Imagine this scenario, you wake up with a whole lot of thoughts swirling in your mind. You have to finalize the project for that important business meeting. The kids have their annual exams. Your mom is not feeling well and needs help visiting the doctor.
But suddenly your face lightens up because you have meal prepped for the entire week.
Do you want to join this bandwagon? Then scroll down for some thought provoking information about meal prep.
According to a study spending, less than one hour of preparing meals at home is linked to eating more fast food and eating out. Non availability of time may be one of the greatest barriers to achieving a healthy diet.
Preparing meals at home is associated with several indicators of a better diet. This includes eating more veggies and fruits.
Researchers say that people who cook most of their meals at home consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar, and less fat than who cook less at home. This is the case even if they are not trying to lose weight.
This new school of thought ‘the meal prep’ not only encourages healthy eating, but it also influences the younger generation to make healthy food choices. A study states that if parents spend more time on meal prep, their kids choose healthy food choices even without parental supervision.
Do you have a mealtime meltdown in getting your children pass up junk food for healthier intake? Research shows that you should encourage them to be involved in meal preparation. You can make meal prep a family affair, where everybody tends to chip in and contribute their part.
Employment outside the home was linked to fewer hours spent preparing meals. Imagine after a long day at work, you come home to find out that cooking and cleaning needs to be done, and you have to help your kids with the homework. The very thought would send shivers down your spine. The immediate instinct would be to buy food from outside.
Here is where the meal prep comes into play. You plan the healthy course of the meal, buy the ingredients, prepare healthy food, pack it in portions and freeze it for the whole week. The whole week you can enjoy healthy food and be hassle and stress-free of meal preparation. How awesome!
Nutrition Content Of Pre-Prepared Foods
Are you worried about the nutrient content of prep meal foods? Health experts say that preparing foods ahead of time does not destroy its nutrition. What a revelation?
Jane Lear a health expert writes, according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers were surprised that fresh-cut fruits do not lose most of their nutrients. This includes antioxidants, vitamin C, phenols, and carotenoids when stored in clear plastic clamshell containers and refrigerated for a few days.
Researchers from the Rice University and the University of California have found that even some days after the harvested lettuce, cabbage, spinach, zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots and blueberries continue to respond to circadian rhythm. This allows them to alter certain levels of phytochemicals. When they are eaten by humans, these nutrients produce anticancer effects.
Meal prep helps you to stay true to your fitness goals. Your daily meals contribute 80% to your success. What you eat matters.
What is meal prep?
Meal Prep is planning and preparing your meals beforehand for the entire week. It helps you to make your own healthy and delicious pre-packed meals instead of eating out.
The benefits of Meal Prep include keeping you on track with your fitness goals. It eliminates the stress of having to cook every single meal on a busy schedule. You can save money and time, and you can also save on your gas and electricity bills.
In this way, you can enjoy healthy and delicious meals throughout the week.
1. Maintain a Clear Schedule
First, you have to get a clear idea about the schedule for meal prep. You can decide whether you will meal prep for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the entire week or whichever part is stressful. For some, it may be breakfast and lunch and for others,it may be lunch and dinner. It is purely based on your convenience.
Have a clear mental plan about the times and days you’ll want to meal prep. If you don’t pre-schedule your food times, you may skip your meals or resort to unhealthy foods.
Trisha a Registered Dietician and Strength Coach in the US Army says “Plan what you’ll eat and at what times you’ll eat it.”
If you are just starting out, then keep these pointers in mind. These are time tested and are given by Tammy Creator of Organize Yourself Skinny.
- When starting out avoid making your entire weekly menu plan because it may completely overwhelm you. Start slow and as you get comfortable, you can prep more.
- Prioritize your meals if you don’t have the energy or time to do a lot of meal preparation. Decide if you are going to do the meal prep for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Find out which is the time you’re more stressed about and plan the meal prep accordingly.
- Be known that you need not cook all the food you prep. It can mean chopping up onions, veggies or peppers beforehand. You can wash fruits and veggies and portion out nuts and crackers. You can cut up chicken or beef to be recipe ready. This is a very useful tip to follow.
- You can be stress-free even with a little bit of food prep.
- Even during weekends you can be short of time. In such cases follow the mantra that any food prep is better than no food prep at all. You can meal prep for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- Experts say that it takes 3 weeks to form a habit. Don’t throw in the towel, if you failed in your first attempt. You should adapt and savor success. If you put in a little effort, you feel so rewarding when you open the fridge and see the neatly packed foods at the end of a long working day.
2. Write Your Meal Plan And Be Specific
The next big thing is the actual planning of meals. Avoid trying out new recipes, as you will be preparing in bulk. If the end product does not turn out as expected, it will be a waste of time, money and effort. So stick to the recipes you know best.
You have to include foods rich in protein, low carbohydrate foods and some high carbs, vegetables, snacks, and sides. While you are planning your meals, sit in a quiet corner, be relaxed and make the menu plan. A stressed mind may prevent you from thinking effectively.
Having a basic idea about nutrition will help you to make informed choices.
They are the essential building blocks for muscles and maintain energy throughout the day. Plan your meals that include one protein, carbohydrate and vegetable portion. Whatever recipes you are choosing, just keep this as your guide.
