Many of us aspire to live a healthy lifestyle. For some, this means feeling fit and energized, for others it means maintaining our ideal weight (the weight at which we feel our best) and feeling confident in (and out!) of clothes. But let’s face it, life can be busy and our best intentions can easily get pushed to the side. While setting goals to eat healthy may be easy, following through with those goals and staying consistent can be tricky.
When you’re busy with the demands of your daily life, the thought of cooking all of your own meals at home can sometimes feel impossible. And although ordering takeout is as easy as picking up the phone or jumping online, warding off temptations at restaurants can be challenging for some. When you’re down to the wire, hungry, and in need of feeding your family, time is the number one “make or break” factor when it comes to deciding on a meal. (Trust me, I’ve been there myself!)
If you’re tired of making unhealthy food choices out of impulse, spending too much money on takeout, not reaching your fitness goals, and just not feeling your absolute best, get ready to meet your new best friend and my ULTIMATE secret weapon: meal prep!
Meal prep is the act of planning, preparing, portioning, and packing your meals and snacks in advance, typically for the week ahead. It is the key ingredient that helps many people reach their health and fitness goals, plus it’s a huge time and money saver. When it comes to meal prep, there is no right or wrong way to do it, as it’s all about what works for you, your schedule, and your lifestyle. For example, if you’re regularly on the road for work, meals that are meant to be eaten warm likely won’t be a good fit for you. The ultimate goal is to have access to healthy meals throughout the week and to save time in the kitchen.
Set a few hours aside each week for planning and cooking and you’ll be amazed at the many benefits meal prep has to offer.
1. You’ll save money.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive if you make a plan. By planning your meals ahead, you’ll know exactly what you need to buy and will be much less likely to stop at the store a few times each week to pick up last minute ingredients. Some of my other go-to tips include shopping at your local discount grocer (Aldi is my favorite!), buying things in bulk, and if your location allows it, shopping at multiple stores to ensure you’re getting the best price available.
2. Grocery shopping will become easier.
When you plan ahead for the meals you’ll be eating for the week, grocery shopping will become a breeze! Prepare your grocery list ahead of time and to make shopping even easier, divide it into categories such as fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, frozen food, grains, and fats. Not only will this ensure that you get all of the items you need for the week, but it will also help you avoid the aisles you don’t need to be in (like the snack aisle!) and the impulse buys often associated with them.
3. You won’t waste food.
Have you ever had to throw away produce that went bad before you had a chance to eat it? If you’ve never experienced this, I promise it’s not a good feeling. When you meal prep, you use all of your ingredients for the week which means it’s very unlikely that you will have any left over if you plan correctly.
4. You’ll save time.
You will need to invest some time upfront to plan your meals and cook them, but you will also end up saving time overall. Think about how much time you’ve wasted in the past standing in front of the refrigerator, trying to figure out what to cook, secretly hoping that new options will appear everytime you open the fridge. When you prepare your meals ahead of time, all you need to do is take them out of the fridge and heat them up.
5. It will help you lose weight.
Planning your meals in advance is KEY to weight loss and something that I stress to all of my clients because you’ll know exactly what you are putting into your body AND how much. A weekly meal prep routine allows you to control how many calories you are eating everyday, which is the perfect recipe for weight loss.
6. You’ll learn the art (and benefits!) of portion control.
When done correctly, meal prep teaches you balance. Packing your meals in containers prevents you from being able to reach for more. If you want to lose weight and consume the right amount of nutrients, portion control is vital. You can still treat yourself in moderation from time to time, but monitoring how much you eat on a daily basis is an important factor.
7. It will reduce stress.
Say goodbye to the stress of “what’s for dinner” and relax after a long day at work knowing that your dinner just needs to be heated up. (This alone is enough reason to join the meal prep bandwagon!)
8. It will add variety to your meals.
Meal prep encourages you to get creative with your meals so you won’t be limited to the basic foods you make out of habit, and in part you won’t get bored with your meals.
9. You will gain more willpower.
As you get into the swing of consistently eating healthy, you will gradually stop craving sugar and other fattening foods as your tastebuds will adjust to your new way of eating. Keeping a routine in place is key to healthy eating, and you’ll find it becomes easier to turn down the foods that make you feel less than stellar.
10. It is one of the best investments you can make for your health.
The best part about meal prep is that you get to choose ahead of time what you will be eating. People who meal prep are able to eat healthier than those who don’t, with ease. Gone will be the days of scrambling to find something to eat just to settle on an unhealthy option, because your healthy meal is already prepared! The benefits of eating a clean diet are endless. Good nutrition won’t just contribute to a smaller waistline, but it will also contribute to heart health and increased energy (just to name a few!).
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to establish a meal prep routine. Through trial and error you will find what works best for you and what doesn’t. My recommendation is to keep your meals simple, especially while you establish your routine. Once you establish your routine, let your meal prep creativity run freely!