With my work schedule and long hours, daily cooking can be a problem. I use Sundays and Wednesdays for my meal prep. I know it seems like a difficult task, but it's importance in achieving goals and results really can't be underestimated. And, if done right, meal prep can be a simple task. Knowing what to eat, how much to eat, when to eat and then preparing your meals is one of the most important aspects of achieving a healthy, balanced diet.
The meal prep allows me to make it easier to be Imperfect. What does that mean? Well, healthy eating all comes down to choices. And, at times, these choices can wear you down. Studies have shown the longer in the day you wait to go to the gym, the less chance you will exercise. A similar result will happen with your healthy nutrition. As the day goes by, there's a greater chance for you to grab something not so healthy if nothing is planned or prepared. For some of you, this is not a problem. But, for most, this is a big issue. Think about it, you come home from work after a long day. You look in the refrigerator and ask yourself, "What shall I have for dinner?" Maybe you will thaw out that chicken, pair it with some roasted brussel sprouts and a handful of cooked quinoa. Good for you, you're a Rockstar. Nah, not for me, it's easier to start grabbing a few things here and there. Then, as I sit down to watch some television, I continue to go back and forth to the kitchen snacking not knowing how many calories I've eaten, not to mention the proper ratio of macros (carbs, proteins, fat). For some of you, it may be going to Wendy's drive-thru, grabbing bag of chips, or a glass of wine. The vicious cycle continues day in and day out. Results don't happen. Goals are not achieved. Start back at square one and say "My plan is not working, I need a new diet plan."
These choices literally wear you down. It's not that you have no willpower. Willpower can't overcome loads of exhaustive decisions. It's called decision fatigue. Check out this article about willpower and decision fatigue.
How do you overcome decision fatigue when it comes to eating a balanced, healthy diet?
Preparation and Planning
When it comes to healthy eating and meal preparation, less is more. That doesn't mean less food necessarily. Depending on your goals, you should get in the correct amount of calories to give your body what it needs for proper lean muscle gain, satiety, and the proper amount of vitamins and minerals. With less, I mean less thinking. Simple.
Don't think you have to pick a different recipe each and every night. Just follow a basic formula that includes all of your macronutrients and repeat the process in a format you like. This format has 4 elements:
Carbs or Fruit
For example, let's start with breakfast:
How about an Omelette?
Vegetable (peppers, onions, mushrooms)
Carbs (ezekial toast)
Fat (olive oil for cooking in the skillet)
What's for dinner?
Vegetable (leafy greens with added veggies of your choice)
Protein (grilled chicken breast)
Carbs (small sweet potato)
Fat (olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing)
The key to getting ahead with meal prep is to have a few staple foods that you can cook in a batch and use in a number of different ways. On Sundays and Wednesdays, I cook chicken, fish and sometimes ground turkey or ground beef. I cut up my raw veggies (carrots, cucumber, avocado, peppers), put together my salads and throw everything in tupperware. Sometimes I'll pair my protein sources with some frozen veggies and cook them. I always have snack nuts and fruit on hand because you never know when theres' a time crunch. A trainer friend does hers a different way. She makes a little extra for dinner each night and uses the leftovers for the following lunch. She has time. It doesn't work for me but it might work for you. Whatever you choose to do, make it a system and mirror the format above to simplify the process. Instead of thinking each and every day, "What am I going to eat?" draw up a plan, prepare your food, follow your system. Less choices will make things easier, goals will be achieved and results will show.