Prepping for Success: Tips to Make Meal Prep Work for You
January 11, 2017
If you aren’t already meal prepping, the time to start is now. Nutrition is one of, if not the most important part of weight loss and lean muscle building. When you start to be as consistent in the kitchen as you are in the gym, you’ll be amazed at your results. Meal prep is the easiest way to ensure this consistency. It takes the guesswork out of eating nutritious meals, even if you’re rushed or exhausted from a long day. Put in the extra work now, and you’ll save time and money in the long run. Plus, it will prevent your hangry, evil twin from pulling you to the dark side later in the week (aka convincing you to eat drive thru and take out).
Pick a Day
The first step is to pick your designated meal prep day. It should be the same day every week. Sundays are popular because they provide ample time without eating into your other weekend plans. However, if you don’t like the idea of dedicating an entire afternoon to cooking, split your meal prep into two days. Like anything else, meal prep will only work if you make it manageable. If your first day is Sunday, try Wednesday as your second day, and make only enough food for the next 3-4 days on each. This can also help you break up your trips to the grocery store and ensure your meals are always fresh.
Make a Plan
Once you’ve selected your day(s), make a plan for the grocery store and each meal you need to cook. Are you making breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day? Do you need to adjust your macros on certain days based on your training? Listing out what you’re eating and on what day will make shopping and the meal prep itself easier. If you look for recipes with overlapping ingredients it will simplify things even more. For example, spinach can be used in a salad and to add some color to your egg-white “muffins.”
Keep it simple, stupid! (To clarify, this is just a saying. We think you’re very smart.) Prepping your meals for the entire week is challenging enough, so don’t overwhelm yourself by acting like a gourmet chef auditioning for a prime-time cooking show. Add variety, but stick with easy-to-prepare items that will keep in a Tupperware. Examples of proteins that fit the bill include hard-boiled eggs, ground turkey and chicken breasts. When it comes to veggies and healthy starches, try making big batches that you can alternate as side dishes throughout the week. Asparagus, squash, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts can all be coated with olive oil and seasoning, roasted in the oven and portioned out easily. Quinoa, brown rice and sweet potatoes are equally manageable.
Keep Your Taste Buds Guessing
If you dread the idea of eating the same thing every day, get creative with your seasonings – chicken and veggies can be a whole lot of different things if you use different sauces. Imagine stir-fry, Mexican and Italian, all in one week!
Put Your Appliances to Work
If you’re splitting your meal prep into two days and your second day falls during the work week, a slow cooker can be your best friend. Find healthy recipes like pulled chicken and chili, prep all the ingredients the night before, then in the morning you can just set it to low and go! This is an easy way to knock out another round of meals while you’re at work.
Invest in Your Success
Don’t let your perfectly-prepped meals go to waste! Especially if you’re making breakfast, lunch and dinner for each day of the week, invest in a cooler or insulated meal bag. This will help you organize your meals and get out the door in the morning without added hassle. Plus, you won’t have to fight for fridge space at the office. The same goes for good containers. Buy BPA-free plastic with lockable lids, or mason jars and plastic bags, depending on what you’re packing. If you plan on heating your meals up at the office, make sure your containers are microwave safe.
Save Some for Later
If you’re prepping all on one day and plan to freeze some of your meals, here are some tricks to the trade. Freeze individual portions vs. bulk (ex: meatloaf) so you only have to thaw what you’re planning to use. Freeze soups and stews in a plastic bag, flattened as much as possible to help save space. Use moisture-proof bags/containers to minimize freezer burn. Label everything with either the date it was cooked or the date it will expire so you know when to eat it. Lastly, set reminders in your phone for which meals to pack and/or when you need to defrost something (takes roughly 5 hours in the fridge).
Have a Back-up Plan
Mastering meal prep can take some time. There are going to be mornings where you forget your cooler, and life is sure to throw you a few other curve balls. So expect the unexpected! Keeping BPI Sports’ Best Protein™ in your emergency stash can keep you from going hungry, or worse, resorting to fast food. Vary the different flavors and your protein shake can double as an on-the-go breakfast or the perfect snack.