An active lifestyle and healthy eating go hand-in-hand. Whether you are trying to lose or maintain weight, there is little point in being consistent with your exercise if you are all over the place with your eating.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to keep on track with your eating is to plan or what many call "meal prep".
Meal prep might have a reputation as an extreme gym/health junkie habit, but there are varying forms of meal prep that can suit your lifestyle that doesn't involve calorie counting or weighing your food!
Even prepping for Monday-Friday and leaving the weekend "free" can have fantastic benefits.
Some of the benefits of meal prep include
Saving time⌚ No wandering around aimlessly at the supermarket multiple times every week
Saving money 💰 No impulse purchases or unnecessary ingredients that you find rotting in your fridge at the end of the week 😫
A great way to plan out healthy and nutritious meals 📝With it all down on paper, it's easier to see trends and patterns as well as any gaps in your diet. Not getting enough green veg? Having pasta 3 times a week? Having it all in front of you means you can assess what changes you need to make to introduce more balance into your diet.
A healthy approach to losing weight or improving your diet💁♀️If you are looking to lose weight, being prepared is going to be absolutely key. The biggest contributor to poor diet is lack of time /preparation. It only takes 10 minutes to make a healthy meal but it takes 2 seconds to open a bag of chips or 2 minutes for that bowl of 2-minute noodles. If you have a meal ready to go and a plan in place, there's no excuses.
How to meal prep:
Pick a day to plan & shop:
The easiest way to meal prep is to pick a day (I like Sundays) to do all your planning and most of your shopping.
Sit down, pen to paper and write out your meals for the week. It's good to plan around nights where you may get home late, mornings when you know you will be rushed etc.
Once you have your list of meals, write out the ingredients that you will need (you might want to do two shops to make sure veggies remain fresh).
Whilst you may not need snacks (provided you are eating three balanced meals everyday)it is wise to have a regular list of healthy options that you can reach for if you do need something. Almonds, chopped veggies, small portions of lower sugar content fruit such as berries.
Go armed with this list (never on an empty stomach) to the supermarket and do not stray from this list.
Tip: I would suggest prepping for no more than a week at a time. The main reason for this is that the two keys to successful prepping is variety and practicality. Unless you have a lot of time, you might get sick of the 20 portions of the same soup and you might not feel like putting together dinner after you have gotten home late after exercise, work and other commitments.
Decide on the degree of your meal prep for each meal:
There are a few methods you can use for prepping. There's no right or wrong way, you just have to do what works for you. It might be one or the other or even a combination of methods depending on your meal choices.
- Bulk cook meals and have them sitting in the fridge
- Cook and portion up individual meals ready to eat
- Part prep meals: chop veggies such as garlic, onions, carrots etc
Tips: Having individuals serves of breakfast and lunch to bring to work ready to go is a good way to save time in the morning.
Keep chopped veggies such as carrots, sweet potato, broccoli and other leafy greens fresh by putting them in some water.
Always be prepared for those rainy days:
In an ideal world, you would of course have healthy meals prepared or planned in advance. There are those weeks where it just simply doesn't happen. Unexpected commitments, a long work day or illness can through a spanner in the works.
You can plan for a rainy day by making up a couple of extra meals and freezing them. That way if you haven't had time to plan, you have a quick, low effort option waiting for you which doesn't involve takeaway.
Tip: Meals that freeze well include curries, casseroles and soups. You can also freeze portions of sides such as cauliflower rice, quinoa and brown rice to accompany these.
Hopefully this guide helps you get started meal prepping if you aren't already.
Happy prepping everybody!