Meal Prep Made Simple With These 9 Strategies
If you live in America in the twenty-first century, you’ve probably had to listen to a boatload of people telling you how busy they are. It’s become normative to be crazy busy. The irony is that the statements has sneakily turned from a complaint to a quasi-humble boast.
And so we busy ourselves.
The result is that some important aspects of life get thrown out the window when we sign up for the anxious, chronically caffeinated, “there’s always more to do” pace of life.
One of those things is eating well. When you become so busy, the thought of preparing and eating healthy food sounds like a joke. It’s something you laugh off and say, “I’ll do that when I have time.”
But lets be real, when will you have time?
This narrative of “I’ll do it when I have time,” plays in your mind for years, and then one day you wake up and realize that the total neglect of your eating habits has finally caught up. You traded health for busyness and now it’s time to pay up.
It could transpire in many different ways. Adrenal fatigue. Low thyroid. Man boobs. Lowered self-esteem. Irritability. High blood pressure. Diabetes. Insomnia. Low back pain. Each case will be different.
MTS Nutrition CEO Marc Lobliner discusses meal prep for idiots.
But what if you could hedge against these scenarios? What if you had a handful of practical strategies that could help you eat better consistently and significantly reduce the outcome of a poor diet?
If you’re at the very least interested of learning how to do this, you’ve come to the right place.
I get it. You’re overwhelmed as it is. Work, maybe some kids, errands, school, deadlines, traffic, and putting out fires all day eats up not only your time, but also your energy. Modern life can be downright exhausting.
So rather than trying to overhaul your whole diet and approach to eating, what we’ll do in this article is enhance what you’re already doing. Here’s the thing, eating is a necessity. You must do it to survive. And regardless of what you’re diet looks like right now, you’re eating. So you’re already doing step one.
The aim of this article is to optimize what you already do, which is consuming food. Practical adjustments and simple strategies to what you already do everyday can make all the difference.
The second aspect of this piece is harnessing the power of environment design. One secret to body and health transformation is keeping things simple. Thinking less and making to make fewer decisions – almost letting the environment do the work for you.
If your environment is set up for success and makes things convenient, you’re less likely to wrestle your way to eating healthy with your willpower (which is a fixed resource and fails you when you run out).
When it comes to healthy eating, these two aspects are critical. Employing simple strategies that become routine and designing your environment to set your eating habits on autopilot. In order to forge these two aspects into your life, here’s a list of ideas on you can try today.
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9 Simple Meal Prep Strategies
Strategy #1 – Season and bake your protein all at once
If you prefer traditional protein sources like chicken breasts, chewing on the same flavor can get boring fast. You can save time and give your tastebuds a vacation from the blandness by preparing two or three variations at once using aluminum foil dividers in your baking pan.
You can season one section with Sriracha, one with BBQ sauce and with olive oil, garlic and rosemary. By doing it this way, you’ll have three different flavors for the week.
It’s a surefire way to side-step boredom that usually influences you order a pizza or drive through taco bell for a gooey gordita crunch. You can also opt for dry seasoning that usually has less dietary fat.
Strategy #2 – Make one pot meals
One pot meals are cozy, familiar and refreshingly easy to prepare. And, they offer leftovers to fuel you for several days. One pot meals offer the heartiness of a home cooked meal without the extravagant prep or clean up usually associated with cooking.
They also typically contain all three macronutrients: protein, carbs and fats all one dish. Not everyone has the time to prepare a protein, a veggie and a starch at each meal, with the one pot method, you get variance will keeping it simple.
A lot of cultures have their signature one-pot meal. The Spanish steam paella, the French have their cassoulet and Indians subcontinents and Southeast Asia have their curry. You can venture out and try variations. The most common here in America are chili, beef stew and country chicken and rice.
Strategy #3 – Chop veggies in bulk
At the end of a long day, you probably don’t want to come home and chop veggies. So, dedicate a few minutes each week to cut veggies in bulk ahead of time to avoid having to make that decision on Wednesday night when you get home from work.
Chopped vegetables like carrots, mushrooms, onions and peppers will last up to a week refrigerated properly in tupperware.
Strategy #4 – Buy frozen rice and quinoa
Brown rice and quinoa can go with pretty much anything. However, preparing these foods can take a long time.
Therefore we don’t bother making them. But most grocery stores now carry cooked frozen versions of these foods that can be ready to eat within minutes.
Strategy #5 – Buy prepackaged salads
Regardless of what type of diet you prefer, eating more greens is a theorem everyone agrees on. Salads usually come to mind when eating more greens is mentioned. However, if you actually dissect the anatomy of a real salad with multiple pairings (not just a bowl of lettuce) the prep time can add up quickly.
