Becoming a Meal Preparation Pro: Small Changes Make a HUGE Difference
Why would you want to become a meal preparation pro? Why are meal-prepping words branded about so much today? In our work-obsessed society, food prepping has become essential in our personal lives, modeled on the Monday-Friday, 9-5 work schedule.
With increasing numbers of people living alone, meal prepping reorganizes meals around what individual preferences are – away from the traditional family style of eating. Meal prepping is framed in terms of health, economy, and self-improvement. It is the best, cheapest way to upgrade and maintain your most valuable asset: your body.
Aside from its economic and functional advantages in today’s society, meal preparation allows people to also escape the cultural baggage of leftovers by packaging food into discreet packages. When separating dishes cooked at the same time into different containers, eaters avoid feeling like they’re eating leftover meals. Prepared meals are packaged as fresh and new. According to a study in a nutrition journal, 92% of females in the US reported cooking compared to just 28% of men – this was in 1965. By 2016, 46% of men report cooking at home compared with 70% of women. Today, meal prepping is giving men reason to embrace cooking.
Maybe you are embarking on a whole new healthy lifestyle journey and are feeling a bit overwhelmed about where to start. Most of us are already so hectic in our daily lives; it can be pretty hard for some and for others downright impossible to cook all of your meals at home each day.
Meal prepping is the act of planning and preparing snacks and meals in advance, say for the next week. The whole intention is to ensure clean eating as well as portion control; with the main goal often to reach your health and fitness goals. The way we eat and what we eat is a huge hot topic today – people are making what they eat and how they eat it a crucial part of their lifestyles. They want to eat less meat, they want to eat more fruit and vegetables and plant-based proteins. People are realizing that most of our diseases and plenty of short lifespans are because of the way we eat.
The Benefits of Meal Preparation
Let’s take a close look at why people are starting to prep their meals and why you should consider it too. Because we are so busy navigating through life today, many people can’t even bear the thought of preparing meals for every day of the week. That makes the temptation of take-out places and restaurants very attractive. As you can see, it might sound easy to set goals to become healthy and follow a healthy lifestyle, but following through and staying on the ‘straight and narrow’ is sometimes much trickier. Meal prepping makes it easier to reach your goals.
With meal preparation, there is no right or wrong way to prepare meals because it’s what works best for you. The main goal is to save you time in the kitchen, making available healthy meals to eat in the week. Some people like to prepare their next week by preparing all 3 main meals a day whilst others just want to know their supper is ready when they get home; something healthy. Following are the benefits that you get from meal-prepping:
1. You save money
To eat healthy doesn’t mean going expensive if you plan in advance. Buy your food in bulk, not forgetting to take full advantage of your freezer. When you plan in advance, you know exactly what you will need instead of going to the store a few times in the week and wandering the aisles, throwing in stuff you didn’t plan for.
2. It helps you to lose weight
When you plan your meals in advance, and your intention is to lose weight, it will happen so much easier. During the week, you will know exactly what is going into your body, and how much. You are the one who has control over how many calories you are eating on a daily basis – the ideal recipe for losing weight.
3. Grocery shopping becomes easier
When you know what foods you will eat in the following week, your grocery shopping becomes a breeze. Your list will be divided into the different things you need, and if you know your store, you will know exactly where to go to fetch your foods. This saves you time and energy!
4. It teaches portion control
You get to know all about balance when it comes to meal preparation. Your special sized containers will prevent you from piling more food onto your plate, particularly if the aim is to lose weight. It’s vital to practice portion control because each of the portions will have the necessary nutrients in them too. When you teach yourself portion control you can also treat yourself every now and then because you are carefully monitoring yourself.
5. Less food wastage
We all know how awful we feel when we just toss out food that went bad before getting the chance to eat it. Meal prepping encourages you to make use of only what you will be using for the next week. It is unlikely you will be packing in any leftovers, particularly if you have become the expert planner.
