If you live a busy life, like most of us do, you do not have time to cook every single day, nor do you have the energy. This is one of the main things that leads to unhealthy decisions. When you get home from a long day of school or work, you do not feel like cooking a healthy meal. That fast food or restaurant food sounds so easy, so delicious. Therefore you must take the time to meal prep.
When I first heard of meal prep, I thought of these bodybuilders who counted all their calories and macronutrients. Heck, I even did this for a short period of time. But the fact of the matter is, most people don’t have the time to do this, and most people don’t want to become bodybuilders. Most people just want to look good when they take their shirt off, and they don’t want to restrict themselves totally to achieve this goal.
I am here today to tell you that you don’t have to be a bodybuilder and count your calories to meal prep efficiently. You just need to prep at least 70% of your meals a week. This means you can pick one or two days out the week to do all your cooking (and if you don’t know how to cook, learn to cook simple things first). Make a grocery list of all your favorite healthy foods, go buy them, and prepare all of them right after you get back, so you don’t have to worry about it later.
When preparing, cooking, and storing these delicious healthy foods, there are 3 simple ways you can go about this.
1. Separate container for each individual meal
This is more of the bodybuilder way to meal prep. You prepare and cook all your foods, and then separate them into small, meal size containers. Each container should contain a balanced meal of protein, carbs, and fats (fats are sometimes cooked into the protein and carbs using olive oil). Choose your portion of each macro based on your goals. If you want to gain muscle mass, you need to up your carbs and protein, and keep the fat ratio lower. If you want to burn fat, you need to up your fat and protein, while leaving your carb ratio lower.
This way of prepping and storing your food has its advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that you don’t have to worry about judging your macro balance or portion size while you eat. You just eat whatever is in the container and be done with it.
One disadvantage of this method I have found is that it can be too strict. Since you are probably not a bodybuilder, you don’t need to adhere to a strict diet with strict macro ratios. You need to eat the healthy foods that you like, when you want to eat them. So if you only have 2 containers left that contain broccoli, chicken, and rice, and you are not in the mood for broccoli, guess what you are going to do? Make the unhealthy decision to get food elsewhere. This brings us to our second meal prep strategy, one with a little more flexibility.
2. Cook all your food, but separate each individual type of food into separate containers
This means all your asparagus goes into one container, all your chicken into one container, and all of your rice into one container. If you have 7 different types of food, you will have 7 unique containers with different options to pick from.
This allows you to have greater flexibility in your options of what kind of foods you want to eat with the other foods you want to eat. It makes for a great mix and match game, where you win every time.
If you are in the mood for chicken, but not in the mood for broccoli, you skip the broccoli container and go with the asparagus container. If you aren’t in the mood for any vegetables (which sometimes happens) then just choose the chicken and the rice containers. Simple as that. You know have more control over your healthy food options. But there is one downside to both of these strategies which can be solved with a little extra time in the kitchen.
3. Cook all your proteins/carbs one day, then cook veggies as you need them
This means that you will cook your chicken, pork, fish, all on one day, and separate them into their own individual containers. Do the same for your starchy carbs, such as rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, etc. These foods take the longest to cook, and they can be eaten up to 5 days after they are cooked (no more than 5 days).
The problem with cooking vegetables at the same time and storing them up to 5 days is that by the 3rd day, they start to get weird. The fats from the oil will start to build up in the container and they can get soggy and form a weird texture. The way you can get around this is by cooking your vegetables on the day you want to eat them, or only storing them for a couple of days.
And the good thing is, vegetables usually take the shortest time to prepare and cook. Cutting, dousing with olive oil and seasoning, and throwing them in a pan or the oven, only takes up to 20 minutes max, and its not tedious work.
So if one day you want chicken, rice, and zucchini, then you will heat up the chicken and rice you have stored, while you cook the zucchini in the oven or in the pan. This way you will always have fresh, great tasting veggies that are a necessity to a balanced diet.
Do What Makes Sense for You
The great thing about meal prepping is that there are several ways you can do it, and none are too difficult. If you really want to make a change in how you look and feel, then you must make sacrifices and put aside one or two afternoons where you just bare down and get your food cooked. If these simple meal prep strategies are too hard for you, then I don’t know what to tell you. Any kind of change is going to be somewhat hard, but once you get through the first few times and learn how to cook better, meal prep will seem like a breeze!
What I am saying is, if you want to live a healthier lifestyle and see results, just going to the gym everyday is not going to cut it. Nutrition is 80% of the battle. Meal prepping is almost 100% of nutrition. If you don’t prepare and cook healthy foods every week, then you will not see results.
But it doesn’t have to be hard. Just start small, make a few new meals a week, that you actually enjoy, and you will be a meal prepping master in no time at all!
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