Regardless of your diet goals or whether you choose to go Paleo or count macros, it’s important that you attack your plan the right way to give yourself the best chance of success. One way to attack clean eating for success is meal prepping.
Meal prepping is exactly what it sounds like: You buy food for a set period—a few days, a week, or even a month—cook and prepare the food in advance, store them in the fridge or freezer and voila! You’ve planned ahead and there’s a higher chance of you sticking to your plan than falling off the rails.
What are the benefits of meal prepping?
If you never take time, how can you ever have it? By carving out a couple of hours on a Sunday to batch cook your meals for the next few days, you can be sure to save yourself a ton of grief and time when you come home from work or the box and find your next meal waiting for you in the fridge. Pop it in the microwave or oven, and you’re good to go. The last thing anyone wants to think about when they’re on their way home from a long day is having to make dinner. But when your meal is already prepped, it’s one less thing to worry about and makes eating clean that much more enjoyable.
Dissuades you from eating crap
When people are tired and hungry the thought of preparing and consuming a clean meal becomes less appealing to a pizza that takes 10 minutes cook in the oven and requires no work whatsoever. When a healthy meal is already staring back at you when you open the fridge, time isn’t a factor anymore, and that pizza can wait another week.
The first time you buy in bulk, that monster receipt might make you do a double-take. Be prepared to shell out a little more than you normally would for groceries. Knowing where (and how) to shop for groceries, can save you money. Often stores like Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s Club and Aldi will have some amazing deals (including organic options) you can take advantage of. On top of that, buying for the week means you’ll be less likely to spend any extra on particular cravings you have from meal to meal—like that pizza we discussed earlier.
Tips for Meal Prepping
Just as you need to carve out a few hours to cook and prepare your meals, you need to devote 10-15 minutes to formulate a solid food list for the length of time you’re planning to prepare for. You should also include some substitute food options in case they’re out of stock of your first choice.
Invest in good quality containers
You’re going to be making a lot of food, so it stands to reason that you’re going to need a lot of containers to keep all those delicious meals tucked away in the fridge and freezer. Moreover, you’ll likely bring a container or two with you when you go to work, and the last thing you want is for the lid to fall off in your bag and the food to spill out everywhere. Glass containers are great, but need to be handled carefully. Find containers that work for you and don’t shy away from spending a few extra dollars as the investment will go a long way in the end.
Carve out time to meal prep and make it fun
Set aside enough time to get cooking. Plan to spend a good amount of time in the kitchen, boiling, baking and frying away to your heart’s content. Many people might enjoy this, but it can be torture for others—you’ll just have to keep the big picture in mind. Also, consider listening to your favorite music or podcast while you chop away. That being said, you don’t have to cook absolutely everything in one go. You can prep vegetables and season your meats and leave them in the fridge to be cooked another time—that should help to take the load off a little bit!
Prep snacks too
CrossFit has a way of spiking your metabolism, making you feel hungrier between meals. These are the make-or-break hours when the convenience of a cookie or a bag of chips is incredibly tempting. Therefore, it’s just as important to prepare your snacks for days ahead, as it is your meals. Have your fruit, nuts, shakes, or leftovers readily available so when the hunger creeps up—and it will—you’ll be reaching for the right option to satisfy your cravings.
Keep it simple and start slow
If you’re new to meal prepping, there’s no right way to do it. There may be a lot of trial and error, but it’s all about finding and developing a method that works for you. If the process sounds intimidating, work with manageable chunks—one to two days at a time, at first. Then move on to three to four, then five, and so on. And as you’re progressing, you can get a little more creative with your menu, but start with simple meals, some bacon, avocado and grilled chicken with some balsamic vinegar. Doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. You’re eating to achieve your diet goals.
Be patient with the process yet remain consistent. Eventually, meal prepping—making a list, doing your shopping and preparing your meals—will become second-nature, and that’s when you’ll know you’re on a roll, and the results will invariably follow.
Photo courtesy of Tracy Benjamin/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0