6. Time is saved
Naturally, time will be required to plan out your meals and prepare them for the next week, but think of the time saved during the week! No more standing in front of the refrigerator or grocery cupboard wondering what to cook and then often, in your haste and irritation of not being able to make up your mind or find the right ingredients, you take the unhealthy route by buying take-out. With meal prepping for a week, you can come home from a busy day at work, take out your prepared meal and just heat it up.
7. You are investing in your health
Meal prepping is fantastic because you prepare ahead of the time what you will be putting into your body. This means you eat cleaner, not being exposed to unhealthy options like processed, deep-fried, sugary, high-preservative, chemical and hormone-injected foods. You will not fail to notice how when eating cleanly and nutritionally, your waistline is narrowing! This will be apart from the benefits to your heart and your overall health.
8. Stronger willpower
Getting into the swing of each week, consistently eating healthily and cleanly, you will notice your craving for sugar getting less, as well as those takeout meals. Getting into a routine is vital to healthy eating. The longer you keep at it, the easier it becomes to turn down the wrong foods you know you shouldn’t be eating.
9. Stress is reduced
Stress really affects our immune systems – it causes us digestive problems, let alone sleeping problems. It can be pretty stressful coming home from work when you need to do other things, but you still need to think about preparing supper. Not so with meal prepping! Say goodbye to wondering what to eat. You’re sorted! Just take out your healthy meals, waiting in the refrigerator, ready to be heated up!
10. It adds variety
Planning your meals ahead of time makes it so easy to choose from all the different food groups to ensure you get in the right nutrients and calories. These should be from the protein groups, fats, vegetables, fruits, and grains. You can mix them up too, bringing out all your creative skills.
Simple steps to meal prep
Most of us lead pretty busy lives, and it all just adds stress when we think about our bodies and how we need to keep them in peak condition if we want to function at our best. That means that the foods we put in our mouths are pretty important! This is where meal preparation comes in. It can truly become your best friend. Your chances of buying takeout are much bigger if you are hungry at a moment in a day and you haven’t implemented smart meal preparation.
Depending on your needs; whether a student, a busy parent or a hectic office person, you might be aware that you always just grab a takeout croissant to down with your coffee. That means prepping breakfast meals might be a good place for you to start. Or if you are someone who struggles to get dinner organized properly because you often get home late from work, then you might need to focus on meal prepping for dinners. Some people do meal prepping for each and every meal!
Excited to get started? You will find meal prepping can be very rewarding for you, giving you peace of mind, particularly when you realize just how rewarding it can be when it comes to time and health! So let’s get you organized in getting started with meal preparation. Before long, you will be quite the pro! Here are some good tips for meal prepping:
Get some meal prep containers
You need to invest in some high-quality containers. They can be the Tupperware ones or glass. Remember that if you are going to be reheating food in the evenings for supper, you will want to choose containers that are BPA-free. BPA stands for bisphenol A, an industrial chemical used to make some resins and plastics 50 years back. It’s found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins so you don’t want those poisons entering your body when you cook food. Also, buy containers that are the same size so you can stack them easily.
Decide on what recipes you are going use for meal prepping
That requires planning. Having a plan is important because you don’t want to go to the grocery store trying to remember what you need and then just making do when you have to make your meals. Meal prepping requires you knowing what you are going to cook and when. Write down each meal you plan, break it into what ingredients will be required and how much you will need till the next week when you start prepping again. Try and incorporate variety into your meals so you aren’t ever bored of just eating the same recipes every day – like instead of chicken, try fish, for example.
Allocate yourself meal preparation time
If you are new at prepping, it is recommended that you prep for a few days ahead, even a week is great. You can set aside a whole day of prepping for the next week or so.
Start your meal prep
Even though you might be meal prepping for the entire week, it doesn’t mean you need to completely prepare each and every part of a certain meal. You could prep your chicken by marinating it, freezing it and defrosting when you are ready to eat it. Even though you might still decide to cook your veggies on the actual night of your meals, for instance, you will still have saved yourself a lot of prep time just by doing the chicken beforehand. If you like your veggies fresh, you could just portion them out, wash them, and put them in containers ready for steaming or boiling later on. When it comes to preparing some carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, or pasta, it is recommended that you cook these beforehand as they can take quite a while to prepare.
