Your Meal Prep Mindset
Every once in a while, I hear mud slung at meal prep. It’s accused variously of being restrictive or overly-rigid.
To quote Bob Basso, if meal prep feels that way to you… “you’re not doing it right.”
But a few clarifications first…
Healing a Dysfunctional Relationship with Food
My disclaimer for all of my nutrition clients, in-person or online, is that our commercial diets (foods we eat at restaurants or out of packages) are incredibly over-saturated with sugar and oil. If packaged or pre-prepared food has made up the bulk of your diet for years, it is at first difficult to remember the authentic flavors and textures of more simple foods.
In other words, if you make a dramatic change to try to eat more healthfully, you are – at first – going to feel deprived. Foods may taste plain and bland for a little while.
Part of the process of eating healthier is re-training the taste buds, and it is not an overnight process. Your very first step in sticking with your new routines is to be realistic about this, and to develop a mindset that is oriented around persistence. Be gentle with yourself and make modifications as needed, but also be consistent in testing the edge of your palate’s comfort zone.
I remember the first time I tried Ezekiel bread (back when I was not eating so healthy)… my husband still makes fun of me for the face I made.
You will be surprised to find that, within weeks, you will be enjoying food more, and easily going without the high-octane flavors of commercial additives.
That being said…
Meal Prep Should Not Be a Miserable Experience
From my experience of meal prepping consistently for 5+ years, I can confidently say that the weekly chunk of time that I spend in the kitchen isn’t necessarily fun, but it’s not bad, either.
The same goes for the food itself. Does it feel like I’m sitting down to a Michelin-starred plate every time I eat? No, but that’s not what it’s about.
If you have struggled to make meal prep part of your regular weekly routine – or if you have dutifully choked down the resulting meals that didn’t turn out so great – please know that there is hope. It can be better. In fact, it can be great! And it’s worth it to improve your cooking skills and expand your recipe repertoire so that you an enjoy the health and lifestyle benefits of meal prep.
The Benefits of Meal Prep
It saves time and mental energy planning food.
Instead of having to stir up the creativity juices every single night, you only have to do it once a week.
It ensures that your diet is well-balanced.
By looking at the big picture, you can easily tell whether you’re getting enough fruit and vegetables.
It provides automatic portion control.
By packaging the foods separately in portion-sized containers, you don’t have to stop yourself from getting a second helping.
It makes tracking possibly unnecessary.
If you are calorie-counting to lose weight, eating on a “meal plan” created by meal prep can reduce the need to track every meal, because everything is planned in advance.
It means less takeout and more high-quality food.
Let’s face it – we always do what is easiest, especially at night. Having food prepared at home means that you’ll make better decisions when you’re on auto-pilot.
It provides you with a sense of self-efficacy.
This is very important. “Cooking” has been relegated to a complicated and lost art that only a few have mastered. The reality is that you can be your own personal chef with just a few simple skills.
It can help with allergies and food intolerances.
If you have a sneaking suspicion that dairy or another ingredient is bothering you, meal prep allows you to control your grocery shopping and your daily meals with more scientific accuracy.
Ready to try your own meal prep experiment? Check out my top five tips (below) first, then scroll to the bottom to download my “Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook”!
Tips for Meal Prep
It’s so simple, that it almost seems ludicrous. But the first step to meal prep is to make sure that you have the right number of individual portion-sized containers. I use glass Duralex containers, and I love them. Another quick tip – you will need more than you think! Buy 20+!
Be consistent with the day(s) that you grocery shop and cook.
For us, we cook mid-week because we do not like cooking on weekends. Once you build your kitchen skills, the entire task can be done quite quickly (in under two hours). Pick the day(s) that you will tackle shopping and meal prep, and stick with it for a few weeks to experiment. Change the day(s) if you need to.
Only meal-prep foods that either re-heat well, or taste fine cold.
When it comes to fish, I only meal prep cold dishes, like my Greek salmon quinoa salad. Chicken really needs a friend, like salsa or a sauce. Meatballs and other types of meat patties are rockstars. Fusilli re-heats better than spaghetti. Soups are champs.
Treat yourself a few times a week.
A few times a week, go to a restaurant and take a break from your prepped meals. A little variety helps grease the wheels of adherence to a new habit.
Make food that everyone will love.
Meal prep will work for your family if you make it work for the whole family. I caution against making your own meals while your family gets something else. You will burn out. If you have kids, try foods with interchangeable ingredients, like nachos, tacos, or pasta with toppings. Keep in mind that there are age-appropriate tasks for kids, too – one of my clients, when she started working with me, gave her 14-year-old son one meal per week to cook, and he has thrived on the responsibility.
Convinced, but need some help?
Check out my free cookbook, “The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook”! You can download it now by clicking the button below.