Have you ever tried meal prepping? If not, have you ever considered starting to meal prep? Have you ever looked for information about meal prepping?
If you have considered joining the ‘meal preppers’ club, then what stops you from doing so?
To be honest, before joining ‘this club’ myself, I have looked for any information about it in many online sources.. I have also looked through a bunch of pictures taken by bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, analyzing the magical foods that were packed into the plastic boxes. However, only as I started meal prepping myself, I found all the sides of this process, also ideas of how to make this process easier and my foods more delicious. In this post I will reveal my opinion, also pros and cons of meal prepping, maybe it will be useful for some, who are looking for at least a small change in their routine.
Just to make it clear: here I am not talking about something like making a huge plate of lasagna and eating leftovers of it for the next couple days…
In this post I am focusing on that mysterious meal prepping routine, where
the process of cooking is well thought through and planned in advance, where you pack your meals for the next e.g. three days into small plastic boxes, making sure that each of these contain balanced, delicious foods that suit your lifestyle and goals.
Good news for the newbies, the general rules of successful meal preparation are usually the same. It does not matter if you are thinking of achieving some specific bodybuilding goals, or if you are simply aiming to get ‘in shape’. Even if you are thinking of making small improvements on your body and health, the general rules of successful meal preparation will work –
make sure the food boxes contain well balanced meals;
pick your favorite ingredients;
make your foods delicious, so that you would always enjoy eating them;
experiment with different combinations of healthy ingredients;
make the meal preparation into a fun process: find the day when you have time for it and enjoy cooking.
I have heard many questions about “how are you not getting bored of the same foods every day?”; “do you HAVE to eat it, or do you LIKE it?” and so on… Well, if I was getting bored of my foods or found them poor in taste, I would most likely have skipped this meal preparation idea. Why?
Simply because I love food! Food is joy, food is my passion and.. I know what tastes good and what bad..
So.. I keep my food boxes filled with a variety of foods, and by that I mean choosing different sources of protein, carbohydrates and fats for different meals that I am going to consume within the next days. However, some of my meals might look similar, but that is only because I adore some specific ingredients, such as basmati rice, chicken breast or broccoli that I always want to have in my meal. Of course, I switch these ingredients into something else, if I have a wish or need for it.
- Normally I choose one of these protein sources: chicken breast, lean beef, lean minced beef, sea food, sometimes salmon or white fish.
- Then I add some carbohydrates: normally basmati rice, but also potatoes or buckwheat.
- I never forget my veggies that I could not imagine a day without: broccoli, cherry tomatoes and cucumber – being my favorite; cauliflower, grilled zucchini, aubergine and bell peppers, radish and lettuce mix – as some additional vegetables that I like getting into my diet.
- Finally, good fats: peanut butter, pesto, nuts, seeds and avocado – I eat this variety daily.
I do not make my foods plain, I add salt, pepper, fresh herbs and chili, while if I am making my breakfast, I am using stevia sugar and lots of cinnamon.
Even though I like the simple combination of meat/fish and rice with some veggies on side, it does not mean that you could not make a healthy lasagna or oven baked meat with veggies and potatoes, which you could divide within your meal boxes.
Playing with combinations of healthy ingredients and the way of cooking is a way to make delicious, good quality foods.
To give an example: there was a period of time, when I wanted all my foods to be steamed: chicken, beef, vegetables – all had to be steamed. Then, I realized that boiling them is also good, so I was boiling my chicken together with different vegetables, which reminded me of my mom’s foods. At the moment I am a fan of oven baked or grilled foods, so I am making my chicken in the oven, always finishing the process with grill function.
Normally, I cook 4 meals for each day. The first three of premade meals are fully prepared, while the last meal contains only source of protein and carbohydrates. This leaves me with a possibility to have some fresh veggies for dinner, meaning that I can pick the vegetables that I want the most at that moment.
To make it brief, lets jump into Pros and Cons of meal preparation.