And this is why you probably don’t bother making delicious salads – it’s inconvenient.
Today, however, grocery stores stock pre-packaged salads with all the accruement – nuts, dried fruit, cheeses, and dressing all in one pack. All you need is a big tupperware bowl with a lid. Then you throw it in, close the lid, shake, then eat.
To really step your game up you could throw some protein into the mix since you followed strategy number one and then add a cup of brown rice or quinoa for some quality carbs. Within minutes you can mix up a full meal and get all the nutrients you need without feeling deprived.
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Strategy #6 – Roast Veggies at the Same time
Roasting vegetables is an easy way to enhance their flavor. But it can take a long time. Rather than baking veggies separately batch your baking time and roast them at the same time. You’ll want to pair the appropriate veggies together depending on their relative cook time.
Fast roasting veggies include:
- Bell peppers
Slow roasting veggies include:
Strategy #7 – Establish a Prep Day Ritual
For a lot of people, this is Sunday. But it doesn’t have to be if Sunday isn’t your day of rest. Regardless, this strategy calls for one day when you aren’t pedal to the metal with work, deadlines and responsibility. Ideally, this day can give you a pause – some breathing room to look at the week ahead and plan accordingly.
On this day, here is a guided checklist to run through:
Anticipate when you’ll be most vulnerable. Are you traveling this week? Do you have a long drive on Wednesday? Will you be jumping from meeting to meeting on all day Thursday? By taking a minute to identify where you’ll be swamped and possibly fail to make a healthy eating decision, you can take control of your behavior before it happens.
If you notice that you’ll be tempted to give in at some point in the week, you’ll have to show up prepared. Here’s a few ideas:
- Stock survival kit in your car. Water, protein bars, mixed nuts, rice cakes and maybe some citrus fruit. It’s not a gourmet meal, but it sustenance to keep you level when you don’t have any other healthy options.
- Go grocery shopping and attach a positive experience to it. Admittedly, grocery shopping can be inconvenient. However, if you attach a positive experience to the errand, you can look forward to it. Stopping by your favorite coffee shop to indulge in your drink on your way to the grocery store is one way. Having that time to talk to your partner about future plans can work. Going to brunch with your family before grocery shopping is also another method.
- Build your menu for the week. You don’t have to get fancy. But just outline what you’ll be eating for the week so you don’t have to make the decision when you haangry. If you don’t have the time to prep that particular week, do a little research and identify three healthy lunch and dinner spots you can go to that week.
Strategy #8 – Food Delivery Service
Time is the only truly non-renewable resource. You have two ways to go about managing this truth. You can be willing to spend time to save money, or you can be willing to spend money to save time.
If you fall into the latter, then this strategy might be the best suggestion on this list.
We do a lot of important things online these days: Pay bills, transfer funds, apply for jobs or schooling, conduct business webinars, host Skype calls and the such. We even consume most of our information online now with e-books and social media.
The one thing most people don’t do online? Shop for groceries. With Thrive Market available to us, going to the grocery store is not only eating up time, but it’s costing more money too. Thrive Market is a wholesale online healthy grocery store. And, it’s 30-50% off retail prices.
If you claim you’re too busy to shop for healthy groceries, your excuse is now invalid. If you can buy stuff on Amazon all day, you can get good quality food with the same amount of energy and time delivered to your door step.
Strategy #9 – Office Sweep
During the day at work, you’re constantly making decisions. To add to that, if you’re trying to change your eating habits, then having your immediate surroundings (your desk) filled with chocolate covered crackers, chips, and jelly beans then your decision making volume skyrockets over the day.
Your willpower is your decisions making fuel tank. With each decision you make, you dip into your fuel tank. And the more decisions you make, the faster your tank gets depleted. By having paraphernalia of treats within an arm’s reach at your desk, you’re basically saying “no” all day. This is in addition to all of the necessary decisions that must be made in your work.
Therefore, by the end of the day, if you’ve managed to resist the temptation of the treats at you’re desk, you go home with zero decision making capacity. Then, you say “yes” to the whole pint of chunky monkey in the freezer.
Do yourself a favor, remove the treats from your desk. But don’t stop there because only removing deprives you. You’ve got to replace them with healthier options. Mixed nuts, sardines, nut butters and slice apple, fresh fruit, dark chocolate (at least 75% dark) and rice cakes are all practical replacements.
By making a few tweaks to your game plan of healthy eating, you can put strategies in place that will stick. No longer will you be wrestling with trying to eat better.
Instead, you’ll forge habits and set your environment up for simple success.
What’s there to lose? You can always go back to the way you always have done things.