What is meal prepping?
Meal prepping, as we know it, is planning and cooking your meals ahead of time — usually for the week or every couple days. However, meal prepping could simply be cutting vegetables or separating meats and seasoning them prior to cooking. It’s all about planning and preparing for your week or weeks to come.
Why is it important?
This allows you to plan your meals ahead of time. You will eat better and feel better. And finally, you will save time and regret during the week.
Do you have to meal prep for seven days?
The whole point for meal prepping is to have control over what you are eating on a daily basis. You do not have to cook for seven days. You can prep for seven days and cook every two days or you can cook every three days — however you want to do it, as long as you hold yourself accountable.
Should you shop for groceries weekly or bi-weekly?
Take some time to decide what you’re going to cook so you know what you’re going to need. I personally shop for meats bi-weekly and get everything else week by week. This assures me that 1) I will not over-shop and 2) I will save time because I know exactly what I want. Save time and money when you shop!
Storing food: Do we need a million containers?
You do not need a million containers to meal prep. I personally store everything in their own containers and if I need two meals packed, for example, then that day I will pack two meals.
You can use plastic baggies as well.
Separating food groups: What do we need?
There are three types of food our bodies need on a daily basis: protein, carbs and fats. Decide what protein-rich foods you like. You’ve got beef, chicken, pork, fish, shellfish, lentils, chickpeas, etc. Then decide what carbs you like. Now keep in mind that not all carbs are created equal. You have really starchy carbs, you’ve got fibrous carbs and you have complex carbs. Remember that vegetables are carbs and many have protein. You want to have a nice variety of colors and types of carbs. When choosing fats, be careful. There are lots of cooking options outside of vegetable oil and canola oil. You’ve got olive oil, safflower oil, grape seed oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, etc. Explore which ones you like and what works best for your goals. Avocados and nuts are also great sources of fats. Understanding these macronutrients will make it easier to develop your shopping list.
What recipes do I use? What do you recommend for marinating food, such as spices? How can I reduce my mess?
Being in the age of technology, there are tons of recipe options! Surf the web for ideas. You can find recipes on Pinterest, Yummly, etc. And don’t be afraid to modify them to your liking. Seasonings are everything. Diversify your collection. You don’t need tons of salt or seasonings with additives if you have a good variety. Also, keep in mind that when you cook with veggies, they also season your food. You can find great seasoning sets online! You can also use apple-cider vinegar and oils as a way to moisten your meat.
I know cooking in bulk can be messy. I recently started buying my meats and separating them into Ziplock bags. I put at least five meals’-worth in each bag. When it is time to cook, I put about a teaspoon of apple-cider vinegar and add whichever seasonings I’m in the mood for. I zip up the bag and shake! It’s easy, fast, clean and you can season with any spices or sauces.
What are different methods of cooking that I can use?
You can sauté, bake, boil or use a crock pot! Some recipes may call for a combination.
What are some suggestions on healthy snacks or preparing healthy desserts?
Whether you have a sweet or salty tooth, there are plenty of dessert preps out there. You can make your own trail mixes with chocolate pieces or bake your own granola. You can add chili powder and lime on your fruit, which is my favorite! You can pre-make shakes with fruit, vegetables, seeds, peanut butter, yogurt, etc. There are some recipes that remove dairy or grains by using bananas or nut flours. Make your own banana chips or dried fruit or make some avocado toast. There are plenty of healthy-snack alternatives. To keep it simple, you can buy bars or other healthy snacks. Be cautious of the serving sizes and sugar content.
When is it OK to cheat? What is the difference between a cheat meal vs. cheat day?
With an active lifestyle and a controlled meal plan, it is safe to say that you can give yourself one or two reasonable cheat meals (this also includes alcohol). Beware of cheat days because they will counteract all of your hard work during the week. You can control a cheat meal. Cheat days can get out of control! Plus, if you plan your meals appropriately, maybe you can make your favorite cheat meals at home!
Why is this a good topic going into the New Year?
This is a time where people want to be better and improve in certain areas of their lives. Health is always on the top of people’s minds between Thanksgiving and January. Be proactive by improving your eating habits! As I said before, it will save you time, money and regrets. On top of that, you will feel better physically and mentally.
Megan Niño is a kinesiologist and personal trainer who trains out of 12th Street Gym. She is an energetic and positive person who prides herself on teaching others to find empowerment in their lives through fitness.