Why I Swear By Meal Prep (& Why You Will Too)
I think we can all agree that one of the biggest barriers against taking the leap of faith & pursuing a healthier lifestyle is the lack of time for preparation. I won’t lie or sugar coat it. It’s definitely true; committing to healthy habits, such as meal preparation, is time-consuming. It takes a lot of planning, dedication & motivation to the bigger picture: living a healthy lifestyle. But trust me when I say that all that time & effort is worth it! Not convinced? Read on!
While many of us aspire to live a healthy lifestyle, to feel fit, at ease & good in our skin & to have sustained & adequate energy levels throughout the day, reality is, life often gets in the way. Setting goals to be and eat healthier is easy, but following through with them & staying consistent is a little more tricky.
Whether you’re constantly on the go, have a crazy work or school schedule, a family to take care of & kids to pick up & drop off ten times a day, the thought of cooking your own meals at home can sometimes feel impossible. I know. I’ve been there.
But, what’s the alternative? How many times have you been so busy during the week that half your day goes by, you look at the clock & it’s 2:00PM & you find yourself STARVING, having forgotten to eat & end up impulsively picking up a fast-food option? Many times, I’m sure. I’ve been there too.
Sure, it’s okay to eat out every now & then, to go for lunch with coworkers, to get dinner with your family or loved one or to go for drinks after a long day of work. Life is all about striving to attain that sense of balance. But, balance doesn’t mean take-out lunches, fast food & late night restaurant pick-ups or deliveries should become a habit. That’s where the planning & preparation comes in.
Ever since I embarked on a journey towards living a healthier lifestyle as part of my eating disorder recovery, I really learned to see the value in meal prep. Recovery from my eating disorder entailed the commitment to a very demanding & stringent meal plan, one where I basically took on the responsibility to cook all my meals & snacks at home. At first, I was doing everything the day of (I was fortunate enough to have been able to take medical leave from work to commit to my recovery wholeheartedly).
But, as I got better, stronger, more excited about life & had higher energy levels, I started to want to do OTHER things than to spend my entire day in the kitchen. For this reason, I started to see the value in preparing my food in advance. Doing so allowed me to continue to stay faithful to & respect my meal plan but also to be able to live a life outside of the kitchen & outside of just recovery, recovery, recovery! Meal prep helped me find balance in my life, allowed me to get adventurous, try new foods I never thought I would & to become very passionate about cooking, baking, knowing & understanding what I’m putting into my body & to eat less & less packaged foods & more raw, real & whole foods.
Okay, but wait, you’re not in recovery & you’re sitting here wondering: Why on earth should you take so much time out of your precious week or weekend to meal prep?
For starters, from a convenience & economical standpoint, meal prep is an amazing excuse to use up ingredients & produce that are about to go bad or that are taking up a lot of room in your fridge or pantry. I’m a firm believer in using what I already have (& using your imagination to do that) before going out to buy new ingredients or ready-made, packaged & processed foods. Not only will your wallet thank you, but you’ll save money, make use of food you already have & you’ll feel good about what you’re putting into your body.
Instead of going to the grocery store every night after work (when, let’s be honest, you’re already starving & dreaming about dinner) to pick up last minute ingredients, you’ll have everything ready & you won’t be tempted to buy EVERYTHING IN SIGHT because of how starving you are! You know what they say… never go to the grocery store hungry! When you do, foods you wouldn’t otherwise even take a second look at suddenly seem like the most delicious thing in the world & all you want to do is buy it all!
Meal prep is a great way to maintain your weight. Meal prep means that you prepare your own food, which also means that you know exactly what you are putting into your body & how much of it. Fuelling your body with clean, healthy & real food ingredients is important, but so is portion control! Even if you’re eating the most wholesome foods, it’s important to be aware of how much of those foods you are using in your recipes. Yes, in case you’re wondering, what I’m insinuating is that there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing” (as cliché as it sounds).
Meal prepping is a great way to get adventurous, try new things & to swap ingredients in processed store-bought foods that would otherwise make you feel nauseous, bloated, crampy or that you wouldn’t be able to properly digest for other ingredients that you know are good for you & most importantly, will make you feel good!
Meal prep encourages you & makes you want to eat healthy & pursue a healthier lifestyle in all other areas of your life (fitness, sleep cycle, work/life balance). It’s certainly WAY LESS TEMPTING to go for unhealthy foods when you have tons of healthy prepared food ready & waiting for you in the fridge. Best of all? You won’t be scrambling to come up with meal ideas after long days of work or school.
Overtime, thanks to meal prep, grocery shopping becomes easy. You get into the habit of buying certain foods on a regular basis because you use them often in your weekly recipes. You also start to be more aware of the grocery prices which is actually quite useful, when it comes to creating a weekly budget & knowing what fruits & veggies are in season. You’ll no longer be the girl or guy wandering aimlessly through the aisles & buying a bunch of packaged foods you probably won’t even end up using simply because it seems appetizing or interesting in the moment.
