Meal prep is not a new idea- but I have only recently become a believer in its efficacy, and now I don’t think I could eat without it.
Why prepping meals matters
At first glance, meal prep seems like a hassle, especially if you have a lot going on- as most of us do. In theory, it seems easier to wait until you are hungry or cook one meal at a time. The reality is that when we wait until we are hungry to eat we are more than likely to go for unhealthy options. Whenever I make a rushed choice to eat whatever is available- I usually end up unsatisfied, and angst-ridden because my choice wasn’t as healthy as I would have liked. I’m a firm believer that food choices should not be emotionally driven and try to limit the opportunities my emotions have to control what I do or eat. I prefer instead to set up situations with intention so that I can yield the best results, this is why planning ahead is so important. When I plan my meals a week or so in advance I have little opportunity to let the day’s stress dictate what I put in my body. Instead, I can choose menu items, check out recipes, and have fun creating a healthy tasty menu that will keep me satisfied, better equipped to face the week and less anxious overall. There is no better feeling than sticking to my diet and getting all my macronutrients in.
Making the switch
I recently made the switch over to the ketogenic diet, a diet that eliminates carbohydrates and focuses on getting energy from fat sources instead. The absence of glucose from carbs forces the body to use stored fat to produce ketones for brain fuel. Ketosis has a plethora of health benefits as I discussed in my post on fasting. Switching over to this diet has resulted in less hunger, more energy, and fat loss. In less than a month I have lost 4% body fat- while still eating roughly the same amount of food. The type of food I eat has changed dramatically. The horror of the western diet means that carbohydrates are readily available and everything else is not. I was vegetarian for about two and a half years but upon choosing to adopt the low carb high-fat diet I decided to add fish and dairy back into my diet to give me more options and easier access to fat and protein macronutrients. That being said, I still don’t eat meat. No meat and no bread means there are no fast casual places I can hop into for a meal- without dissecting the menu and making annoying substitutions. Meat or no meat- my whole life I have been surrounded by carbs- limiting my carb intake has been rewarding, but the adjustment period was tricky.
After a week or so of inhaling cheese and nuts by the fistful, I knew I had to start meal prepping. It became my obvious only choice if I wanted to keep reaping the benefits of the low carb diet. I just started looking up east keto recipes online and before I knew it I was hooked. I realized how yummy home cooked food could taste- and how much less stressed I was when I had meals ready to go. I could get ready for work quicker and also become way more efficient overall. I have been saving so much time and having so much fun I even started meal prepping for my parents!
Going to the grocery, a task I once dreaded because I hated walking aimlessly through the isles planning meals in my head as I went- is now a friggin’ breeze! In fact, I often go to the grocery twice or three times a week! With meal prep, I go to Publix with a plan; I come out with less shit I didn’t need, and more money in my pocket. Win-win.
5 Tips for Meal Prep Success
Define your motivation.
When I am doing anything that requires behavior modification I write down my motivation. Reminding myself of my reason for making the change can be huge when the going gets tough. My goal was to stick to the ketogenic diet- by centering my habits around that goal meal prep became the obvious choice.
Make it fun.
Just because you are eating the same thing all week doesn’t mean each week as to be the same. In fact, since I started meal prepping I actually eat way more variety. I switch it up. Some weeks I will do an Asian menu or a vegetarian menu. I like to look up recipes and combine plates ideas from different websites. This last week I modified this Spicy Tofu Almond Recipe I found on ketoconnect.net with an easy peezy Sesame Ginger Broccoli I found at the thekitchn.com. It was so delicious, I prepped the same two dishes for my parents today! I love coming up with themes and then letting my dish options coordinate to suit. Trying new dishes has definitely fueled my desire to prep more meals.
Make a list.
When preparing for the grocery trip I list out the ingredients needed for the 2-3 dishes I am prepping. I then go to my kitchen and cross out any ingredients I already have. I can then go to Publix and get everything that I need in one fell swoop. Having a tangible list in hand – I walk with a pen down the aisle and cross things off as I put them in the cart. I have cut my grocery time by half and am spending half as much as I normally do on food. I am also throwing away no food! When I would improvise my grocery shopping I would often end up throwing out produce because I never got around to cooking it. Now everything I buy gets eaten that week- ah the power of intention!
Look for basics.
It is easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole of online keto recipes and before you know it you are in the foreign food aisle looking for tapioca fermented flour seedlings. I would recommend sticking to recipes that call for basic ingredients you can reuse. Not only will it make it easier to memorize recipes that like but it will also save money and make sure all that you are buying gets utilized. I buy spices because they don’t go bad. Greens because you can cook them many ways in one week, and fish because fish is so good for you, easy to prep many different ways and extremely tasty. I try to throw in dairy and cheese every once in a while too. Plain and simple, keep it basic.
Don’t over prep.
When I first started prepping I was eager and over-ambitious as I usually am and I made too much food to eat! My fridge was overflowing with low carb sweets and fish and salad. I realized this was causing me anxiety and doing the opposite of what I wanted it to do. I am now realistic about how much I eat and remind myself that I will not run out of food if I keep prepping on a regular basis. Balance is always tough- so test and experiment- see how much you really eat and then plan your meals accordingly. Planning more than a week’s worth of food can be a recipe for stress and waste.
Good luck and happy meal prepping!