• Elle

Meal Prep 101

A hot topic with my patients recently has been meal prep. While I am always a big meal prep advocate I personally tend to go in meal prep waves and have been ‘off the meal prep wagon’ for a few months now. Time to practice what I preach and re-start the prep!

* as you are reading this remember you can always swap the word 'meal' for 'snack'. Making decisions about snacking can feel just as daunting and prepping your snacks ahead of time can make breaks during the day both at home or at work so much more enjoyable because you aren't spending half of your time set aside to snack on making the choice regarding what you want to eat.

Benefits of meal prepping:

Takes the guess work out of your next meal/snack: do not underestimate how much time and energy you spend in a day making decisions about food. Having pre-made/pre-portioned meals and snacks on hand can make healthy food choices so much more accessible! Not only does this cut down on pre-meal stress but also cuts down on the post meal emotions. It can be common to feel guilt/shame/regret after eating when we allow the pangs of hunger or a time crunch steer our choices. (Does this sound like you? This is something we can work on in a session so if yes please reach out.)

Confidence your food choices are helping you work toward your health goals: do you ever think 'well I had this earlier so maybe I should have that now?' Or, 'I know I am hungry and I know my body needs fuel and this less healthy choice is the easiest/quickest thing to grab right now?' Or, 'why did I wait this long to eat…I am going to eat EVERYTHING I SEE until my body feels satisfied!'. Meal prep helps you to avoid these questions since you have already laid out in the plan choices that align with your health goals.

Portion control: having set portions ready to go can help us become more aware of our own hunger cues. When finishing a pre-portioned meal or snack there is an external cue reminding us to check in with our bodies. It is always okay to eat more, but it is equally as okay to eat less. External cues can make these check-ins feel more natural while eating.

Less overeating: When eating from a package or a restaurant meal we tend to overeat, not always because we are hungry but because it tastes good and is in front of us OR it tastes good and we are at work and have no way to store leftovers so why let it go to ‘waste’?

Save money: 2 scenarios contribute to wasted money when it comes to food.

1. Buying food you never prep, then it goes bad and ends up in the trash before you get a chance to eat it

2. Eating out, a lot. The cost of a meal/snack drastically decreases when it is homemade (not to mention the health benefits of having a homemade meal or snack vs one you buy out. typically the fat/salt/calories/sugar are much more when you eat out vs eating a homemade meal)

How to Meal Prep:

  1. Think about the types of foods you want to prep. Are you more in need of meals or snacks? How much freezer space do you have to set aside for meal prepping OR do you prefer to prep just what you can fit in the refrigerator? What types of meals and snacks will help you work toward your nutrition goals? These are all questions we can answer together in a session!

  2. Based on your list of ideas above what types of storage containers do you want to use?

  3. Make a shopping list.

  4. Get cooking! There are three types of people when it comes to meal prep and all methods provide the benefits we discussed above. Which one are you?

a. The all-at-oncer : buy everything you need and spend a few hours one day preparing everything. If you are using a freezer and have the time this can set you up for at least one meal a day for a month easily. These meals are not usually saved in single portions.

b. The once-a-weeker : Maybe freezer space is unavailable OR you prefer making foods that are ready to go in pre-portioned containers. The method of prepping meals and snacks once a week and storing in the refrigerator might work best.

c. The as-you-goer : (this is my current method of choice though depending on my work schedule and family needs I have used all 3 at some point) Whatever you are making for a meal or snack multiply the ingredients by two or three and pack all the extras for another time. Storage in the freezer works best with this method.

A few meal prep ideas: this list could go on forever but here are the couple I have on my list right now.

Vegan Sesame Chickpeas : I froze the sauce + chickpeas and will make fresh rice and broccoli day of. If you are questioning the chickpeas I urge you to give them a try. This is a meat and potatoes friendly vegan recipe! This recipe would also work if you swapped cooked chicken for the chickpeas.

Lentil Shepards Pie : this is a great one to freeze because it is so easy to accommodate this recipe for a variety of food preferences.

Breakfast Burritos : so needed for grab and go before work/school and easy to swap ingredients based on what is already in the house or what is on sale at the store

Chicken Pot Pie : make small changes to this recipe to pick your protein, use leftover veggies in the fridge, or swap the crust type to make this lower fat and/or gluten free! Such a versatile dish.

Bolognese Sauce: Pick your favorite version! Use ground meat OR lentils and mushrooms. Try a homemade red sauce if salt and sugar contents in the jar are a concern.

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