What exactly is meal prep? And why do you need it in your life?

I get questions about nutrition and recipes all the time, so I  thought I’d talk a little here about some ideas to help you make healthy choices and stick to your goals.  One of my biggest keys for success is meal prep, or batch cooking food and snacks ahead of time.  From a decade of coaching people through cleanses, diet and lifestyle changes, I can tell you that 9 times out of 10, people “cheat” or “fall off the wagon,” not because they’re self destructive but because they failed to plan ahead, and then made a choice out of hunger or necessity.  Planning ahead is not just half the battle, it’s the entire battle.

Taking time on the weekend (Sundays work best for me) to plan out your meals is not only a way of reverse-engineering your health goals but also eliminates the energy and time around “but what’s for dinner” question.  It eliminates excuses when you have long or stressful days, and you will invariably thank yourself for planning ahead when you can heat up a meal within a few short minutes.  I prep for myself alone so my quantities will be different, but for a full family I can imagine that the returns on this approach are exponential.  Below I’ve highlighted some of my top tips for meal prep success.

1.) PLAN BEFORE PREP- If your goal is weight loss, figure out how many calories you will need to consume daily to meet your goals.  Establish how many fruits, vegetables, proteins and fat you will need to consume (or eliminate).  Then, establish how to get there.  There is a wealth of information for specific caloric consumption on the Beachbody blog.  This is a resource that is invaluable for our wellness challenge participants, and is something I reference when looking for new food prep ideas.  No need to reinvent the wheel here.

2.) LOOK AT YOUR WEEK – Do you have any planned meals out? If you do – check out the menu beforehand, especially if you have any food sensitivities or are sticking to a specific diet.  Figure out how many meals you need to prep for.  If you have extra food prepped – freeze them and enjoy later.

3.) PRECOOK YOUR PROTEINS/GRAINS (if consuming) – I love slow cooker salsa chicken  made with Trader Joes Mango Roasted Tomatillo Salsa and organic thighs (more slow cooker recipes here) and it doesn’t get any easier than that.  I toss over cauliflower rice and voila: dinner.  (Throw cauliflower into food processor or blender, pulse until rice consistency – saute 5 minutes with salt and pepper).  You can roast chickens, cook a tenderloin, bake fish (or all of the above).  Hard boiled (or baked) eggs are easy, too.  Choose 1-3 proteins and use for different recipes or to top lunch salads (which are the answer to – but how do I replace a sandwich for lunch?).  Soups work great here, too.  Precook rice (or cauliflower rice), chia seed pudding or oatmeal if that’s your thing.  I always have a smoothie for breakfast (superfood/protein powder, coconut or almond milk and ice) so I make sure I have those ingredients on hand as well. Alternatively, egg cups or my famous protein balls are a great breakfast or snack option.

4.) PREP VEGGIES & FRUIT – this keeps snacks super simple and ensures you meet your veggie quota.  Having them accessible is so important! Chop veggies and fruit ahead of time.  I’ve found even dividing them up in advance makes me more likely to eat them (and ensures I don’t eat an entire watermelon in one sitting).  I also roast veggies, too.  My regular rotation includes roasted brussel sprouts, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted carrots, but do what you like and/or have.  Roasting lends a lot of extra flavor without a lot of added fat.  Also, make dressings or dips to keep your raw veggies and salads interesting. There’s a lot of garbage in salad dressings, so you’re doing yourself a huge favor here. I love this salad dressing emulsifier, it even has recipes on the side of the bottle.  Honestly, it doesn’t have to be hard.  If this feels overwhelming, just be sure to scour the ingredient list on your dressing – they sneak a lot of sugar in, plus gut-destroying binders, cheap oils and other toxins.

5.) DIVIDE & CONQUER – Pre-package your meals into containers.  I was batch cooking before I knew what that was (I’m a single person but tend to cook food for 4+) but found that even putting food into a container in the morning was an extra time consuming step.  Divide into appropriate portions ahead of time so you just have to grab and go.  Mason jars are great for layering salads, too (just put wet ingredients on bottom and drier ones on top).  Recipes here.  Again, soups shine here, too.  Plus, they taste better after a few days marinating.  Freeze when you get sick of them or just freeze half from the start.

These tips should give you a great start to your meal prep adventure.  In the words of the great Benjamin Franklin, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”  Sound advice, even in the world of meal planning.

Meal prep is a key to success for our 21 day wellness challenges.  If you’re ready to change your body, lighten up, develop some healthier habits or just up level your life, let us know! New challenge groups start every month.  Email us at [email protected] to learn more or ask questions.