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The Ultimate Guide to Meal Prep

Have you ever been caught unprepared?

Maybe you forgot about a work presentation.

Or that tricky professor gave you a pop quiz on the reading you didn’t do.

You forgot to pack your toothbrush or the wrong shoes for a trip.

I was caught unprepared the other day when I forgot to bring my headphones with me at the gym.

How was I supposed to crush my workout without my carefully planned “Workout” playlist? Not exactly a life or death kind of unprepared but it was still a bit of a nuisance.

No one enjoys the feeling of being unprepared. Besides the few times we just flat out forget, we are pretty good at preparing for things.

We save money (hopefully), we study for tests, prepare for presentations, pack the right items. Heck, some of us even plan out what we are going to wear a week in advance.

However, the one area many of us fail to prepare in is with our diets. We get so busy with life and our to-do lists we neglect the rules of good nutrition and eat whatever is around and don’t give it much thought.

Then we are surprised when we have low energy, have cravings all the time, and suddenly find ourselves overweight and unhealthy.

What Is Meal Prep?

Meal prep is the ultimate way to prepare when it comes to nutrition.

It is simply the act of preparing meals ahead of time so you have ready to eat meals that fit in with your life, health, and fitness goals.

Thousands in the fitness community are practicing weekly meal prep with goals ranging from getting competition ready to simply improving their diet.

Whatever the reasons, meal prep is has grown in popularity simply because it works!

Meal prep popularity over time

Why Meal Prep?

If you are thinking meal prep is just for bodybuilders trying to get “shredded” for a competition, think again. Although meal prep is very popular among body builders, it has many more benefits that just getting you stage ready.

Meal prep is for anyone and everyone wanting to be prepared with how they eat. If you want to succeed with your health and fitness goals, you need to prepare!

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success. -Alexander Graham Bell

Besides being prepared, there are some other reasons why it’s a good idea to meal prep:

  • We eat what is available.

junk food lying around

I think it’s safe to say that most of us are on what my dad likes to call the “see food” diet.

If we see food, we’ll probably end up eating it.

We all know that if we keep junk food lying around, we are more likely to eat it. Well, the same theory proves true for healthy food.

If we have whole food snacks and meals full of veggies prepared and ready to go, we are more likely to eat better!

We all know that a healthy diet is key for preventing chronic disease and having a healthy body weight. Meal prepping can help keep you on track and build better eating habits.

  • Saves time and money. 

Another reason to meal prep is that it saves time and even money in the long run.

Not all of us have time to cook nutritious dinners every single night, prepare fabulous lunches, and wake up early enough to have a perfect breakfast (I’d rather sleep).

Meal prep only requires a few hours maybe twice a week and BOOM. You’ve got ready to go meals that are ready to go when you need them.

Forget the myth that eating healthy is too expensive. Fast food and junk food is what is expensive, both on your wallet and your health.

Don’t believe me?

The average fast food meal costs about $5. With careful meal planning, a meal at home costs around $3.

Two dollars may not seem like that big of a difference but it adds up, especially if you eat out often.

Eating out three times a day for five days costs you: $75

Cooking three meals a day for five days of meal prep: $45

You could be saving $30 or more each week just by cooking your own ready to go meals. That adds up to $120 each month and $1,560 a year.

This is a no brainer. Start meal prepping, save the money, and go on a trip instead of blowing it on processed fast food.

  • It will get you results you can see.

If you want to see your abs, you MUST eat right.

If you want to “tone” up or build muscle you  MUST eat right.

I’m going to tell you what every personal trainer and nutritionist is going to tell you.

YOU CAN’T OUT-EXERCISE A CRAPPY DIET.

Trust me. I’ve tried and failed on this one and learned a few things.

Unless you have killer genes that bless you with extremely low levels of body fat, you are going to have to eat right.

Nutrition is outcome-based, meaning you know a nutrition plan is working if you are seeing the right outcomes.

If someone is complaining that they eat “perfectly” but  are still 15 pounds overweight, there is a very, very high chance are they actually are not eating “perfectly”. Good nutrition never lies.

