Guy Smarts: ​A beginner’s guide to meal prep

A beginner’s guide to meal prep

It’s meal-prepping, or creating a few meals or dishes and portioning them out throughout the week.

Guys, there’s a secret to eating healthy, home-cooked meals that won’t waste hours after work - and no, the answer is not investing in a personal chef.

It’s meal-prepping, or creating a few meals or dishes and portioning them out throughout the week.

This can be as easy as stocking up on cottage cheese for breakfast, or as in-depth as making a bunch of pre-made meals on Sunday and saving them for the rest of the week. Either way, it will save you time, money, and ensure that you stick to a healthy diet.

“One of the biggest downfalls I see with clients regarding their compliance to their nutrition program is making poor nutrition decisions in the moment,” says Men’s Healthnutrition advisor Mike Roussell, Ph.D. “When you prep meals ahead of time, you don’t need to make any decisions at meal time. All the work has already been done. You just need to eat.”

Need help getting started? We’ve outlined the basics and provided helpful tips to make it seem a bit less overwhelming:

Calculate how many meals you need

Think about how many breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners you’ll need for the week. Be sure to factor in things like dates, meals with clients, and travel, so you can plan more efficiently and avoid wasting food. So, if you want enough breakfast, lunches and dinners for the workweek, you would need 15 meals. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to cook 15 separate dishes, but rather prepare a few large batches of meat and vegetables that can be used in various ways throughout the week.

Keep it simple

It’s easier to prep less complicated meals. If you’re new to cooking, Registered Dietitian and health coach at StrongerU, Jessica Bachman, PhD, MS-MPH, recommends staying away from recipes, which can require too many ingredients or cooking skill. Instead, “think of a meal as a veggie, a protein and a starch,” she says. So, a quick dinner could be roasted pork loin, broccoli and sweet potato.

Utilize leftovers

Bachman’s clients often struggle with planning both dinner and lunch. “Just choose one meal to start with, then once you get a handle on that, start adding in more,” she says. Plus, you can make extra for dinner and take the leftovers for lunch.

“That’s so much easier than trying to take a different meal for lunch every day,” she explains.

Opt for easy cooking methods

Sure, you may love the grill marks on that chicken, but cooking on the grill or stove requires more attention. Bachman recommends using the oven or slow cooker since you can throw food in for a designated amount of time and simply monitor its progress. Plus, it’s easier to cook large batches of food with both of these methods.

Rely on packaged foods

There’s no need to prepare every single item on your plate. Instead of washing, cutting and steaming that side of broccoli, buy frozen vegetables instead. Plus, many frozen fruits and vegetables, like broccoli, have just as many vitamins and minerals as their fresh counterparts.

Keep breakfast simple

Mornings can be hectic, which is why Bachman recommends having the same breakfast every day. Just cut some fruit so it can be thrown in the blender for smoothies or paired with greek yogurt for the week.

Have a go-to snack

Similarly, Bachman advises choosing one snack, like pre-portioned nuts or a batch of hard boiled eggs, that you’ll eat every day. This will lower your chances of hitting up the vending machine when the munchies hit.

Get creative

Eating chicken every night doesn’t have to be boring. Bachman says she makes a big batch of shredded chicken every week and uses it for a variety of dishes, like salads or fajitas. She recommends having a variety of sauces and seasonings on-hand, such as barbeque, buffalo, etc., to make each meal feel unique.

Write out your list and go food shopping

With your meals lined up, it’s time to make a grocery list and head to the store. Aim to do your big weekly shop on Saturday or early Sunday, so you have time to prep your ingredients before the work week begins. To get in and out as fast as possible, organize your grocery list by section (produce, meat, dairy, etc.).

Prep and pack your food

It’s worth blocking out time on the weekend to get your ingredients ready for weekday meal assembly. “Once the week starts, there’s a greater chance that the prep just won’t happen,” Roussell says. Invest in a good set of clear glass or plastic containers so you know exactly how much you have.

Cooked meat can safely be stored for three to four days in your fridge. After that, it’s time to freeze.

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