Monday… You woke up at 5am to hit the gym, had a protein shake, eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast, and a grilled chicken salad for lunch with olive oil and lemon for dressing. By 7pm, you're driving home from work and are famished after a long day. Your vision of getting home and defrosting some ground turkey to cook has long vanished. Instead you swing into Subway and pick up an Italian BMT, chips and a Diet Coke. If this is all but too familiar of a scenario, I may have a solution for you, but it does not come easy - or does it?
MEAL PREP - these two words are often very daunting for those ambitious to live a healthier lifestyle. Lucky for you, I’ve devised a few tips to help make meal prep healthier and less intimidating based on my previous experience as a corporate executive, living life on the go, who also so happened to be a health nut. As I’ve discussed in past blog posts, one of the major keys to eating healthy and avoiding pitfalls is to prepare your meals. By incorporating some of these tips into your eating plan and daily routine, you can remove the stress of meal prep and reduce the amount of time spent in the kitchen.
Tip #1 - Keep it simple
Meal-prep is not the time to try that new 28-step Pinterest recipe that you found over the weekend - you risk becoming frustrated and annoyed. Start with basic foods that you already know how to cook; then create a template which you can reuse over and over again, week to week. An easy template to remember is 4-6 oz protein, 35-40 grams of carbohydrates and 2 cups of veggies. This lunch should come in somewhere around 500-600 calories and should sustain your energy for most of the afternoon.
Tip #2 Have a plan
Create a rotating menu of your favorite types of protein, carbohydrates and veggies, then mix and match! For example, become very efficient at cooking pulled chicken, turkey burgers, sweet potato fries, rice, broccoli and string beans, and all of a sudden have 8 meal combinations. Additionally, if you are tracking macronutrients or working with a nutritionist, this will make it easy to know the macronutrient counts on your foods. Once you figure them out the first time, just save them as a meal in your meal tracker so you have them all set from week to week.
Tip #3 - A slow cooker will be your new best friend
The absolute easiest and arguably most delicious way to cook a meat is with a slow cooker. Once you have found a good brand name, inexpensive, programmable slow cooker, such as a Crock-Pot, you are good to go. Just throw a bunch of meat and even veggies together, toss some hot sauce or meat seasoning on top, set to low for 6-8 hours, and come back to meat you can easily shred with a fork and put into your storage containers for the week.
Tip #4 - Cook in large quantities
With your already planned meals, focus on batch cooking to save you time. Start by purchasing large quantities of meat, clean carbs and veggies. Marinate or season all of them at once and cook or grill together. When prepping eggs for breakfast, focus on making dishes such as scrambled eggs where one large batch will suffice for a week. Cooking all of your eggs over-easy will require multiple batches and a lot more effort. Other foods such as turkey chili and gluten free meatballs pack a high protein punch and are easily freezable. By freezing a batch of these foods, you can even get a jumpstart on next weeks prep!
Tip #5 - Pack like a pro
Just because professional meal delivery services have sleek portable containers that cost an arm and a leg, doesn’t mean you can’t have something just as fancy for your self-made meals (for a fraction of the price). Get yourself a set of containers (like these) to motivate yourself to take meal-prep seriously. I like the bento-box type which has separate food compartments; after a few weeks I was able to eyeball the weight and amount of food based on the compartment sizes. If you’re packing for a week long or weekend trip, be sure to invest in a cooler and some ice packs to keep your food fresh. There have been many a traffic jam, where I pulled my breakfast out of a cooler and ate it cold.
Whatever your meal prep strategy, just remember why you are doing it in the first place: to reduce stress, spend more time with family, or even just stay in control of your eating plan. The last thing you want is to let it stress you out. Remember, you can always find clean, prepared food at places like Chipotle, Whole Foods and even Boston Market.
What’s your strategy to make eating clean easier?
Until next time, catch me in the comments.
About Performing Nutrition: Jon is a certified Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative nutrition, and pursuing a M.S. in Nutrition at the University of Bridgeport. Performing Nutrition offers tailored programs for men and women of all sizes and backgrounds looking to lose fat, get stronger and become all around healthier.
Disclosure… Even though he is a certified health coach and studying to be a nutritionist, opinions shared here should not be a replacement for your doctor. Please consider using the links to purchase items to support this blog. Performing Nutrition is a member of Amazon associates and may receive a commission.