Meal prep can help you plan out your meals based around your goals so you are seeing the outcomes you want. It will help you learn and build solid nutritional habits

What you will need:

  • Quality Containers

containers for meal prep

Containers that will last and give you the ideal portions sizes for you are essential when it comes to meal prep.

Generally, you are going to want to find some containers that are BPA free, microwave and dishwasher safe.

Here are some of my top recommendations:

  1. Tupperware 25 piece Portioning Pro Set
  2. Meal Prep Haven Stackable Containers set of 7
  3. Pakkon 2 Compartment Bento Box set of 10
  • Meal Prep Bag or Cooler

If you travel a lot you are going to want one of these. These meal prep bags often come with containers and keep your food cold for up to 8 hours.

Plus they help you stay on track while you are out and about or traveling, which are often the hardest times to stick to a healthy diet. Meal prep bags allow you to bring your meals and snacks with you in a convenient carrier.

I recommend 6 Pack Bags or Isolator Fitness.

How to Successfully Meal Prep:

meal prepping

  • Pick your day to meal prep.

Set aside 2-3 hours on one day or pick a couple days each week for designated meal prep. Choose according to what days you have time. I prefer 2 nights a week to prepare my meals. This way they stay fresher.

Most people prepare 3-5 days worth of meals, but you can do as little or as many as you want. Just remember that food does go bad and if you cook too many meals, you’ll end up throwing some out on account that they smell like a sweaty foot.

I usually only prepare lunches and dinner, but you can prepare breakfasts, dinners and everything in between! Here are some easy recipes of some of my favorite meals and snacks:

Healthy pumpkin chocolate chip muffins for breakfast (or dessert).

Curried chicken for lunch or dinner.

Banana chocolate overnight oats for breakfast.

Ready to go smoothies-just throw in a blender and go!

  • Have your numbers in mind.

How many calories are you aiming for? How about macros?

I’ve been practicing proper nutrition habits for long enough, I generally know how much my body needs and what portions look like.

If you are not sure what your numbers are, use this calculator to find out your calories, protein, carbs, and fat. Even if you don’t follow theses numbers exactly, they will still give you a good idea of where to start.

If that sounds like a nightmare and you don’t’ want to be tied down to certain numbers, just remember these 3 basics: a source of lean protein, a fibrous carb, a reasonable amount of healthy fats, and plenty of colorful or green leafy veggies.

Here are some examples of each:

protein carbs fat veggies

  • Keep it simple, but give yourself some variety.

If you are like me, you get sick of the same foods after a while. Feel free to get creative and give yourself options, but try to keep it simple. Simple meals are quick to prepare, the most effective, and keep longer in the fridge.

Use recipes that won’t take hours to cook (unless they are in the crockpot), meals that don’t require tons of extravagant ingredients, and use fresh produce that is in season.

What If You Hate to Cook?

delivery meal prep

Don’t want to cook it yourself or have a tight schedule? That is totally ok. If you have the budget, you can pay these companies to do your meal prep for you:

If you live on the East Coast, Nutrichef NYC provides custom meal plans made with locally grown produce and naturally raised meat and seafood. They have their nutrition experts analyze your goals and fitness routine before giving you your ideal meal plan.

Located in Utah, Shredded Fuel ships to the Intermountain West and West Coast areas. They have two basic meal plans, one for men and women based on calorie and macros. Thier meals are clean, macro based, and delivered right to your door!

Fuel Food ships nationwide and provides over 60 different menu options. With each meal weighed and calorie counted, they guarantee to deliver meals that help you burn fat.

Freshology has some of the best-looking meals and several plans ranging from weight loss to performance. They have a special diet menu including gluten free and vegetarian. They offer 5 and 7-day schedules and deliver nationwide twice each week.

Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.  -Confucius

No matter your fitness or health goals, meal prep can help you get there!

Take some time each week to invest in yourself and your health and prepare some nutritious meals. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive and you don’t have to be a bodybuilder to enjoy the results!

No Time For Meal Prep?

Learn how meal replacement shakes make healthy eating on a tight schedule easy.

Read: 8 Bad Habits Fixed By Meal Replacement Shakes.

Watch: 8 Bad Habits Fixed By Meal Replacement Shakes.

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