If you forced me to choose one single strategy to help you reach all your wellness goals, I wouldn’t hesitate. I would tell you: Meal Prep.
WHY MEAL PREP?
Meal prep is a key healthy living practices that my clients and I swear by. In short, meal prep is about preparing ingredients or entire meals ahead of time so you can spend less time cooking and more time nourishing. Meal prep makes it possible for you to eat well and reach your goals. Without a consistent meal prep practice, you’ll find yourself struggling to make healthy happen. Yes, meal prep takes time, but consider it invested time. Because the busier you are, the bigger the return when you make prep a consistent practice.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I PREP?
This will depend on your schedule. As a general rule, prepped meals can last up to 4 days in the fridge, with some individual ingredients lasting up to 1 week. I recommend scheduling a weekly meal prep practice, ideally on a weekend. You can also prep during the week if you have the time for it. For example, you can dedicate 15 minutes after dinner to portioning and packaging your lunch for the next day, or you can also do this all on the weekend. The important thing is to pay attention to what works best for you and adapt your practice accordingly.
In today’s video, I share with you 3 tips to get started with your prep.
TIP 1: GET THE RIGHT GEAR
For meal prep and for easy lunch-packing, it’s important to stock-up on proper equipment. I recommend glass or stainless steel for storing food given that many plastics may be a hazard to health, especially when heated. If you do purchase plastic, look for BPA-free containers and get into the habit of transferring food onto a plate before warming
I recommend food containers of varying sizes for food storage as well as smaller containers for individual portions of meals and snacks.
Food storage equipment that I recommend:
- A bake and store set: These glass containers are practical because they serve as cookware and storage because they come with a lid. I use this bake and store set for batch prepping roasted vegetables and then store in the refrigerator.
- A set of mixing bowls with lids (or other food storage containers): It’s important to have storage containers of different sizes. These should be large enough to fit your batch-prepped foods, such as shredded chicken or quinoa for the week. I recommend getting a set of mixing bowls with lids, which you can find in most stores in either plastic or stainless. Again, these simply prep by reducing clean-up time. Prep your food directly in the bowl, top with lid and pop in the fridge!
- Individual storage containers of different sizes: You want a combination of 1L containers for meals, 2L containers for salads, 180ml/6oz – 380ml/12oz for fruit and snacks and smaller 1oz containers for nuts and dressings. These should be easy to stack in the fridge and easy to store. Containers with dividers like these luncbots are especially practical. I also like to use jelly jars for individual servings of chia pudding or overnight oats.
TIP 2: COMMIT TO YOUR CALENDAR
Plan your prep! If you don’t, you risking not finding the time to prep and will be scrambling to build healthy meals during the week. Mark your meal prep time in your calendar right NOW. Put the event on repeat, set a reminder and commit.
TIP 3: PICK A PREP STRATEGY
There’s no right or wrong way to prep, you need to decide what works best for you. Begin by looking at your calendar and decide what meals you would need to make ahead of time for that specific week. When are you busiest and home too late to cook? Do you need lunches or snacks or maybe breakfasts made ahead of time? This may change every week with your schedule. Next, choose a prep strategy that meets your needs:
- Mix and match prep: A good strategy if you don’t have much time to prep and if you like to mix-up your meals during the week. This is about preparing batches of food that can be used in many ways during the week. Choose 1-2 foods to prep from each category to easily build balanced meals during the week:
- Starches: Grains (quinoa, rice, farro), sweet potato, butternut squash soup, Beans (chickpeas, lentils, black beans), Oats (baked, overnight)
- Proteins: Hard-boiled eggs, chicken (baked, grilled, roasted whole, shredded), poached salmon, Shrimp (roasted, grilled, boiled)
- Vegetables: Greens/lettuce (wash, spin and store), Raw vegetables (carrot sticks, pepper slices), Cooked vegetables (Steamed broccoli, roasted cauliflower, blanched green beans)
- Macro meals: This strategy requires you to prepare balanced meals and store them in single-serve containers. This requires more prep time and can be repetitive but is helpful if you’re on a very tight schedule and want to stack meals in the fridge for easy grab and go.
- For example you can prepare several portions of grilled chicken with sides of sweet potatoes and green beans for weekday lunches and a prep batch of chili ready for you when you get home.