Let me let you in on a simply fit secret, meal prep. If you’re looking to take your health to the next level whether that be achieving a weight-loss goal, working towards getting off medication, or simply looking to optimize your health, meal prep is one of the best things you can incorporate.
Not only it is a time saver and cost-effective, it will give you the results you’re looking for in lost pounds or inches and increase your energy and productivity, guaranteed. Any single thing you do that is consistent and something you incorporate everyday is a way to get the results you’re after.
Meal prep is something that may sound intimidating or time consuming, when in reality it doesn’t have to be either. There are 3 rules that make meal prep simple and something you can commit to for life.
3 Simple Rules To Meal Prep For Life
- Plan ahead
- Shop smart
- Keep it simple
If you commit to these three rules every week, there will be no reason you can’t continue to meal prep every week and the benefits you begin to see will make you want to continue indefinitely.
Your mind will be free to do other things (I would love to do a more in-depth post on this concept) because you are not using it to make unnecessary decisions such as what you’re going to eat throughout the day.
Your energy levels and mood will increase. My mom likes to often quote my late Nana;
“If you have your hair under control, you have your life under control”
While I believe this to be absolutely true (tell me you don’t have a great night or day when you get your hair done!) I think there is another important quote to live by and that is;
“Happy belly, happy mind”
There is not a soul on Earth that wouldn’t agree you work better, perform harder, and act nicer when you are satisfied in the hunger department.
Your jeans will fit better. If you’ve ever been in a situation where you “forgot” to eat or had to go without food for an extended period of time, only to be tempted with an easy grab n go/not so healthy option like a donut or sugary, processed bar, you understand the power of hunger over rationality. You KNOW that the quick sugar fix will only bring you up to crash you down further and leave you starving, but you are too hungry to care in that moment and make an impulse decision.
The same thing happens when grocery shopping on an empty stomach, DON’T DO IT. Bad things happen. Impulse buys and all rationale goes out the window.
So what happens when the fast grabs you look for are actually nutritious and satisfying? Your mind is happy, your body is happy and all is working in a harmonious rhythm to get you to your goal and into skinny jeans.
Ok, we know why meal prepping sounds like a no brainer for a healthy mind and body, but how do we make it easy and sustainable? This is where the three rules come in.
Rule #1, plan ahead. This takes some getting used to but honestly is one of my favorites and I look forward to it the most.
My husband and I pick a time, usually on a weekend walk before heading to do the grocery shopping for the week, to talk menu. Throughout the week I am perusing recipes, seeing drool-worthy Instagram food pics or coming across cravings of things I haven’t had in a while. I channel the inspiration I had all week when I talk to my husband about what we feel like making for the week.
This can be as involved as you want it to be. Some weeks we are feeling highly motivated and have extra time to play around in the kitchen, while some weeks we can barely put two pieces of bread together. It doesn’t matter about consistency in creativity here, only that you commit to plan ahead.
Usually we throw out a few ideas of things we’ve been wanting to make and seem interesting and then we see if we can make another meal or lunches with the ingredients it would take to make the inspired dishes. We also have go-to meals that we can toss into the mix when inspiration is lacking and we just need to get the shopping list done. A few of my go-to meals are below:
–Fish and veggie (we go to the local fish market, get motivated by what’s fresh and pick a side veggie such as asparagus or broccolini to grill alongside)
–Zucchini noodles (we make up a batch of pesto or homemade marinara to go with a few meals throughout the week, put it on veggie noodles for a dinner)
–Black bean burgers (all you need is a BPA-free can of black beans and fresh made salsa from the deli department and top with avocado-so yum)
–Grilled pizza (this is a go-to on Friday nights because it’s a splurge in the carb department and is surprisingly easy, we pick up fresh dough from the deli department, seasonal toppings and throw it on the grill)
I prefer to plan 5 dinners, 5 lunches and 5 breakfasts.
Breakfast is easy because my husband has the same thing each day, oatmeal and coffee, I make it a little more complicated because I switch it up (I will do a 7 day breakfast post), and for lunch we rotate between making a quinoa salad, wraps/sandwiches for him or fresh salads/smoothies for me.
