Meal prep… let’s face it… it sounds like work. And the last thing you need right now is more work correct? You barely have enough time to eat, let alone do meal prep and spend 3 hours on a Sunday packing up a week’s worth of meals into small plastic containers. And anyway, you’re not a gym bunny or a bodybuilder. You’re a normal person, with a normal life. Only those fitness junkies do that kind of stuff right?
For a long time I will have to admit that these are some of the thoughts that would circulate in my own head when I heard the term “meal prep”. The closest I came to meal “prep” was drooling over a recipe I stumbled upon on the internet and then doing a dash to Coles to bring home the ingredients to make it… once. Or when I’d sign up for a new diet plan, take the weekly food list I’d been given to the shops and buy all of it – only to find out that I didn’t really like many of the things on the list anyway… hummus.. yuk!
Lack of consistency is one of the most commonly cited reasons for people failing to achieve their weight loss or performance goals. If we flip this around, the most successful people in terms of health, wellness and performance are very consistent. So what’s their secret? How do they become consistent while you are still languishing around being inconsistent? In actual fact it isn’t a secret. It’s simple: The two P’s: planning and preparation. In terms of food that’s meal planning and meal preparation aka meal prep.
Before visions of plastic containers and bodybuilders start dancing in front of your eyes let me just clarify two things:
1. Meal Prep can be anything you want it to be.
2. Meal Prep will look different for different people
Your meal prep might simply be writing out a shopping list to make sure you’ve got some decent food in your house for the next few days. Or, your meal prep might be pre-cooking, portioning and freezing a month’s worth of meals in advance. There are no rules, but there is a prerequisite for success – and that is looking and planning ahead.
If you still don’t know where to begin then consider where is your biggest pain point when it comes to food? Is it coming home late and too tired to prepare dinner? Do you run off the rails at lunch? Do snacks trip you up? Can’t be bothered making breakfast and then you’re starving by 9am? Or maybe it’s all of these? Your meal prep strategy when you are just beginning will be to address one of these pain points (and yes – just address one at a time. If you try and tackle all of them at once you will simply overwhelm yourself and give up!).
So look ahead (with my nutrition coaching clients we encourage this to become a weekly habit or ritual), and then make sure you have the appropriate food available, in a format that you know you will be happy to reach for when the time comes. For example, do you need to pre-chop some veggies or do you need to pre-cook some meat? I have clients who do indeed bulk cook and portion out complete meals in advance (perhaps just dinners, or maybe even lunch and dinners) because that’s what works well for them. I have other clients who plan meals with their family, do a weekly shop and then just prepare/cook as they go. For myself, I tend to eat a pretty consistent repertoire of food each day (generally a varied protein source – eg chicken, lamb, pork, beef, salmon etc) with a leafy green salad 2-3 times per day. So my meal prep is as simple as casting my eye over the contents of my fridge every couple of days and making sure I’ve got leafy greens ready to go, an abundance of my favourite salad dressing on hand, some boiled eggs ready to grab and some meat options. I don’t spend 3 hours on a Sunday pre-cooking meals as meal prep and I don’t want to. But that’s because my meal prep routine is what suits me right now, and that’s the important point to pick up here. It needs to be YOUR meal prep, to suit YOUR life.
Make meal prep your own. Don’t worry about what the latest fitness celebrity is posting on Instagram. They don’t live your life, your way. There are no rules on what it is supposed to look like and it can be as simple or as complicated as you want or need it to be.