Meal prep. Works for me!
7 tips for meal prep to keep you on track. A key to the successful Reboot!
If you know me personally or have been invited to one of my dinner parties, you know that I am a lot of wonderful things but a great cook is NOT one of them! I once had a dinner party and bought the whole meal.
I’m not imaginative or intuitive about what to put together when preparing meals, probably because I haven’t had a ton of practice. I lived most of my adult life on fast and processed food so I didn’t spend that much time in the kitchen — unless it was starring at the frig wondering what to eat next! And, I don’t particularly enjoy cooking unless I have a partner in the kitchen helping.
That said, I lost 200+ lbs and have maintained a healthy lifestyle for 3.5 years by getting really good at meal planning and preparation. It’s one of the keys to success for me and something a lot of people struggle with.
It’s also been the key to my successful #operationreboot this past week.
Sunday’s are my day to chop, measure, portion and prep my way to healthy. Somehow it’s easier and more fun to do it in one fell swoop and sometimes I even look forward to my Sunday cooking extravaganza. Other days I make it a challenge to see how much I can do while also doing meal prep — the multi-tasking queen rides again!
This past Sunday, in just a few hours (with favorite tunes cranked) I prepped, portioned and packaged all of my “clean” and healthy meals for the entire week. First up, I baked a variety of chicken breasts with various spices and marinades to mix it up. Meanwhile I had a lean pork tenderloin and sauerkraut simmering in the crock pot all day, my favorite roasted acorn squash in the oven, and a major salad assembly line going simultaneously.
Taking time to plan and prepare your meals in advance has a lot of benefits:
- It takes the guesswork out of it & makes it easier to stay on plan. No more last-minute stress of figuring out what to eat to stay on your plan if things go haywire with your day. The worst is getting home late, exhausted and standing in front of an empty frig wondering what to make for dinner. Or, heading to the grocery store late at night when you’re starving and buying all things NOT on your healthy eating plan.
- You’ll have more time in your day for the other things that matter to your success — your workout, a mindfulness practice, sleep, connecting with others, and personal downtime.
- Portion control is much easier when everything is weighed, measured and packaged in advance. You then get to just grab and go. HINT: Grab only the ONE container for each meal, and you’re good to go!
- You’ll feel better when you plan and prep. One less thing to spend mental energy worrying about throughout the week.
- If you have a family, they’ll eat healthy too. Of course it’s a little more work up front to prep healthy dinners for everyone in advance, but totally doable.
Here are some of my tips for successful meal prep and planning:
- Know what works for you. As with all things in life, this is personal. What works for me — someone who doesn’t particularly like to cook and who doesn’t care if she eats chicken once a day, every day – is different than what works for someone who loves to cook and needs variety. If you are the latter, you’ll need to get creative and have fun doing it — vs. my approach which is to get it done and crossed off my list!
- Plan out 1-2 weeks of clean, healthy dinners that will help you stay on your nutritional plan and reach your goals, and consider them your “go to” list. I change it up from week to week but not much. I love my “go to” list. I can eat eggs (w/egg beaters) every day of my life and love it!
- Don’t forget lunches! Have your “go to’s” on hand at home AND at work AND in your car. I learned when I was in fat-loss mode that I had to prep my lunches and take them with me to work, and I needed certain healthy snacks and back-up options stashed both at work and in my car for emergency situations. I now always have lean turkey or chicken and almonds in my purse. I stashed cans of tuna and protein drinks in my emergency cabinet at work. No guesswork. No worries.
- Shop well. For most of us, that means going in with a grocery list and sticking to it. And, for many, it means sticking to the outside aisles where the fresh produce and meats are — and avoiding the processed food aisles, when possible. I have to admit that for me it means ordering my groceries delivered at home and minimizing the times I go into the grocery store. This is how I know I will be successful in the shopping portion of the planning and prep.
- Food scale and containers are key. A great food scale and lots of various sized Tupperware or great containers are the key to prepping for a week at a time. I have a cupboard overflowing with containers of all shapes and sizes.
- Salad assembly to keep it fresh. I eat 1-2 salads every day. So figuring out how to prep them in advance and keep them fresh was key. Start with what you like in terms of greens and mix it up so you have spinach in some, kale in some, arugala or a combo. Make sure greens are dry before you package them up. I then do an assembly line of fresh veggies I love. And I never include the protein or the dressing on the salad in advance. Containers are key. If you don’t want to eat out of a good plastic container, try mason jars.
- My steps: PLAN (easy once you have a go to list and your technique), SHOP, PREP, PORTION, PACKAGE. Food trackers now have all kinds of tools to help you with the planning part. Some even make grocery lists for you!
This is what works for me. I hope it’s helpful and would love to hear from any of you who have meal planning and prep tips to share here or on our In the Equation Facebook page.
Most of the successful people I know who have struggled to lose weight and/or keep it off do some version of advance meal planning and prep. I think it’s key.
Happy, healthy eating!
Here are some earlier blogs I wrote about meal preparation and planning, and eating on the go:
- You are what you eat. Uh oh! (March 2015)
- Confused about what to eat to lose weight & maintain a healthy body? (Jan. 2015)
- Shopping to eat healthy & stay on track (Jan. 2013)
- Six tips for self-care during the holidays (Nov. 2014)