By: Dr. Keith Kantor
Meal prepping- batch cooking several meals at once was once only a popular technique for the bodybuilding community. Nutrition is such an important component of their programs and results it only makes sense that bodybuilders take meal preparation so seriously. Fast-forward a few years and meal prepping has become popular for everyone including moms, professionals, students and everyone in between.
Some people are intimidated about how to go about setting everything up. The most common feedback we get from clients is they think meal-prepping takes too much time, and they do not want to eat the same thing over and over again, or they hate to cook. Yes, it’s true just like anything meal prepping can initially feel like a lot of work, simply because you have to develop a system and strategies week after week. It also helps to initially invest in the proper containers and tools to make this a simple process.
Here is a starter list of meal preparation essentials:
- Plastic bags with seal (both snack size and sandwich size bags)
- Glass storage containers with snap and seal lids
- Mason Jars (mid size or large)
- Lunch Box or small portable cooler
- Small ice packs
Photo * www.chalenejohnson.com
The Benefits of Meal Planning
It is a major time saver. You do not have to mentally gear up to cook, sift through recipes, stop by the grocery store, there is no going back and forth to the fridge after a long day of work, stirring over the stove, washing a bunch of dishes every night, or wasting time driving to a restaurant.
It is healthy and portioned controlled. When you prepare your meals in your kitchen you are not adding excess sodium, fat or sugar, like restaurants do. When the food is divided up and placed in containers it is portioned out into the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Dr. Brian Wansink, Ph.D and author of Mindless Eating has performed numerous studies about portion control. We will continue to eat if the food is in front of us, and can end up eating excessive amounts of calories. If we consume food out of a pre portioned container, then once it is empty we are done, and do not stuff ourselves sick.
A lot of times we are simply too depleted to cook a meal from scratch every night from a long busy day, and we end up eating less healthy options. When you discipline yourself to have healthy meals ready to eat at home it is actually less convenient to wait in line at a drive through. The bonus is you avoid processed foods and you will end up dropping body fat!
You save willpower for other important life task. Researchers in behavioral psychology have learned that willpower can run out. Once you use it up it is gone for the day, this may explain the term yo-yo dieting. By the end of the day, your decision-making abilities have been exhausted, which is precisely why ice cream shops and fast food restaurants are open late.
Those who plan and prep their meals in advance avoid this fate because their decisions related to food have already been made, sparing mental strength for more important tasks like playing with your children or having an intimate conversation with your spouse. Those who are extremely successful like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Albert Einstein, and President Obama are always seen in the same attire to avoid decision fatigue. Perhaps the iPhone would not exist if Steve Jobs had stood in front of his closet every day, trying to decide between Dockers or Levis.
Meal planning will put your bank account in the black- you will save major money.
Eating out at restaurants is expensive, especially if you eat out several times per week. Unplanned trips to the grocery store to pick up a few things can also be expensive. You will save the most money when you buy in bulk, stay out of the grocery store and stick to your shopping list. Meal preppers do not make as many impulse decisions when they are faced with assertive food marketing and they tend to buy less prepackage convenience foods, which also saves money. You will also waste less food; this is great for the environment and your wallet.
Plan your meals first. There are endless resources for healthy meal inspiration. Some of our favorite social media food prepping stars include @fitmencook, @cleanfoodcrush, and @skinnymom. These recipes and meals are family friendly and packed full of meal prepping strategies that will make your life easy. Start by building you meals around a protein, carbohydrate and healthy fat.
After you have planned your meals and bought your items budget out an extra hour to wash and chop your produce (if fresh), frozen is also a great options and even better time saver for some meals. Washing and chopping can be done while you are cooking your protein (chicken, steak, fish, boiled eggs, etc.) on the grill or in the oven and baking your potatoes or boiling your rice. Think about multi tasking to get the most out of your precious time.
After everything is cooked set out your containers for the week and divide up your protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats in containers. Food should be kept in fridge for 3 days or less, place meals in freezer if you are not planning on eating them in 3 days.
Moisture is your enemy. If your produce has not dried all of the way it could get slimy. Throw a paper towel in the container to remove excess moisture.
Additional food prep time savers:
- Portion out fresh fruit and/or vegetables into small containers or snack bags so you can grab them and go.
- Place fruit, spinach and protein powder in bags to have ready to dump into your blender for a quick shake.
- Keep individual hummus or guacamole snack cups for a quick snack.
- Slice up lemons and limes to have ready for water.
- If you do want to roast or steam your vegetables fresh for your meal have them washed and chopped ready to go so you have no excuse to not eat them.
Eliminate the, “What’s for dinner?” headache and start taking control of your health, nutrition and time and give meal preparation a try. Buy high quality foods in bulk, plan your meals and devote an hour or two preparation.