When it comes to meal planning and/or meal prep, one of the biggest complaints I hear from clients is that they don't know what to cook or they don't know how to cook. I know it can be super stressful when you're just learning how to meal prep, but I want to provide you with some easy tips and tricks to get you started and feel inspired again!
1. Keep It Simple
I can't stress this enough, guys. When you're trying to prep meals and you never have before, don't overcomplicate things! I promise it will only add more stress to your life. Mix & Match the Basics. Take your favorite meats and switch up a couple of the ingredients. Experiment with new seasonings. Cook plain sweet potatoes with butter OR cut them up into wedges for to make a sweet potato fry. No one said you had to be a spectacular chef! I certainly wasn't when I started and still make mistakes in the kitchen to this day. You're learning, so do yourself a favor and use minimal ingredients. and consider switching it up when you're tired of rotating through your basics.
Or you can fall back on the easy no-fail option - SLOW COOK IT
2. Utilize Your Healthy Fats
Always include AT LEAST one healthy fat at each meal. Your standard dry chicken breast and bland, steamed broccoli might be what you consider healthy, but you are completely missing out on an entirely new world filled with flavor, tenderness, and satiety once you add in those fats. Butter, ghee, tallow, lard, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, grass fed meats, wild caught salmon. These are all wonderful, nutrient dense sources of fats (that WILL not raise your cholesterol)!
But please keep in mind, the higher heat cooking fats are recommended when cooking on the stove or in the oven. These fats include lard, tallow, butter, ghee, coconut oil. As a rule of thumb - anything that is solid at room temp. Popular oils I strongly suggest only using for non-heated purposes in dressings or condiments like homemade mayonnaise. Cooking olive oil and other oils high in polyunsaturated fats at high heat (anything over 200 degrees F) can actually damage and denature the beneficial properties of the oil.
3. Get in Your Vegetables at Every Meal
I know it might sound like a lot, but making sure you get in at least a cup or more of vegetables at every meal is SUPER important. If you do not have one bowel movement a day, one thing you'll want to look at is your vegetable and/or water intake. Vegetables not only provide a ton of beneficial nutrients, but also provide fiber, which acts as a bulking agent and can help with digestion dramatically. Although it is difficult for some people to picture vegetables at breakfast, I will remind you of omelets! Perfect place to start adding in vegetables. Egg muffins are also a great place to start, as well as breakfast hashes.
4. Consume 3-6 ounces of Protein at Each Meal
I typically recommend making sure your protein serving is at least the size of your first or a deck of cards. Protein is our body's fundamental building block. Eating more protein can result in:
- An increased metabolism
- Increased energy levels
- Increase in muscle tissue
- Regulated blood sugar control
- Increased recovery and wound healing
- Increased immunity
If you're tired of eating meat, keep in mind that there are ways you can combine two different mediums to reach your protein goal. For example, canned tuna, 1 hard boiled egg, and homemade mayonnaise can make a healthy tuna salad and add up to over 30 grams of protein.
Also, try looking for quality protein like grass fed, organic, pasteur-raised or wild caught protein. These options are going to be much higher in cancer-fighting conjugated linoleic acid, omega 3 fatty acids, healthy saturated fats, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, B, C, and E. If your budget doesn't allow for it, I suggest sticking with the leaner cut meats and trimming any excess fat, being that the fat is where all the impurities lie. Conventional meat is fed grains, corn, and soy, which is extremely high in omega 6 fatty acids and can contribute to chronic inflammation. They're also injected with antibiotics to prevent them from getting continuously sick as well as hormones to keep them producing more milk. While grass-fed beef does not contribute to high cholesterol, grain-fed beef most certainly does. Be conscious of what you're eating and remember, what they eat, you eat.
5. EXPLORE SIMPLE, YET NUTRIENT DENSE CARBOHYDRATE OPTIONS
There are tons of awesome alternatives to bread. There is of course rice and quinoa, but there are a ton of root and/or vegetable carb options as well. I mentioned sweet potatoes earlier. You can also try regular white potatoes, butternut squash (great in a roasted vegetable medley), acorn squash, yucca fries, beets etc. Don't feel like you're limited to just one option.
Remember, to pair your carbs with a protein, fat and/or vegetable. Just strictly eating a carbohydrate dense meal or snack can dramatically raise your insulin levels and can promote weight gain.
6. Buy In Bulk
Now on to the actual logistics of shopping. Cooking in bulk will make your life a lot easier, but also buying in bulk. A lot of people don't enjoy cooking the meal, but what's even more frustrating is when you have to continuously go to the grocery store because you forgot ingredients or ran out. Do yourself a favor, stock up on the staples (i.e seasonings, rice, condiments). Always keep a protein in the freezer to have on hand. Costco sells very affordable organic chicken breasts and thighs, and they also have a great produce selection. The up-front cost might be greater than what your used to, but if you factor out how much time and money you're saving in the long run, you'll be thankful.
7. Create A Grocery List
Never leave home without your grocery list. It will make for a much less stressful time shopping for groceries. When I'm creating my list, I usually start with what protein I'm going to make first. I get my inspiration from searching through pinterest. Feel free to check out my page here. I literally create a list from ingredients for each recipe. Then I start with the vegetable, and I try to keep the carb as simple as possible or combine the carb with the vegetable (i.e roasted vegetable medley with butternut squash, soups, hashes). When planning for the week, think about what you meals you plan to eat each day and list it all out. Maybe that sounds like too much overwhelm. If so, then just stick to a general grocery list. Do what works best for you. Try not to overcomplicate it.
8. Most IMPortantly, Keep Meal PRep FUN!
We often look at meal prep as a dreaded task, but what if we could add a little fun around our food assembly line. Here are some ways I get through cooking when I'm not quite in the mood.
- Listen to music
- Listen to your favorite podcast or audiobook
- Find a recipe that excites you! (this may take time, but when you find a good one, you'll honestly look forward to the finished product)
- Use quick, easy, and fun tools - blender for dressings or marinades or a spiralizer for zucchini or sweet potatoes, a really great chef knife makes your life a whole lot easier
- Get your significant other involved! I promise it can actually be fun and much less stressful
- Make sure everything that needs to be cooked is right around the same temp. If I'm using the oven, I sacrifice the 400 degree F and 450 degree F difference and just settle on 425.
- Share photos of your food via instagram or facebook . You made that food and you deserve some recognition.
- Call up a friend or family member
I know this was a long post, so hopefully I didn't bore you! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to email me at email@example.com. Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter on my homepage! Happy meal prepping y'all!