Prepping the 3 main meals and snacks
If you are at home and don’t really have to rush off to work, or something, you could always poach your eggs and make your toast, fresh. If you want to be really organized, you can put all your ingredients in a container, all ready to pull out each morning ready to use. Feeling like mushrooms or spinach with your egg? A good idea would be to chop up the mushrooms and spinach needed beforehand.
You could portion out berries, nuts, and seeds, placing these in separate containers. You could also have your yogurt set out in different containers, ready to pop into the fridge for easy access during the week.
If you are going to prep for about a week in advance, it might be better to get all the ingredients near each other in the fridge or put them in containers that you can just pull out, unprepared, until the day you eat it. Veggies, cheese, and tuna are all better fresh. Bear in mind that it won’t always be possible to prepare every single meal.
You will learn to adapt them to your needs and times and how busy you are. If there are foods that you want to eat fresh, a good idea is to prepare them in the morning, because you wouldn’t want to eat a cucumber that you had prepared says 3 days earlier, would you? It saves time and stress if you know exactly where to fetch the cucumber because you have prepared your lists and know where to fetch it from which container in the refrigerator.
A couple of carrots and an apple in a bag with some hummus in another small container are ideal if you are in a rush in the morning – if you haven’t got time to chop them up.
When it comes to chicken, for example, it might be a good idea to cook the chicken ahead of time, reheating it as you need it. You could portion out all the legumes and veggies that you need, not putting them together until the night you eat them so that nothing goes soggy.
Don’t forget to prep with flavor
Remember that clean eating is not boring. As with all foods, you can experiment with flavoring, spices, homemade marinades, and dressings. Jazz up your vegetables with olive oil dressing and lemon, incorporating as much variety as you can, getting in sufficient amounts of vegetables, fruits, proteins, and carbohydrates.
It’s not only about meals
You prepare ingredients too when meal prepping! This might include chopping up onions, peeling carrots, cleaning beans, preparing beetroot, washing fruits, etc. You don’t necessarily need to be cooking all your meals completely either. Just prepping all the ingredients will save you plenty of time as well as clearing and cleaning up when you do want to cook.
Once again, do only what feels comfortable, making sure it’s about your lifestyle; your health requirements. Even a little bit of meal prepping is better than no prepping at all. Maybe it will require only cutting up some veggies, or grouping all the foodstuffs in containers. You will feel a whole heap better about preparing your food a few days in advance; it will give you a feeling of being in control of your life, your health, and your time.
Truly, once you have nailed the basic elements of meal prepping, you will be confident to enjoy it to the point where you might want to take it to the next level. Say goodbye to those moments of staring blankly into the cupboard or fridge, wondering what will be for dinner, just opting for takeout – tossing out the fruit and vegetables that you bought with good intentions last week and which have already gone bad in your fridge.
Set a time for your prepping session
The best time to do your prepping is when you have the best amount of time; it could be time set aside on a Saturday, or on a Sunday. Sunday is quite nice because then you prep for the following week. Find out what works best for you. It might mean cooking meals the night before or cooking all the meals you have prepared for the week in your time allotted. Just figure out how to best organize your schedule, and then make it a habit; that’s important.
In time, it all comes together
It doesn’t matter what your fitness goals or your personal health issues are, all goals set need planning, dedication, and consistency. This is so that you get the benefits, see the results and form new habits. Consider meal prepping with all its wholesome diet planning from all the five food groups as equally as important as planning your physical routines.
The results will come all in good time, which means you shouldn’t throw in the towel if it looks like things aren’t working out as you planned. Rather work out what the problem areas are, adapt to them or fix them, adjusting along the way, to end up with a smooth schedule; that of a pro! It might require a bit of creativity and some effort, but nothing will beat the satisfied feeling and reward of opening up your fridge and seeing all your delicious foods, all organized and prepared. It promises to make your week much easier, but also ensures good health and vitality. Look at it this way – meal prep = money and time freedom. Take that first step by doing your body and life a huge favor so that you can catch the benefits of meal preparation!
**Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.