Why Meal Prepping is Essential for Healthy Eating
Updated: Sep 8, 2018
Like most people, my journey to healthier living has been a long one. It has included fad diets, binge eating, carbo-loading, weight gain, weight loss, and everything in between. But at the end of the day, getting healthy and staying that way is actually very simple. It's not a diet or a fitness program; it's a lifestyle. The only way to stick with a healthy lifestyle? Planning ahead.
MEAL PREPPING SAVES ME FROM MAKING A BAD IMPULSE DECISION FOR LUNCH
I don't know about you, but if I show up at work without a lunch, then my calendar fills up with meetings and I either end up eating a bag of Doritos at 2pm, eating leftover Chick-fil-A that I find lying around the office, ordering a burger from the restaurant next door, or getting Uber Eats. No matter what, it doesn't end well.
I've learned that I'll eat whatever is in front of me for breakfast and lunch. And if I have something healthy in front of me for both of those meals, 5 times a week, then 48% of my meals for the week are automatically good choices. That's a huge win. Imagine - if half of your meals are automatically healthy - how much would your body and life change?
PORTION CONTROL IS AUTOMATIC
I use these meal prep containers by Fitpacker. They're bpa-free, dishwasher/microwave/freezer safe, and they are still going strong after 2 years. They hold 28 oz worth of food - and while I squeeze a lot into them, it means that I'm never eating more than that. It's the perfect amount to keep me full all day long, but not binge like a crazy person.
IT'S SURPRISINGLY EASY... I CAN MAKE SEVERAL WEEKS OF MEALS AT ONCE, IN LESS THAN AN HOUR
Some people literally just "meal plan" or "prep" - meaning, they make a list of all the meals they'll make that week and/or chop their veggies on Sunday and get everything together. I prefer to actually cook everything for the whole week. When I first started meal prepping, it took me ~4+ hours to make all meals for the week on Sunday. But since then, I've really sped things up.
On any given Sunday evening, I can make 2-3 weeks of lunches all at once, within an hour if I need to. I do that because I now:
Use the freezer! I've learned that nearly everything freezes really well. Think about it... all those frozen dinners in the grocery store contain things like burritos, pasta, egg sandwiches... all kinds of things that most people would say, 'oh, that won't freeze well!' Well, they do. I freeze chicken/quinoa/broccoli meals on a regular basis, along with enchiladas, quiche, and even pasta. This means that I can make multiple weeks worth of meals at once and then not even have to think about it again for a very long time.
Have a go-to formula of veggies, protein, and complex carbs. I like to have some type of protein at lunch to keep me full - and that's usually chicken, salmon, ground turkey, ground beef/bison, of steak strips. I learned the hard way not to bring fish to work for lunch. 😂 Salmon seems mild enough to not drive people away from my desk though! From there, I usually include a veggie: asparagus, broccoli, sautéed spinach, brussels sprouts, carrots, sautéed onions/mushrooms, etc. And then - a complex carb: brown rice, quinoa, forbidden/purple rice, whole wheat pasta, black beans, sweet potatoes, etc. And voila!
Cook everything together in a sheet pan, crock pot, or rice cooker: The key to making 5-15 meals fast is not overthinking it and throwing everything together in one sheet pan (veggies + meats), using a rice cooker for the carbs, and/or putting it all in the crock pot and coming back to it in a few hours.
Be willing to eat the same thing for a few days in a row: Yes, for this to work, you do have to eat the same thing a few times. Sometimes, I'll make 2-3 different meals and then switch them up every other day or so. The freezer makes this possible!
Here's what it looks like from grocery haul to prep:
ALMOST ANYTHING CAN BE MEAL-PREPPED!
I've been meal-prepping consistently (read: every single week) for 2 years now. Part of this working long term is mixing it up and keeping things fresh. That means mixing it up with things like salad-in-a-jar, overnight oats for breakfast, and smoothies.
All kinds of meal prep recipes are coming your way here soon, but until then, here are a few great ones to get you started.
Happy Meal Prepping!