January 22, 2020

“Meal prep is the key to success”

This is one of the secrets to being able to stick to your healthy eating plan.

The saying “Fail to plan or plan to fail” is true when it comes to changing eating habits. Without planning, motivation and conscious thought is required to create suitable meals.

This is all well and good when you’re just starting, or when there are limited stresses in your life, or when time is plentiful.

The trick is to develop meal prep rituals and habits that work for you, so it is automatic and effortless.

But what happens if these ideal conditions do not apply?

We often see people start out well and get great results, only to find their weight loss slows and motivation drops as time passes. The problem is not with the program or with the person’s body; it’s a problem of organisation. Without organisation, the person ends up ‘winging it’ and, eventually, falling back into old habits.

“My weekly meal prep! On the menu this week is garlicky spinach and mushrooms with chicken and cajun spiced roast cauliflower, carrots and portabello mushrooms. Yum! Make sure you set aside just a few hours to prepare and plan delicious food for you to to grab ‘n’ go during the busy week. You will be grateful you did!” Ellissa-Mae, Health Coach at Prospect, SA

Think about this scenario: You’re driving home from work at 6pm on a Tuesday night. You need to feed the family, get a child to soccer training at 7pm, feed the pets, water the garden and get at least one load of washing on the line. Just reading the list might be enough to create a little panic response, so something has to give.

Without weekend planning (and preparation), it’s likely that you’ll order take-away and buy dinner. This might be OK if you weren’t trying to lose weight, or did not have to manage your budget.

Imagine a different weekend, one where you thought ahead and knew that Tuesday night would be problematic. What to do?

“50 Shades of Green!! Cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles, steamed greens, kale chips, parsley & basil pesto, salad bases (shredded cabbage, lettuce & cucumber).” Prospect, SA

Here are some of the strategies that I use to ensure the family eats well every day:

  • Think about the week ahead and determine which meals can be prepared on the day, and which need advance preparation.
  • Write a detailed shopping list – and remember to take it to the supermarket! Shop from the list. (I only shop once each week, but it’s fine if you have time and motivation to shop more frequently. Just ensure it’s always with a plan and a list.) You can now order online with supermarkets and other fresh suppliers. This helps prevent the random extra purchases. Only order what’s on your list.
  • Store the foods that will be prepared on the day they will be eaten. Keep out the foods that will be prepared now.
  • Prepare and cook a variety of foods at once: A rump roast, a whole chicken, a tray of vegetables, and a frittata or breakfast muffins all fit in the oven together – I just need to remember the timing on each one.
  • Use the slow cooker year round. It surprisingly does not heat the house up (like the oven would) in summer, so pulled pork can be prepared in the morning and eaten in the evening – with very little total time spent.
  • Lay out a number of small and 1 large container and make salads for the week.
  • Chop up vegie sticks, ready for a quick snack. Pre-slice some cheese (or buy it sliced) so it’s ready to grab. This works especially well for kids who can’t be bothered, or are too young, to cut their own food.

Want to chop meal prep by a third or even a half? With every main meal, cook double knowing that you plan to put half into containers for the next day, say a cold lunch. Always follow the ‘one plate rule’ where you serve to a plate, take the plate to the table, and enjoy the meal and the company. If you’re managing your weight, it’s best not to have serve-yourself at the table.

Another tip with all your meals is to ‘prioitise protein’ at all meals and snacks. People tend to be better at getting a quality protein serve at dinner, and often get sub-optimal protein (quality and amount) in their first meal of the day. Try this exercise. Have left over dinner as a cold breakfast. You might find that the satiety (ongoing fullness) is much better for longer. Try it!

Enlisting these strategies not only ensures you have great food on hand for the week, it also saves time. Many of us are time-poor, so it makes sense to allocate an hour or two, once a week, for meal prep so that you save an hour every night.

For recipes or more ideas, talk to the Health Coaches in your nearest Healthy Inspirations centre.