How to Meal Prep and Crush Good Nutrition
Most of our eating stories don’t involve learning how to meal prep and go like this: It’s Monday at 11 am. Your stomach is growling. You haven’t eaten since the bagel you grabbed from the cafeteria this morning. Work has been crazy. You’ve been running around from meeting to meeting putting out fires. What you’re going to eat for lunch is starting to bother you. You didn’t bring any food and nothing at the cafeteria seems very intriguing. You finally give up and grab the special: a burger with fries. It doesn’t take long to stuff it down and get back to work. Later you feel awful as the burger digests and the work pace doesn’t slow. You’ve been trying to eat healthy but you find there’s no time.
We’ve all felt like this. Getting a good meal can be a struggle between work, family, and social obligations. Often, we go with what’s convenient. That ends up being fast food, bad cafeteria food, or take out. It fills us up, but there always seems to be something missing. We’ve been trying to eat healthy for months even years, but it never worked. We never had the time.
I felt exactly like this until I learned how to meal prep. Learning how to meal prep changed my approach to eating healthy and changed my life. I never struggled thinking about my next meal. I avoided the workplace pizza and burger which had been killing me in the past.
Learning How to Meal Prep is Intimidating
Meal prep has become a buzz word. Social media is full of people with Tupperware lined up filled with healthy meals. You only see the end result and you never see the hours of cooking put into getting those meals ready. You’re promised easy recipes and 20 minutes of cooking. When you try to learn how to meal prep yourself you find it to be a huge time suck. You may have prepared a meal or two, but it got old. The all or nothing approach on social media leaves you feeling like a failure. It’s impossible to go from zero meal prep to preparing all your meals.
Ignore social media. The people you see with huge Tupperware and healthy meals did not start like that. There are so many skills behind learning how to meal prep. You can’t expect yourself to go from cooking nothing to cooking all your meals. The first step in learning how to meal prep is to ditch your expectations.
Uncover your Intrinsic Motivation
We decide to eat better for various reasons. Most of these are not motivating enough to continue. Looking good in a bathing suit can be a good reason to keep eating well for a month, but that surface level motivation makes it hard to maintain. You need to uncover your intrinsic motivations. The motivation that inspires you from your core.
Do this by asking yourself why four to five times. If you want to eat healthy because you want to look good in as swimsuit ask yourself why. Maybe it’s because you want to feel less self-conscious on the beach. Why do you want to feel less self-conscious on the beach? Let’s say you want to improve your self-esteem so you can be confident day to day. Why? Your self-esteem has been limiting you from succeeding at home and in the workplace. Why? You’ve always been self-conscious about your weight since you were a kid limiting your confidence.
This exercise uncovered your true motivation: You want to lose weight so you can gain confidence. It’s no longer a surface level motivation to look good in a bathing suit. It’s the true motivation that can keep you going through hard times. Finding this intrinsic motivation will keep you from sliding back into old habits when you’re having trouble. Practice this five why exercise before you even begin to think about how to meal prep.
It Starts at the Grocery Store
Before you even learn how to cook you have to know how to shop. The grocery store is intimidating. Processed foods are put in the front and they can be hard to ignore. On your journey learning how to meal prep, the temptations are endless. Start with preparing one meal a week. Keep it simple at the store. Breakfast is often the easiest. Grab eggs, a leafy green like spinach, and a potato you like. You can be in and out of the grocery store in 10 minutes. Don’t overthink it. Eat before you get to the store, so you’re not tempted by all the bad food.
When I began to learn how to meal prep, I stuck with frozen vegetables. You can buy bags of vegetables that steam in the bag. Buy some seasoning you like and leave it at work. That’s it. Keep your list simple and start small.
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Keep it Simple
You can make everything you bought at work in the microwave. Heat up 2-3 eggs in the microwave by scrambling them and adding seasoning and cooking for 30-45 seconds. Heat up the potato by poking some holes and covering with a wet paper towel. Cook it for 5 minutes. You can steam your vegetables in the bag for the prescribed time. Just like that, you have an easy nutritious meal.
This won’t work for everyone, but keep it simple. There are instance rice packs and instant oatmeal you can buy that works the same way. Have your one meal one day a week. Once you do that increase that to two times a week. Keep adding a meal until you’ve prepared all your breakfast 5 times a week. Stick to whole foods. Think one ingredient.
Take Your Meal Prep to the Next Level
After you get confident with microwave cooking, don’t be afraid to hit the stove. Fry eggs how you like them, boil rice and potatoes or pan-fry chicken. Remember to make a lot at once. You can do this by roasting vegetables, cooking meats in the oven, or boiling lots of rice (a rice cooker is great). Make big portions of protein, vegetables, and starches. When you get home heat up the proper portions in the microwave.
Follow this infographic for proper portion sizes. This will let you become the Tupperware Instagram model. Add variety by trying out different meat sources, vegetables, or starches. Remember to keep them as whole foods. Don’t be afraid to eat a few bad meals. 80% good will get you to your goals. After you’ve mastered breakfast focus on lunch. Eat a lean protein like chicken with rice and vegetables. Do the same thing you did with breakfast. Prep one lunch a week. Once you’ve succeeded for a week increase it to two a week until you hit all five days.
After conquering lunch, you can conquer dinner. Dinner will be easier since you need to make a lot at once and keep it in large containers at home. Use the portion size guide to create your meal and heat it up at home. Do the same with breakfast and lunch starting with one meal and increasing by one meal a week until you hit 5 days of prepped dinner!
Learning How to Meal Prep is a Worthwhile Habit
Learning how to meal prep is a valuable skill. Don’t overcomplicate it. Like any habit, it takes time to build. Start small with one meal and before you know it all your meals will be prepared ahead of time. This will stop you from reaching for the unhealthy quick option. When you already have your meals prepared, you’re going to eat it. Learning how to meal prep reduces your decision fatigue by creating easy healthy options.
If you fall off the wagon and begin to go back to quick unhealthy meals, don’t be discouraged. Pick up where you left off and continue eating healthy. We all are going to have our slides. The people who pick themselves up and continue to eat healthy are the ones who succeed.
I hope this post helps you learn how to meal prep. However, by no means is it comprehensive. Check out my new program which will give you daily guidance on preparing meals and eating healthy.
What questions do you have about meal prep? What have you done in the past which has worked? Share some meal prep and shopping techniques that have helped you avoid bad food. Comment below!