Meal prep helps teach you balance & portion control! Having that balance & being able to control yourself portion-wise helps cultivate a mindset where you learn to eat intuitively & to listen to your body & understand its hunger cues.
Although you do need to invest some time into planning your meals, going for groceries and cooking them, you still end up saving time in the long run. Lunches are easier to prepare (& you actually do it), post-workout snacks are always available (which is crucial since it’s important to refuel anywhere between 30 & 45 minutes post-sweat for optimal muscle growth & recovery) & dinners are ready in minutes when you get home after a long day feeling exhausted & famished with a partner, family & kiddies to feed.
As you get used to eating healthier & into the habit of weekly meal prep, you will gradually stop craving sugar & other processed, packaged & refined foods. By eating mostly homemade food & cooking with clean ingredients, your body will naturally begin to want those foods & forget about the unhealthier ones it used to crave. I can’t say it enough: Routine is everything! Getting into & being consistent with this routine is the key to healthy eating & adopting a healthier lifestyle overall. Overtime, you’ll be shocked at just how easy it is to turn down the foods you know aren’t going to make you feel good!
Let’s be honest, at some point in the day (or the week, at least), we all get stressed about what we’re going to make for lunch or dinner, what snacks we’ll take to work & whether or not we’ll even have the time to prep any of that… right? The worst part is that stress affects everything from the immune system to digestion to mood & even, sleep. What if I told you that you could reduce all the stress caused by food by meal prepping? Would you do it? I know I would.
Meal prep brings variety to your meals, which means you won’t get bored of eating the same old stuff! You’ll be preparing a combination of veggies, proteins, fats, grains & healthy baked treats every week & the best part is you’ll be able to mix it up from week to week. You won’t be limited to the basic foods you used to make out of habit because meal prep encourages you to get creative. By the way, what I mean is you will no longer be having cereal, toast, pasta or pizza every night.
Food variety also brings about a variety in minerals, vitamins & nutrients, which means you’ll be more likely to be fuelling your body with everything that it needs to sustain you. I’ve realized that thanks to meal prep, there are some days where I eat completely plant-based & others where I load up on my chicken, fish & turkey. This is very important to me because certain plant-based foods are richer in fibre, vitamins & minerals than certain sources of animal protein & vice versa.
Meal prep also means your meals will be well-balanced when it comes to your macronutrients (protein, fat & carbohydrates).
Meal prep makes snacking a lot easier & healthier. When you have healthy snacks on hand, you’re less likely to get to a point where you feel starving & risk binging, because you always have healthy options to refuel between meals.
Meal prepping is also an excellent time to make those new recipes you’ve been dying to test (but haven’t been able to find the time to make). If you change your perspective & you actually MAKE the time to do it, you’ll start to see meal prep as a time for you to have fun, disconnect, get creative & adventurous in the kitchen & dedicate good chunk of the day to exploring your inner chef.
Now that I think I have you convinced, let’s talk about some of my tips to make meal prep more productive & efficient.
When meal prepping, keep in mind that it’s important to cook meals & snacks that will last for at least 4 days in the fridge without going bad. Make sure to store your meal-prepped food in airtight containers to preserve freshness. You can also prepare larger batches of certain recipes that take more time & freeze them so that you have back-up for busier days, weeks or months at work or school.
When I meal prep, I like to make food that’s easy to transport so that packing breakfasts, lunches & post-workout snacks is a breeze.
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do meal prep, as it’s all about what works for you personally. The ultimate goals are to save time in the kitchen, to have access to healthy meals throughout the week, to reduce your food-related stress, to motivate you to eat healthier & to have fun with it.
If you don’t have the time for a whole meal prep situation to go down in your kitchen every weekend, worry not. There’s always somewhere you can start. In my opinion, preparing at least your proteins in advance is a great first step! This way, the base for your meals is made ahead of time & then you can switch it up with easy add-ons every night (This will also avoid a situation where you get bored of eating the same thing over & over again, if you’re that type of person!).
I like to dedicate a shelf to all meal-prepped food so it's easily accessible & organized. Having the prepped food in one place makes it easier to come up with meal ideas because all the options are laid out right in front of me.
Meal prep doesn’t have to be complicated nor does it have to take forever or mean a sink full of dishes. You can keep it simple by prepping some essentials to have on hand as snacks, protein, veggies & good carbs.
Now that I’ve got you convinced & I’ve spilled some of my tips & tricks, what are you waiting for? Get that apron on, whip out those skillets & spatulas, get motivated & get cookin’ good lookin’!
Oh wait… did you say you needed inspiration? Head on over to my blog: www.kellyinthekitch.blog for tons of healthy, nutritious & delicious recipes!