‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’ - Benjamin Franklin
ou can start with the best intentions to exercise and get fit, but if your diet isn’t supporting an active lifestyle, it’s almost certain that you’ll lose sight of your fitness goals and fall into old habits.
It’s important to remember that working out and staying active is only one aspect of a healthy lifestyle and that the food we eat has a more profound impact on our health and wellbeing than anything else. Everyone has different goals, but a well-planned and prepared diet is the key that will unlock the door to success in everybody’s fitness journey.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of 'meal prep,’ it’s a simple life hack where you prepare multiple meals in advance so that cooking and thinking about what to eat doesn’t interfere with your busy schedule.
By prepping your meals, you ensure you always have a healthy meal ready when you need it. This means you’re less likely to get hungry and make the poor food choices that compromise your goals. Have you ever been exhausted, starving, and on a tunnel-visioned mission to find the quickest and easiest meal, only to end up bingeing on takeaway or processed junk food, despite your sworn allegiance to a healthy lifestyle? Yes, all of us have been there…
Fortunately, meal prep can be easy once you get the hang of it, and mastering this life hack can transform your health and fitness, your time management and your ability to be more productive in other aspects of your life. Here are eight ways to meal prep like a boss!
Have a plan
First things first; you need to make a clear plan of what you’re going to eat in the week. This will not only help you stay on top of your nutrition goals, but it will also eliminate the excuse for unhealthy choices.
On a weekly calendar, make a note of what you want for each meal of the day, what you want to eat after your workouts, as well as the healthy snacks you’d like to munch on throughout the day. You also need to decide whether you want to take a 'mix and match’ approach to meal prep, where you cook big batches of proteins, starches and vegetables, and store them separately to create simple Buddha bowl style meals, or whether you’ll be preparing and storing complete meals.
If you are going to prepare complete meals and portion them out, make sure you decide on your recipes in advance of shopping. To reduce costs and avoid waste, look for recipes that use similar ingredients, as well as considering which recipes need to be eaten within a day or two (like salads) and which ones can survive in the fridge or freezer throughout the week.
Another important part of a great meal prep plan, especially for those with specific fitness goals, is to know your numbers. Work out how many meals you need, what your daily or weekly caloric target is, as well as your ideal macronutrient breakdown.
Make time to save time
For many people, time is one of the biggest obstacles to success in their health and fitness journey. To save yourself time and brain power throughout the week, you need to dedicate at least a couple of hours on your meal prep day.
Meal prep pros usually like to block out a few hours on a Sunday afternoon to get their meal prep done after buying their fresh produce at the farmers market earlier in the day but pick the day and time that best suits your schedule.
Just as you might have specific times and days that you have reserved for going to the gym, attending a class, or catching up with your bestie, meal prep is much easier to commit to when you give it the importance of its own special time slot in your week.
Eat a plant-rich diet
There are many reasons to eat a more plant-rich diet, but when it comes to meal prep, loading up on plant foods is the logical choice for four simple reasons. First and foremost, plants are packed with essential nutrients you need to fuel your fitness, which is the whole point of meal prep.
The second reason is that plant foods keep longer than animal products, which means you won’t have to worry about your meat going bad by the end of the week and making you sick. And finally, prepping plant-rich meals will help reduce your preparation and cooking time.
Focus on eating a few healthy staples each week, and avoid overcomplicating meal prep
Keep it simple
Focus on eating a few healthy staples each week, and avoid overcomplicating meal prep with elaborate, fancy dishes. Rather than shopping for specific cuisines or restaurant-inspired dishes you could create, try simplifying your food shopping by focusing on the macros you want to hit.
You need protein, carbs and fats; so make a list of the healthy whole foods which fit under each of these categories, then pick which ones you’d like to eat that week. It’s quite a different way to approach food shopping, but thinking about food as fuel for fitness is a great mindset to adopt when you’re striving for health and fitness gains.
Do not worry though; eating clean and simple meals won’t be boring if you’re clever about it. For example, you could bake a whole tray of sweet potatoes, but divide them up and use 3 or 4 different seasonings for different flavours throughout the week.
Always have frozen ripe bananas
Smoothies and smoothie bowls for breakfast or lunch are an excellent addition to any time-saving, health-conscious and well-prepared meal plan.
However, without ripe, frozen bananas, smoothies just aren’t the same. As the availability of ready-to-freeze bananas tends to vary quite dramatically, it’s always a good idea to avoid disappointment by stocking up on the spotty ones whenever you see them. It’s a bonus that the ripe and spotty ones are usually much cheaper as well!
For the most amazing smoothie bowls every day, peal spotty, ripe bananas, quarter them and store them in a single layer in the freezer. This way you’ll know that four pieces equals 1 banana. Blend them with Tropeaka Protein and your other favourite ingredients to create that incredible soft serve texture that makes breakfast seem more like dessert.
Frozen ripe bananas can also be used for making your oatmeal decadently sweet and creamy without adding any sugar or other hindrances to your health and fitness goals.
Stock up on jars and containers
Head to your nearest op shop to stock up on meal-sized containers and jars for storing all your meals for the week.
When you’re a meal prep goddess, your fridge will be full of neatly stacked Tupperware containers and colourful, pre-assembled jars of salad and vanilla overnight oats.
Salad hack: In case you’ve ever wondered; the secret to assembling a jar of salad that stays fresh throughout the week is to put the dressing down the bottom, leafy greens or grains at the top, and everything else in the middle.
Unlike the oily store-bought versions, homemade hummus is very healthy. Not only is it great for dipping chopped veggies at snack time, but it’s also a delicious condiment for baked or steamed vegetables.
It’s straightforward and cheap to make if you have a food processor; all you need is a few cans of chickpeas, tahini, sea salt, pepper and some lemon juice. Make a big batch of hummus on your meal prep day and store it in the fridge to use any way you like throughout the week.
Instead of spending your meal prep day alone in the kitchen, invite someone to shop for ingredients and enjoy meal prepping together
Make it a social event
One of the best ways to stick to a new healthy habit is to make it social. If you’re excited about meal prepping to reach your health and fitness goals, reduce your waste, save time, and spend less money, then why not invite a friend or partner to join you on your journey?
Instead of spending your meal prep day alone in the kitchen, invite someone to shop for ingredients and enjoy meal prepping together. You might even be able to work out a way to share costs, as well as sharing cooking tasks to save time in the kitchen.
Be prepared for success
In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, 'if you are failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’ This couldn’t be truer when it comes to healthy eating.
With unhealthy temptations luring us in when we are busy, hungry and vulnerable, the only way to come out on top is to be prepared. These 8 tips will provide you with a solid foundation for mastering your own unique meal prep ritual.