Folks are getting smarter and smarter about their food choices than ever before, it’s helping us lead happier and healthier lives because of it.
More nutritious food options are available right now, with a lot of free information out there to give you instant insights into the foods you should be adding to your diet and the ones you should work to cut out as much as possible.
At the same time, all of this information can cause a little bit of overload. It doesn’t take long for folks to become overwhelmed by all of the great nutritional options to pick and choose from, get swallowed up by all of the “new” rules for eating healthy, and to top it all off figuring out how to cook all of these healthy meals – in the middle of the most fast-paced day-to-day environment that’s ever existed – is enough to make anyone’s head spin.
With meal planning, however, you’re able to dramatically simplify everything about your nutrition.
Just What Is Meal Prep, Anyway?
Meal prep is nothing more than outlining a week’s worth of food – individual meals and snacks – in advance and knocking out the cooking (or at least most of it) in a single day so that you free up your time and streamline your choices.
Think of it like this:
You’ll basically be creating your own healthy TV dinners, ready to be heated up and eat at a moment’s notice, without having to worry about your new healthy eating lifestyle going right out the window with traditional TV dinners.
You’ll save time, you’ll save money, and you’ll gain a lot more control over your nutrition than you ever would have if you stuck with the traditional grazing mentality that most people have.
It takes a little bit of time to get used to, and a little bit of planning at the beginning of every week, but the evidence is in – this is the way to make switching to a healthy eating lifestyle about as simple and as straightforward as it gets!
Here are some tips and tricks to help you hit the ground running.
Getting Started with Meal Prep
Right out of the gate, it’s important that you focus on learning the fundamentals of meal prep with a step-by-step approach.
The last thing you want is to become overwhelmed or overloaded with this revolutionary new approach to knocking out your entire week’s worth of meals all at once. That sounds a lot more daunting at first blush than it actually is, and once you dig right into the mechanics of meal prep – and have a couple of meal prep sessions under your belt – you’ll find that it becomes second nature.
Pick a Day to Kick Things Off
The very first thing you’ll need to do is pick a day that you are going to sit down and not only plan all of your meals, but grocery shop for those meals and do the bulk of their preparation as well.
A lot of folks choose Sunday to be their meal prep day of the week to see why.
Most people have Sunday off of work, kids are home from school, and the entire family can band together to knock out the grunt work getting the meal plan for the week poured in concrete and then go through the motions of handling as much prep as is necessary.
Some of the more experienced meal preppers out there recommend breaking your weekly meal prep production line – actually cooking and portioning out your meals – into two different days, hammering out the work in the kitchen on both Sunday and Wednesday. This keeps things fresh, lets you call an audible in the middle of the week if necessary, and won’t have you tied up in the kitchen for the entirety of your Sunday running through the next week’s worth of meals.
It’s not a bad approach to take.
Knockout Your Week of Food Choices
The next big piece of the puzzle here is pretty obvious – and that’s figuring out the meals you’re going to prepare for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for the next seven days.
To begin, you’re going to want to think about your healthy eating lifestyle and what you hope to get from the food you fuel your body with. Low-fat diets are going to be heavy in protein, lighter in carbohydrates, and then have a sprinkle of healthy fats throughout.
The internet is going to be your best friend when it comes time to find meal choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that fit this healthy eating lifestyle. It’s important that you try and focus (at least for the first few meal plans) on preparing only a handful of different options for each of the three major meals throughout your day.
You might “rinse and repeat” a single breakfast every day of the week for this seven day block, shake things up with two different lunches (on alternating days), and then cook up a big batch of a low-fat dinner in your slow cooker that you pick at for dinner all week long, for example.
This will keep your actual meal preparation pretty simple and straightforward, your grocery list as minimalist and as inexpensive as possible, and you will be able to get into the groove of meal prep pretty quickly, too.
Invest in Quality Containers
This so often goes overlooked by first-time meal preppers, but it’s a major mistake you don’t want to slip into.
Because you’re going to be preparing meals as much as four days (or more) in advance and refrigerating them to be reheated later you’ll want to invest in quality containers that will seal in freshness and flavor while at the same time giving you the ability to reheat your meals in those same containers without any trouble, either.
Take out style containers (particularly those with interior partitions) can be picked up for next to nothing online. Many of them are high quality, designed to be reused over and over again, and almost all of them are going to be microwave friendly. There are even 100% BPA free options that may be worth looking into, especially if you’re going to be reheating the food in these containers in your microwave.
Regardless of the container options you choose, it’s important to stick to that “format” and invest in as many of them as possible right out of the box.
Again, that’s not going to be a problem when you snap up take out style containers. The value here is that you’ll have a universal fleet of containers with lids that fit perfectly. We’ve all had to hunt for a very specific Tupperware lid in our “junk drawer” before, and that’s never going to be a headache when you take this approach.
At the end of the day, your experience with meal prep is going to come down to the effort you put in to the process.
In the beginning, everything is going to feel a little bit “off” and quite a bit for it to the way that we usually approach our daily diet. Most of us grab whatever we have in the pantry and whip something up quickly or pop off for the drive through for a pizza delivery. That’s not going to happen with meal prep in place.
Instead, you’ll be consciously thinking through all of the nutritional choices you make throughout the week. You’ll gain a lot more control over your caloric intake, your macronutrients, and your portions – really putting you in the driver seat when you learn to meal prep with a low-fat diet in mind moving forward!