Meal Prepping 101

Written by Michael Reavis MS, RD, LDN and Fit with Food LLC

If you have ever googled how to lose weight, if you ever went to a gym, or if you ever simply mentioned wanting to make healthier choices I am sure someone mentioned that meal prepping is the key.

Usually the goal of people prepping, especially in fitness and diet culture, is to make them focused on the macronutrients of the meal and flavor is quite secondary.

Okay, I want you to envision a meal prep, what does it have in it?

I bet, to many of you it was baked chicken, brown rice, and some kind of veggie! This is the picture of meal prepping that is painted all over media outlets. Yet, could it be more than that? Absolutely!

Meal prepping is no more than a fancy way of saying batch cooking, making meals ahead of time so that throughout the week you have meals available. This involves cooking the meals, usually on the weekend, along with collecting the ingredients to do so and having the containers ready to store them in.

Well yes, maybe we all know that. And – most have tried to do it at some point, but I think there are some questions we need to answer before we start incorporating meal prepping into our nutrition lifestyle: 

  1. What does meal prepping look like, truly?
  2. Is it really this amazing nutrition solution?
  3. And finally, is it for you?
So what does meal prepping really look like? 

First, meal prepping is not eating the same thing everyday. In fact, it can be very beneficial to switch it up in the middle of the week!

How could we do this? On Sundays, which are most people’s meal prep days we could consider making three servings of a single meal that we could have Monday-Wednesday. With this plan, we then schedule a nice dinner for Wednesday evening, but we plan to make two extra portions to enjoy Thursday and Friday! Voila! 2 exciting meals in one week! 

Well, how else could we do this!? Just because you meal prep one week does not mean we meal prep the next! Or maybe we meal prep three days a week and just make a sandwich or wrap on a whole wheat tortilla the other days!

Just because you do not meal prep every day does not mean you aren’t making healthy choices! Also, packing a lunch in the morning is just as much meal prep as any!

So now we ask, is meal prepping as amazing a health choice as it is often cited.

Yes and no! Meal prepping is putting thought into your meals. That means that we aren’t rushed in our choices and are prepared to fuel our bodies in the best way. Remember, eating is to give the body energy and if we can choose long-lasting energy sources we can increase the productivity of our day! 

A lot of busy adults find it hard to make it to the gym after work, crediting this to laziness or lack of desire, but maybe that is actually just a lack of energy that we could get from a great lunch! 

Yet, we do not have to meal prep to be healthy. We can choose a lot of other great options that are easily packed in the morning. 

Some of my favorites are:

  • PBJ with apple slices and a granola bar as an afternoon snack.
  • Turkey, cheese, and hummus in a tortilla and pita with veggie sticks and yogurt.
  • For the winter a to-go soup container with a half sandwich

And finally, lunch doesn’t always need to be “lunch.” There are some days when a yogurt parfait with fresh berries and our favorite granola is exactly what we need to have an awesome afternoon!

So yes, thinking ahead and giving our body the energy it needs for the afternoon is a great way to think about lunch, but it does not need to be in a container and made a week ahead of time.

If you are still questioning if meal prepping in the cook ahead method is right for you, below are some examples of who will benefit:

  • If you are someone who likes to sleep in to the last minute before work and do not have time to pack your meals in the morning, then meal prepping would definitely be a great choice for you!
  • If you find yourself forgetting lunches and not having access to nutrient-dense choices at work, then meal prepping may be a great idea! 
  • If you are trying to lose weight and want to start incorporating a sustainable change into your nutrition lifestyle, then meal prepping for 2-3 days each week is a great start! 

However, keep in mind we need to set aside time. Usually, meal prepping takes about an hour which is a lot of time for someone with a busy schedule. The easiest way to do this is to incorporate it into a time when you are already cooking instead of making it at a separate time!

So what do you think? Is meal prepping for you?

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