Starting with a bright side of meal prep:
- Calorie count and guaranteed balance. You will have your meals prepared and divided into the portions that you should eat during the day. You have a portion and you eat it, no time for looking around and grabbing some junk snacks.. Talking about junk, meal prep is a way to make sure that your diet is well balanced, so that it will help you to avoid cravings and provide your body with a variety of macro- and micronutrients.
- You will eat healthy! Meal preparation is the best way to add whole foods to your diet and get rid of worthless cheap, sugary foods.. You will use spices and herbs, good meats, vegetables of your choice, natural canned tomatoes and such, by which you will create the taste that you want.
- Money saving – no impulse, ‘hungry brains’ money spending at the supermarket. You have your foods prepared and you know that you have them waiting back home or in your bag…
- Saves time during the week – no more daily cooking, also you will save some time that you normally spend on thinking what to eat today, before the bedtime or in the morning.
Adding some cons of meal prep:
- You have to find some hours of your time off in order to prepare the meals for upcoming days. Well, true that, but if you like cooking as I do, then its a pretty fun activity. Otherwise, as soon as the meal prep becomes part of your lifestyle, you will get used to having several hours dedicated for cooking and will not consider if you have time for it or not… In other words, you will make time for it!
- Monotony. That’s what I hear people talking about… Like “plain rice and chicken, with some asparagus – that’s boring!” Hah.. not for me, luckily its one of my most favorite combos, or else stop complaining and turn on your imagination, look for blogs like mine and find some healthy inspiring ideas of how to make you meals more interesting and tasty.
- Kitchen will be messy! Get ready for it.. preparing 12 or 16 meals is not an easy task, you will be in a hurry, you will be multitasking and splashing around. After all you will have to spend some minutes cleaning the mess left after the meal prep. But c’mon.. that’s just life. It is how it is. You make food – you drop some on table and on floor – you clean it afterwards – Voila, problem solved!
Finally, an important point or an answer to those, who ask me: “but does the food stay fresh in those boxes?” or “does it taste good”?
Ok… before I will answer you, do you really think that I am eating bad, outdated, low quality food that tastes bad? Or.. do you think that the world of bodybuilding is based on bad foods?
You got my point: do not worry! Well prepared food will not only taste good, but also remain perfect to eat for 3-4 days without any doubts.
So at this point I believe that you either got encouraged to start meal prepping or still see this process as a challenging task. If so, then I can calm you down saying that if you make a clever plan for meal preparation, you can spend only 1,5-2 hours in the kitchen, whereas you will enjoy delicious and healthy foods for the next couple of days.
Further down I am providing you with an example of my ‘clever plan’ of meal prep. Of course there can be thousands of other smart ways to prepare your foods, so I will make it clear stating that this is the strategy that I used for the several last times of meal prep, and yes you can do it in any other way that you find more comfortable to go for. Just make it simple, healthy and fun!
So my recent strategy:
- At the same time: put rice to the rice cooker, lay the spiced chicken breasts into the baking dish together with the chopped veggies (zucchini, cauliflower, aubergine or else), put the baking dish into the preheated oven.
- Chop 2-3 heads of broccoli or some asparagus and put the boiling water on top. Bring it to the kitchen stove and let them boil for couple of minutes or until the veggies become softer, but not too mushy.
- Find and prepare all the plastic boxes that you are going to use for putting your meals in.
- The rice is done by now. Add some spices to it and divide among the prepared plastic boxes.
- Take the chicken and veggies out of the oven, let them cool.
- Meanwhile, add the boiled and oven baked veggies to the boxes with rice. Here, you may also bring in some fresh veggies: e.g. tomatoes, radish, cucumber. Make sure that each food box contains the necessary amount of vegetables.
- Add the chopped oven baked chicken to the food boxes.
- Now as you have boxes with chicken, rice and veggies do not forget to add some healthy fats: nuts, pesto, seeds, oil or any other source of fat.
- Look around: you just successfully meal prepped for the next few days!
Remember: we might live only once, so it is worth taking care of yourselves… and the others around. ❤