being SUSTAINABLE, creating life-long change.