Once Saturday morning hits, we either make eggs at home or walk and get a coffee at a local coffee bar and share something there. Sundays are for meal prep and shopping. You can always mix up the week to cater to your needs, but this is what works best for us and is something our work schedules allow.
Rule # 2, shop smart. This ties into the planning because what I try to do is think of meals that will use similar ingredients so that I can a) save money b) reduce waste and c) make it easier on myself with prepping.
For example, if I am craving pesto I will try to get 2-3 meals or more out of it because I need to prepare it ahead of time and don’t want to waste it. I will use it on eggplant for a noodle-free lasagna one night, in a quinoa salad for lunches for the week, and on a pizza with veggies for Friday night pizza night.
I try to choose the same core ingredient for lunches for the week. If you can’t eat the same thing for 5 days in a row (I do but I know a lot of people who prefer not to) choose one base thing and change up the toppings and flavor.
For instance, I make a large pot of quinoa most Sundays to prepare for the week. Then I portion out 5 glass containers and add my toppings to each one. One day can be Indian-flavors (golden raisins, hazelnuts, mint and curry spices), another Italian-flavors (cherry tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and balsamic) and another Mexican-flavors (black beans, salsa, avocado and cilantro), you get the idea. I like to do a lot of salads for this reason.
For breakfasts, I love smoothies in the summer and overnight oats in the winter. Both are so simple to meal prep and grab on my way out in the mornings.
When prepping smoothies, I cut up everything, place in the glass containers I transport and drink them from and all I need to do in the am is add ice/almond milk, blend in a blender and put back in the glass container.
With overnight oats, I fill a glass container with oats and desired toppings add almond milk, refrigerate overnight and take directly to work the next day. These are great because you can enjoy it cold or heat it with a little water if you’re craving something warm.
Choosing the same base for meals, especially breakfast and lunch, will ensure I am not wasting ingredients and throwing out food and money.
Snacks are the last thing I like to prep for and these are for times when I just HAVE to have something quick. This is where I like to get a little creative and play to my cravings for the week. If it’s chocolate I will make cacao energy balls, if it’s protein I will cut up cubes of grass fed cheese, if it’s crunchy I will cut strips of bell pepper and broccoli to go with hummus. Whatever looks appetizing and fresh is what I go after.
Last but not least, rule #3, go simple. Do not stress about meal prep, this is something you are doing for yourself to HELP your mind and body in the long run.
Try not to look at it as a chore but as an opportunity to save your future self the frustration and stress of having to do the meal work in real time. What better gift to give yourself than time and brain space?
I try to make the process as relaxing as possible. I turn on some music; make my prep space clean and organized and just GET IT DONE. It never takes as much time as I think it will and it is surprisingly satisfying seeing all the prepped containers lined up in neat little rows in the refrigerator. Or is this just me?
I almost forgot the bonus benefit with meal prep.
Without knowing it, when you decide to meal prep you have made an unconscious commitment with yourself that you are most likely going to stick to because you did all the work upfront and you don’t want to throw all that work out the window.
When you see a container of neatly stacked veggies, a nourishing salad, or a pick me up energy ball, are you really going to entertain the idea of a greasy/unhealthy option that will cost you $$ and set you back in your goal?
The money you will save alone will be adequate enough but the accomplishment you feel and the difference you notice in your energy and overall health and body will make it a no brainer.
Below I included the easiest granola bar recipe that I use as a go to when I need a treat that is not only satisfying but will sustain me and get me over any afternoon slump.
Try it when making a plan to meal prep this weekend and see what a difference it makes in your week!
Simply Fit Almond-Goji Bars
1 cup almonds
1 cup dates
¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla bean)
3 TBL goji berries
In food processor, pulse almonds until lightly ground. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until combined. The consistency should stick together and form one large mound. If dough is too dry, add water in teaspoon increments. Once desired consistency is achieved, transfer to a loaf pan and use parchment paper and the bottom of a measuring cup to pack down in an even layer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Once chilled, take out and cut into 4-8 bars depending on preference. Enjoy! Store in airtight container in the refrigerator for a week for best results.
Have you tried meal prepping? If so, what’s your favorite thing to make? I’d love to hear J