“If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail.” – unknown
Exercise and nutrition go hand-in-hand when trying to achieve health and fitness goals. In my opinion, meal preparation is key to achieving sustainable weight-loss goals, maintaining results and developing positive lifelong habits. Meal “prepping” can sometimes be negatively associated with eating boring food with little variety, however I am compelled that the benefits of meal prepping by far outweigh the negatives, and here are just a few reasons why:
- Saves you money – By having meals prepared, you are less likely to purchase overly-priced lunch/dinner meals from restaurants or convenience stores. When cooking in bulk, you generally pay less for the cost of each meal. According to the book 365 Ways to Live Cheap by Trent Hamm (2014), the average meal outside the home costs a person $12.75. That means if one meal is purchased every day, this would equate to $89.25 per week, and this does not include daily coffees or additional grocery shopping. You can see how it all adds up.
- Saves you time – A lot of people say that they don’t have time to cook for a couple of hours each week. However, if you consider the time taken to order food, eat out and then drive home each night, you might find that more time is spent eating out nightly in comparison with preparing meals a couple of days a week. Also, having healthy meals and snacks readily available to you at work saves time by eliminating trips to the store AND prevents unwanted office snacking. This leads me to my next point.
- Saves you from binging – Knowing what your next meal and/or snack is allows you to avoid the “hunger binge.” Everybody knows that when you are hungry, your ability to remain disciplined rapidly decreases. It is at these times that we become most vulnerable to craving “bad” food. This is a biological reaction whereby glucose in the blood runs low due to extended periods without food. Therefore, your body is literally craving sustenance to function. You MUST AVOID this at all costs if you are trying to stick to some sort of healthy eating plan. Keeping your blood sugar levels consistent with frequent/healthy meals is key.
- Saves you from trying to guess what is in your food – There are a lot of hidden nasties in food these days. Have you seen all the numbers and long chemical names on the back of food labels? By preparing your own food, this becomes completely avoidable as you know exactly what is in your meal or snack. For those trying to achieve body composition changes, this is crucial as hidden salts and sugars can really stunt your progress.
Here are some tips for effective meal preparation:
- Identify at least two days in the week that you can meal prep. This may be one weekday and one weekend. For example, Sunday and Wednesday.
- Shop once a week and ensure you buy all the ingredients you need for the week. This will further save time by not having to make multiple trips to the store. Make a list!
- Make two dishes with multiple servings to take to lunch the next day and have again for dinner. Making two dishes will give you some variety.
- Cook things you enjoy eating and keep it simple. Flavor your food with spices, herbs, garlic, onion and moderate amounts of your favorite sauces.
- Ensure that meals are wholesome and encompass lots of vegetables and a balance of all three macronutrients. These are proteins (i.e., meat, beans, legumes and tofu), carbohydrates (i.e., rice, potato, bread and pasta) and fats (i.e., cooking oil, oily fish and avocado).
- Prepare healthy snacks and always have them at hand (yogurt, one small handful of raw nuts, a protein bar, piece of fruit or veggie sticks and dip).
Meal preparation is a daily exercise that gets easier the more you do it. I encourage you to experiment with flavors, try new recipes and develop your own repertoire of recipes and “go-to” snacks. Developing these healthy habits will change your life as it has mine.