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Meal Prepping: The Beginners Guide

In the nutrition world, there are a variety of fads, trends, and “new” diets that all come and go. This can make staying consistent a challenge, and to be honest, confusing! There is one particular trend that is here to stay - MEAL PREPPING! There are a variety of ways to meal prep and this article will discuss a few simple strategies and approaches. These tools will focus on prioritizing smarter meal options and aid in goal accountability! Remember, nutrition should be simple, easy, delicious, and nutritious!


What is Meal Prepping?

  • Meal prepping is simply the act of preparing foods and meals ahead of time. This may be a few or all of the foods/meals for the upcoming days. This allows one to be in complete control over their food selections and portions.


Why Prep?

  • Meal prepping puts the individual in complete control over their dietary choices. When making behavior changes, control is key! Ultimately, allowing one the opportunity to prepare healthy food options that are available when it’s time to eat! If eating out has been an issue, meal prepping will start to eliminate the number of times eaten out. It also takes the worry away from the “what will I eat” mindset, and grab anything and everything to eat, because nothing is ready. It provides the structure, the backbone! Being prepared for any situation will help keep one on top of their nutrition goals. These prepared meals are easy to travel with and can be taken anywhere there might be a situation where nutrition goals are challenged. It’s helpful to have a mini cooler or lunch box with ice packs to keep food staying fresh, when on the go. Refer to our Nutrition On The Go article.


  • Prepping is also a time saver. In a rush? Running late? Meal prepping is a great way to make sure there is food and meals at any time! Having meals prepared ahead of time for will. Yes, it takes some time to “prep” meals, but if consistently following the below approaches and strategies, meal prepping will become a quick and effective way to stay on track. Look at it this way, it takes just as long to cook two chicken breasts in the oven as it does to cook just one. Now there are two meals instead of one. It will save time trying to figure out what to eat, what to make, time in the grocery store, and in turn, save money. Less food will end up in the trash when meal prepping becomes a habit.




Step-by-Step Process:

  1. Plan

  2. Develop

  3. Shop

  4. Schedule

  5. Prep


PLAN

  • Look at the calendar and see what days should be prepared. This will make things much more simple when putting together a plan of action. Get a good grasp of the upcoming week! Note what events are currently scheduled and prioritize which of those days' meals need to be prepped for. Again, this helps to control what meals are consumed, what those meals consist of, and how much to purchase. It is important to plan ahead, especially for those busy days. The idea is to take away one less stressor on those busy days. By staying prepared for the upcoming week, and knowing just when, and what should be prepared, one can eliminate eating unnecessary meals at the event or eating meals that just do not fit the goal. Again, plan for the unexpected!


DEVELOP

  • Develop a simple menu and write up a corresponding grocery list. Once there is an understanding of what days and meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) need to be prepped, think about what these meals will consist of. At first, stick with familiar meals and only select a few menu options. When trying to prepare a variety of meals at once, it can make the experience overwhelming and not enjoyable. Enjoy the process, don’t make it stressful! Again, the idea of meal prepping is to take the stress away, not create it. After finalizing the menu, move to the grocery list, and write down everything needed at the grocery store to create these meals. This will help create a positive grocery shopping experience. Upon entering the grocery store use the list as the ultimate guide. One will know exactly what is needed, no more questioning or second-guessing!

"Meals should be simple, easy, delicious, and nutritious" Alex Bartz

SHOP

  • It is important to grocery shop for high-quality foods! One can easily prep meals with poor quality and overly processed foods, which is likely to alter the number of calories intended to consume. Aim for whole foods options and stick to the list! Check out our Grocery Haul article to read about the best grocery shopping strategies. Refer to the above article to take the stress out of grocery shopping! Make sure to purchase an appropriate quantity of food when shopping as well, this comes back to the planning section. Think about the exact amount that is needed for the upcoming prep. Is prepping for one, two, or three people? Refer back to the upcoming schedule to determine the quantity of each item. Frozen fruits and veggies can be purchased in large quantities, whereas fresh fruits and veggies will need to be purchased in small quantities. This does depend on how soon in advance the foods will be prepped and consumed. Stock up on essential items like spices, seasonings, sauces, and complex carbs (examples: rice, potatoes, quinoa). These items have a long shelf life, are easily stored, and can be used at any given time to pair with meals. These items can be purchased in large quantities as well. Changing up the essentials from time to time can keep meals interesting!



SCHEDULE

  • It’s all about time management! Now it is time to schedule when everything will be prepped. Going back to the plan, remember what days you need to prep for, this wil