-The art of bulk cooking-
Prepping your meals ahead of time is by far the best piece of advice I give to my clients and the practice I include in my weekly routine. Having the right food ready to eat in your fridge is crucial when trying to stick to a plan. And even if you are not on a plan, this practice can save you a ton of money, time, and guessing what to cook for dinner or lunch.
According to Mike Roussell (Ph.D. and nutrition advisor for Men’s Health), “One of the biggest downfalls I see with clients regarding their compliance to their nutrition program is making poor nutrition decisions in the moment. When you prep meals ahead of time, you don’t need to make any decisions at meal time. All the work has already been done. You just need to eat.” (menshealth.com)
The first time I was presented with the idea of prepping my meals ahead of time, I found it a little intimidating, but once I did it, I never went back. As I mentioned before, it is a practice that I include in my weekly routine weather I am on a fat loss plan or simply in maintenance mode. I also got addicted to how easy and fast I can put together a complete meal for me and for my family, and how much money I was saving in every trip to the store. It is especially great for those that don’t like to cook that much, or for those with a very busy schedule. It does require a little organization, but it is nothing that can not be accomplished at the first try.
I put together a list of the best tips to make meal prepping easy and sustainable, let’s not forget that the key to reaching any goal is consistency. I hope this guide will do the trick:
1. Stock up on containers
Food containers will be your best friends when meal prepping. You will understand why Aunt Elsa was so mad at you when you didn’t return her Tupperware on Thanksgiving of 2004.
I personally prefer glass containers. I find them easier to clean and environmentally friendly, but whatever fits your budget and preferences will do. Acquire different sizes and enough containers to store 5-6 days worth of food.
I like to use mason jars for the salads. Here is the way I make them (Makeahead salad), and I swear, they stay fresh and crispy for up to 6 days in the fridge. Avoid metal containers, especially if you are planning to heat your meal in the microwave. And look for the ones that are easy to stack in your cabinets and in your fridge.
2. Make a plan.
Planing a weekly menu will help you tackle the trip to the grocery store in no time. If you are new in the world of meal prepping, I would recommend you to start with one meal only, it can be lunch or dinner, that way it won’t be overwhelming at first.
Checking your calendar is a great idea. By doing this, you will know exactly the amount of meals to prepare. Hopefully, you know a week prior about that lunch meeting with your co-workers, or if that review with your boss will be from 11:00 am until 3:00 pm and lunch will be provided.
3. Make it balanced.
The protein should come primarily from lean options like chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, eggs, or Greek yogurt. For fat, think good sources like olive oil, canola oil, avocado, and nuts. And try to keep your carbs complex
instead of refined. Brown rice, quinoa, vegetables, and whole wheat bread or pasta all work. You don’t have to eat the same thing everyday.
Get creative! If you cook a batch of chicken breasts on the grill, one day it can be served with roasted vegetables and brown rice. Another day it can be diced in a fresh tomato sauce over whole wheat pasta. And then the next day, it can be tossed over a fresh salad made out of spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, black olives, feta cheese and some greek herbs. The idea is not for you to eat exactly the same food everyday, although you technically are (grilled chicken in this case), you are making it different to your eyes and to your taste buds.
4. Keep it simple.
You don’t need to be a chef to throw some chicken in the BBQ (here is a great way to make the same chicken breast in four different ways: 6-chicken-breast-4-ways-30-minutes-12-meals ), or a salmon fillet in the oven (here is another great recipe
fool proof: salmon-5). Use spices and different flavors, that will take your meal to a whole new level. Avoid going to Pinterest in the search of the most succulent, amazing, out of this world dish. Remember, this is not a feast. It is fuel to your body.
Include colorful vegetables and different textures. Raw vegetables are great for salads but so are grilled veggies. Try roasting some zucchinis or eggplant and add it to your salad. Add some lean protein and you will make your coworkers green with envy.
5. Go Shopping.
Once you have a plan, and that includes a menu, you can write down your list and get everything you will need. You might be surprised about how little you are getting, and how that is going to make all those meals.
Remember, you won’t be guessing anymore, so what you will get is what you will use. You will be also surprised about how decluttered your fridge and pantry will be, and that means more bucks in your pocket.
6. Pack your food.
Here is the fun part. Once you have cooked your food for the week, you will get the chance to put together endless combinations. Remember to keep it nutritionally balanced, where your lean protein will be the main character, and then add the vegetables, salads and carbohydrates.
Enjoy the process and make it fun. Look at it as a new way to eat better, and feel better. Believe me when I say that it is not that hard!
Owner and Founder of G.O Nutrition For You