Meal prepping. You'll hear this word if you hang around long enough around any fitness circle. But what is it? How do you do it? Here are the top 3 things to remember when you're meal prepping.
1. Gather the Tools
When you meal prep you need a few tools that will help you stay on track. The most important thing are food containers. Some containers have separate sections for different types of food, some are just one compartment, but whatever you prefer, you will need at least 6 containers for a day's worth of food. If you are on a 6 meal plan, you most likely want to at least have 12 containers so you can make two days at a time.
Some people get really fancy and have insulted cooler bags that they bring their meals in everywhere they go. If this works for you and your lifestyle, go for it! Some people bring their containers and place them in a fridge at work, etc. The key is to really examine your lifestyle and pick tools that work for you.
Food scales are great if you are unsure about portion sizes. You can pick up an affordable scale at your local grocery store for $10-$20. Weighing the food (after cooking, but prior to packaging) will give you the best measurements to keep you on track with your meal plan.
2. Make a Plan
Good meal prepping habits involve some planning ahead. It's when you fail to make a plan that bad choices occur.
Review your meal plan for the week, and write out exactly how much food you need to make all of your meals. Especially when it comes to protein, count how many oz your meal plan calls for for the week and add it up. Once you know your total amount for the week, you can make your grocery list. Grocery shopping is much easier when you know exactly how much food you need, and in which amounts.
(Pro tip: Bulk frozen vegetables and meats are great cost-saving options- they last until you need them, and can be steamed or cooked up very quickly in a pinch.)
After grocery shopping, make sure you have enough time set aside to meal prep. I like Sundays for grocery shopping and meal prep, but pick a day that works for you. Plan on a couple of hours to cook different types of food and package them in the appropriate containers and in the appropriate amounts.
You can also use multiple cooking methods. Slow cookers, baking meat in the oven, steaming veggies, sautéing meals, etc are all ways to keep meals from getting boring. Again, if you have limited time to meal prep, popping a bunch of meat and veggies in a slow cooker is a great way to cook your food without having to watch it closely.
Have fun and be creative! Meals don't have to be boring... experiment with different seasonings and flavors, mix up your meats and proteins, your grains and your vegetables.
3. Be realistic
Be realistic about each day as you start. Are you going to be in the car for multiple meals? Make sure the meals you're packing are in the right containers, are insulated properly, and you have enough silverware. Going to be unable to take a break at work? Make sure you pack a shake meal and use it when you're unable to take a break. Look at your whole day from start to finish, and plan out when to eat your meals when YOU have time to eat them.
Sometimes this may mean eating a cold meal or two, but in the scheme of things, it is always better to have a meal on hand and eat it cold than to make a bad decision for fast or convenient foods.
In conclusion, having the tools, plan and realistic attitude about how each day looks for you can be the key to making or breaking a diet. As the saying goes, if you 'fail to plan, you plan to fail.' Success all comes down to proper planning.... I believe in you!