What Is Meal Prep? And How To Meal Prep Better (according to an expert)

The hardest part of a living a healthy lifestyle is establishing and maintaining good eating habits. There’s so much temptation everywhere (hello, drive thru and microwavable dinners) and usually the most convenient food options are the least healthy. I’m not saying you need to eat healthy ALL the time (by all means, still enjoy your life and the food that you put into it), but having something ready will help you avoid temptation and keep you on track with your goals when those cravings do happen. I am sure that at this point you’ve all heard of meal prepping – but not all meal prep is created equal, nor is the way that you prep it. So we wanted to have Zach (our wellness expert) give us the facts of how to meal prep better. Take it away Zach.

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What is meal prepping?

Meal prepping in its most basic terms is prepping out all of your meals for the week at one time. You buy the food in bulk (saving you money), you prep it all at the same time (saving you time), and on top of that – having your meals prepped at the beginning of every week will increase the likelihood that you’ll stick to your health goals. How you do it and at what time will be different for everybody based on your schedule but I’ve found that if I do it every Sunday it puts me in a healthy mindset for the week ahead. Here are some tips to help you get it done.

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Pick one base for the week

When I don’t have a lot of time or energy I’ll pick the same base of carbs for all my meals, then vary everything else. Some of my favorites are baked sweet potatoes (the skin contains a ton of nutrients), farro, rice, or lentils. It’s easy to make a big batch and pair it with a large variety of flavors. If you’re doing low carb or the keto diet try starting with mixed greens, cauliflower rice (most places have this pre-made cauliflower rice now), or zucchini noodles (also comes prepared in most stores).

Make two different meals

I’m not one of those people that can eat the same thing every day (kudos to my dog who does it without complaining). Making a different meal for each day of the week would be way too much work, though. I usually make two different meals and alternate each day. That gives me some variety, but keeps my workload light. For example, here are two meals I made last week. One was an Impossible Burger (my favorite veggie burger) topped with avocado, sweet potato fries, and roasted asparagus. The other was a southwest salad of mixed greens, corn, bell peppers, pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds), avocado, and blackened salmon. Clearly avocados are a favorite of mine.

Mise en place!

You’ve probably heard this term on Top Chef or some other cooking shows. It’s french for “everything in its place” and for most chef’s it’s a way of life. Make sure all of your prep is done before you start cooking anything. That means have all of your vegetables cut, meat portioned and seasoned, and all of the tools you’re going to need out and ready to go. You don’t want to start cooking and then get distracted trying to find that spatula while your veggies are burning.

Credit: Bobbi Lin

Don’t let it go bad

The biggest issue with prepping everything on Sunday is planning meals that will still be good in 4-5 days. Think about that when you’re planning your meals. I know I don’t want to eat a piece of salmon 5 days later, but a turkey burger will still be good. Maybe freeze some of your meals for later in the week, or eat the meals Monday and Tuesday that won’t be as good come Friday. In the case of someone who travels a lot (like Bobby does for work) picking the right options to freeze and eat later is great so that you can warm them up straight from the freezer when you are ready. Another solution is prep everything except for the one piece that you don’t want sitting too long. So I’ll cook my sweet potatoes and veggies on Sunday, then cook my piece of salmon the night before I plan on eating that meal.

 

Let the store do the work for you

One of the most annoying parts of meal prep for a lot of people is cleaning and cutting all the vegetables (assuming you’re actually eating your vegetables). Most stores have prepackaged, already cut vegetables ready to go. They can be a little bit more expensive then the raw versions, but they can save you a lot of time, so to save yourself some time and go with those! And if you’re not the type that likes to cut or prep vegetables then you can buy frozen steamable bags that you just need to throw in the microwave.

Enjoy it!

My last tip isn’t so much about meal prepping more efficiently, it’s something I really want you to keep in mind as you’re planning your meals. Your decisions should be health conscious, but not so boring and healthy that you don’t enjoy what you’re eating. Being too strict will just lead to you falling off and over indulging. If sprinkling some cheese or extra dressing on top of your meal makes you happy, GO FOR IT! To get you started here are a few of our favorite (and affordable) kitchen tools and storage containers for food prep. 

  1. I agree with Allie: please include recipes – especially those vegetarian ones like the Impossible burger. I buy some great veggie burgers now in the frozen food section of most health food stores, but would love to make and freeze a stack of my own. The ones I buy have Jalapeño and cilantro (“Southeest style), but I think I could do better… Have you heard of the food blog “Oh She Glows?” If. It, I just did you a big favor! 😉 She has two cookbooks out now, too.