When you hear the term “meal prep” some think of grilling chicken breasts, steamed broccoli, and a measly salad in bulk and packaging them up in sad little containers with no spices, flavor, or sauces for the week. On top of that, then you’re stuck with the SAME lunch for 3, 4 or even 5 days.
Meal prep doesn’t have to mean making large quantities of one recipe and then eating that same recipe for 5 days in a row (unless of course, you absolutely LOVE the recipe because it’s bursting with flavor). The point is, meal prep shouldn’t have to be a cookie cutter type of formula to eat healthy throughout the week. A lot of times it can be redundant, tedious, or even boring if you don’t like cooking.
My mission is to change all this.
My eating and nutrition philosophy is based around intuitive eating. This means not following a specific one size fits all type of diet, or shunning food groups left and right. It is based on figuring out what YOUR own unique needs are, based on your own biological needs, preferences, and goals. This means label free eating, no counting every calorie we consume or weighing every single piece of protein we eat. Seriously? There is already SO much we are already running around trying to do every day, why add ANOTHER thing to obsess and analyze over? With that said, there should still be a healthy balance between intuitive eating and calorie deficit. You shouldn’t be downing an entire avocado in one sitting or eating an entire tub of Peanut butter.
As you continue to learn from my educational nutrition content on Instagram, through articles on here, and in my upcoming Intuitive Eaters Guide To Meal Prepping, you’ll have an understanding of what types of calorically dense foods you may eat and healthy portion sizes, but no computing calories into your phone or weighing items (unless you already do that and don’t find it as an additional task to do each day!). Between gaining valuable holistic nutrition knowledge, and key strategies to make your healthy eating plan simpler, why should you even worry about meal prepping in the first place?
Why should you meal prep?
— Meal prepping saves you time. When you dedicate a specific time to map out your week and do a bit of prepping ahead, you won’t be spending hours a day thinking about what to make, or cooking in the kitchen.
— It saves you money. Gone are the days when you give in and buy lunch for a week straight at work. This can really rack up your food spending, especially if you live in an urban setting. By doing a bit of meal planning, you’ll be prepared for the week and will be able to cut down on takeout or dining on the go.
— You get total control over what you’re consuming. This is for my type A folks. When you meal prep and plan your week, you know exactly what ingredients you are consuming throughout the day. This allows you to track macros (if you do that), portion control for specific ingredients, or ensuring that you aren’t consuming any processed foods or additives.
To help you warm up to the idea of planning your week of meals (in an intuitive way of course) I’m sharing XX ways that you can get started with planning ahead so that eating healthy throughout the week becomes an easy, healthy, no brainer.
Start small and keep meal prep easy.
If you are totally new to meal prepping, start with the easiest recipes or cooking methods you can find. I love crock pot, pressure cooker, or casserole dishes as starters. These types of recipes usually just require adding all your ingredients and flavors into a single pot, pressing a button, and being on your way with your day. The last thing you want to do when starting out with a meal prep journey is diving head first into complicated meals. This will cause burnout *real* quick and then you’ll really be over the concept of meal prepping. It’s also beneficial to start out with one meal or one component of a meal each week until you get comfortable with this new lifestyle habit.
Make sure your storage is meal prepping optimal.
This is one of the most important factors of meal prepping, since food may start to ferment once they are prepared and packaged as a leftover in the fridge. This is also why I break my meal prepping method into more than one big cooking day a week, to ensure that food is always fresh, and because I don’t want to be stuck eating the same exact thing for 5 days straight.
You want to make sure that whatever food storage containers you are using keeps your cooked or prepped food at the appropriate temperature desired, as well as allowing as little air inside as possible to prolong the stability of the food inside.
I usually source thermal, stainless steal or glass containers for storing cooked food in the fridge. When it comes to making sure air does not enter your prepped or dry foods, I use a vacuum sealed container from Ankomn to keep food fresher for up to 6 times longer than normal. I really dig their technology that creates a really STURDY (which is hard to find) vacuum seal so that whatever is stored in this type of vacuum box either stays dry (which is great for your flours, nuts or dry goods) or fresh. You can also use these types of storage containers for marinades if you need to marinate protein for a few hours, you’ll know that it will not oxidize, and you’ll be keeping all the other produce/foods in your fridge safe since you know it’s sealed correctly! There are many different sizes you can check out here.
Even with proper storage practices, there are no concrete timelines for how long your food will stay fresh for. The FDA has guidelines for food storage for your freezer or fridge which will help you determine how long your meals or ingredients. On average, prepped meals will stay fresh in the fridge for between 3-5 days.
Keep your meal prep balanced
When cooking batched ingredients or meals ahead of time, you should always make sure that your meals have a balance of macronutrients and micronutrients. I go into more detail about this in my upcoming program.
Create recipes or parts of meals with foods you know you enjoy eating.
One of the things you DO NOT want to do if you want to save time eating healthy throughout the week is start off by experimenting with a recipe that has ingredients you’ve never tried or you’re unsure about. Only use ingredients you know you love, because then you may end up wasting time cooking making something that doesn’t taste great.
Always make more than you think you need.
I always say, the more food you make, the better. Sometimes I think I’m doubling a recipe for my husband and I to then realize that we still ate the entire pot in one sitting. As a general guideline, I always try to triple the quantity of any recipe or prep I’m doing throughout the week to ensure there are always leftovers to store.
You can’t meal prep without prep time. Schedule a window one to two days per week to prep your meals. If you multitask a little (use your oven and stove top to prep more than one food at once, for example), you’ll cut down on time even more.
Curious about how to become an intuitive eater and sustain this new type of lifestyle with easy meal prepping techniques? Sign up here to learn more!
DISCLAIMER: This post is in partnership with ANKOMN. All thoughts, creative direction, writing, and information is 100% my own.