With 2020 just days away, it’s likely you are one of the millions of people who are looking to make some changes in the new year.
According to the science journal The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, roughly 55 percent of New Year’s resolutions made last year were health-related. Things like eating healthier and exercising more topped the list (there’s a reason the gym is busier during the month of January).
But in order to keep those resolutions, you have to make actual changes. As a self-proclaimed meal prepping expert, this is what I get asked about the most. How do I make healthy, fulfilling meals a consistent part of my life without adding all of the extra stress?
Meal prepping has played a huge role in changing my relationship with food. It has also cut a lot of the chaos out of my life. Instead of cooking multiple times throughout the week, I make a bunch of stuff once or twice during the week to save me time.
Meal prepping can play a major factor in health and fitness goals. First off, it can help with poor eating habits by having healthy, delicious food made and ready to go. Second, it can help curb your desire to eat out. If you know you have lunch planned, you’re less likely to pick up takeout or hit the drive-thru especially since you’ve already paid for the food you made.
It isn’t foolproof. Eating well and sticking to a meal plan takes work. But by having a plan in place, you’ve already cut one decision out of the equation: you know what you are eating that day and you’re more likely to stick to the plan when the food is made ahead of time.
Where do you land? Are you a meal prepping expert, do you fall right in the middle or are you someone who needs to add some meal prepping baby steps into your life? Are you already overwhelmed? Don’t worry, just start where you are and add in some of my tips and tricks slowly over time.
For those who have never done meal prepping
- Set aside one hour (outside of grocery shopping) to clean and cut up your produce. It likely won't take you an hour but to help make it more desirable, listen to a podcast, book on tape or watch Netflix. I set aside my cheesy reality TV shows to watch during weekly meal prep.
- Once you have developed a habit of cutting up your produce each week, start adding in meal development. Some easy ideas? Grill or bake chicken for easy salads. Make taco meat for burrito bowls. You can also start batch cooking – chili is an easy way to start. Make a big batch for dinner, then freeze the rest in small containers than can easily be defrosted for lunch during the week.
- Taking baby steps? Hit up the salad bar at your local grocery store. It isn't the most cost effective way to meal prep but if you are someone who is short on time, throwing money at the problem is a good way to go. If grocery shopping is your issue, look at a grocery delivery service to cut one thing off your list of things to do.
You do some prepping but could use some new ideas
- Start adding in a staple that can used multiple ways during the week. Shredded chicken and pork are great options – taco night, salad bars, morning omelettes. These are also great options because they can be made easily in a slow cooker or an electric pressure cooker, cutting out some of the added time and stress.
- Team up with a friend, co-worker or neighbor and do a meal swap. If you are someone who gets bored with meals easily, this is a fun, easy way to switch things up. Have each person commit to a meal or two during the week, split up the meal into containers and swap with one another.
You are a meal prepping expert but are stuck in a rut...
- Start stocking your freezer. Batch cooking is a great way to cut down on your weekly meal prep. Stocking your freezer is also a great way to prepare for life's hiccups – life happens! Things come up. And the best intentions can be ruined. So having back-ups in your freezer are a great contingency plan.
- Get the family involved. It can be overwhelming being the only one who decides what to eat during the week. Help yourself out by assigning a couple nights a month to your husband or kids. Even if they don’t make the meal, having someone else put the work into the decision process can cut out added stress.
Other tips & tricks
- Start looking at meal prepping as a chore you have to accomplish on the weekend, the same way you would handle laundry or yard work.
- Commit to a meal. Pick one meal each week that you are OK with being the same. Breakfast and lunch tend to be the easiest. If you are someone who eats out a lot at work – for social reasons – commit to eating the same breakfast every morning and either prep it on the weekends or put it together the night before.
- For meals you want to reheat, use glass containers. You then have the ability to reheat them in an oven or the microwave (without worrying about any melted plastic).
- Don’t overcomplicate things. Your meals can be delicious without hours and hours of time in the kitchen. For example, a slow cooker of shredded chicken can be done up to five different ways during the week. Keep it simple and use sauces & spices you like.