While choosing proteins go in for lean proteins. Include chicken breast, lean ground turkey, steak, lean ground beef, salmon, tuna, shrimp or other fish. Use a cooking spray to avoid overusing of oil.
For vegetarians include garbanzo beans, black beans, edamame, kidney beans, tofu or tempeh.
Carbs help to breakdown and absorb proteins in the body. Plan a 2:1, or 3:1 ratio carbs to proteins. Choose whole grains and complex carbohydrates. Include buckwheat, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and sweet potato. Try rice varieties such as wild grain, brown rice, basmati, and jasmine.
Romaine, kale, and spinach are the healthiest options. For salads, you can sauté mushrooms, green beans, and asparagus, sugar snap peas, and broccoli, red, green, orange and yellow peppers. If you prepare salads with cucumbers and tomatoes, it may become soggy after some days. You can include them for freshly prepared salads.
Snacks and Munchies
Go in for non-roasted and unsalted almonds, grapes, oranges, cantaloupe, and honeydew are other great options. You can throw them in a small container and take it along with your meal.
Apples, rice cakes and celery sticks smeared with peanut butter are other great options.
Chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, unrefined coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and avocado.
Honey, molasses, coconut palm sugar and stevia.
Toppings and Condiments
All natural peanut butter, almond and cashew nut butter. You can add no sugar added salsa, Dijon mustard, kosher and sea salt sparingly.
Avoid heavily breaded foods, deep fried foods, white flour and artificial sweeteners.
Having a basic idea of the foods involved can help you to prepare a healthy meal plan according to your convenience.
3. Buy All The Ingredients Needed
After triumphantly finished with the meal planning, your next challenge is to write down the ingredients. By jotting down the ingredients, you shop smarter by planning ahead and limiting the variety of items. Whether you shop online or in your nearby supermarket, the goal should be to invest in quality ingredients.
Online shopping helps you to avoid crowded parking lots and busy checkout lines. Above all, it saves your time. Farm to table sites, for example, FreshDirect.com offers door to door delivery under 10 bugs.
If you love going to shop, then my advice would be to go and shop during the shop opening time, or in the early afternoon when most of the people would be resting. This way shopping would be a breeze because you can avoid crowded lines and parking slots.
Select foods that are fresh, organic and which are minimally processed. You can buy freshly harvested foods from farm gates. Buying foods from the farmer’s market help you to taste real flavors, enjoy seasonal foods, and get minimally processed foods, ripe and more nutritious foods and is quite affordable.
Since we are talking about meal prep, going in for farm fresh, seasonal foods help you to lock in more nutrients. You buy the freshly harvested foods from the farm which are highly nutritious and meal prep for the coming week. How close can you get?
4. Check Out If You Have Enough Storage Conatiners
This is another important aspect of meal prep. To avoid stress and to rightly preserve the nutrition of the prepared foods. Here are some great ideas for you to take note about storage containers.
- Invest in a leak proof and airtight containers.
- Make sure that the plastic containers are suitable for microwave heating. Melted plastic is a serious health concern.
- Improperly frozen foods can absorb other smells and flavors. Go in for freezer-friendly containers. They should be rigid and sealable. Plastic freezer Ziploc bags can also be awesome alternatives.
- Checkout the portability of the container.
- Check out the durability of the containers. It should handle the wear and tear of everyday use.
- Give importance to ease of cleaning. Check whether the containers are dishwasher safe. Stainless and glass containers make your cleaning work easier without any funky smell.
- Since you store different foods, there can be a truckload of containers. If you’re willing to splurge, then invest in glass containers.
5. Cook The Meals And Keep It Simple
This is the actual part of meal prep. As we saw earlier, it not necessary to cook all the food. The basic idea is to simplify the work process. So whether you want to cook a whole batch or do some chopping, grinding or basic prep stuff, all of it boils down to your convenience.
Alex Orlow, a professional health writer, gives these informative tips.
- You can season the meat in three ways using just one pan. You can use aluminum foil dividers in your pan for different flavors
- Bake a dozen eggs in muffin tins in an oven for 30 minutes.
- Freeze the blended smoothies in muffin tins
- Chop or spiralize the raw veggies in advance.
- Pair the veggies based on roasting time to prepare a large batch.
- Bag of the smoothie ingredients.
- Use muffin tins for breakfast frittatas
- Skewer meals for quick portions.
6. Organize Your Fridge
Ta-DA you are at the end of your meal prep journey. Now all you need to do is neatly stack the see through containers. You can label the boxes and neatly stack them one above the other,
Arrange the foods that are to be refrigerated and those that need to be frozen in their respective places. A see thru glass door ensures that your neatly stacked containers are always visible. Seeing healthy food helps you to make healthy food choices.
Ethylene gas is a naturally occurring plant hormone that speeds up the ripening process. Avocados, tomatoes, and ripe bananas produce ethylene gas. So separate them from veggies like spinach, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.
Meal prepping saves your time and money, eliminates last minute stress, makes shopping easier and helps you to make healthy food choices.
It also makes you worry-free to be able to think of other things and be efficient in your everyday life. Getting into this routine will do wonders in your life in the long run.
Now that you have prepared your food, you are free to take on the various challenges life throws at you both professionally and personally. The end result, you’ll march out successful in all your endeavors. How awesome!