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Meal Prepping 101: How to Do It and Stay Inspired

By January 8, 2017Eat, Live, Nutrition

Let’s talk for a minute about my one true love: food!

Alright, now that I’ve got your attention, let’s get serious. What even is meal prepping? Quite simply, it’s exactly what it sounds like: prepping meals to have on hand a week ahead in order to meet your goals and ensure that you’re eating enough on any given day. It is an art, it is a science, and it is very subjective.

Depending on your dietary needs, energy expenditure, plus a thousand other factors, your prep will look much different than mine, and you know what? That’s the beauty of it! Make it personal, make it fun, and keep it interesting. Here’s how.

Meal Prepping 101: How to Do It and Stay Inspired

Tips to Get Started

First and foremost, you need to have a plan. Fail to plan, plan to fail, am I right? Yes, in this case I am.

Okay, so set aside five to ten minutes to plan out your food intake for the week. Typically, I only prep for lunch and dinner as I leave myself enough time to make breakfast in the morning. If you’re the type of person to get up and go, make sure you prep for the most important meal of the day as well. Write out a meal calendar to serve as a rough draft of your intake for the week.

Be sure to include three meals and a couple of snacks as well. This way, you won’t have to question what you’ll eat and when, leaving you doubtless, productive, and full on tasty, healthy food!

Meal Prepping 101: How to Do It and Stay Inspired

Even if you don’t follow your meal calendar to a tee, it’s good to have some idea of what your food week will look like. This allows you to stay on track and maintain your lifestyle. It’s too easy for busy bees to forget to eat during the day, and meal prepping is a surefire way to avoid this.

Next up, choose a few staples from each macronutrient group to prepare in bulk. That way, even if you don’t make specific recipes, you’ll be able to mix and match to whip up a delicious, nutritious meal at any time! Here are some ideas.

Proteins

Meal Prepping 101: How to Do It and Stay Inspired

  • Chicken
  • Ground turkey -make meatballs, tacos, burgers, etc.
  • Steak (may be a little out of budget, but treat yo self sometimes)
  • Eggs/egg whites
  • Fish
  • Shrimp
  • Tempeh (find my absolute favorite recipe here)
  • Tofu
  • Beans/lentils – perfect in chilis, soups, or on their own

Carbohydrates:

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You’ll get the majority of your fat content from the not-so-lean meats (such as beef and chicken with the skin on), eggs, dairy (not the non-fat kind!), and the oil you cook your food in.

If you need an extra source of fat, my go-to is peanut butter but some other options include:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Fatty fish
  • Chia seeds

After you’ve planned out what you’re going to eat, you need to carve out some time to cook. For me, meal prep Sundays are the greatest day of the week, but Sunday may not be the perfect day for everybody. Look at your schedule and determine when you have enough time to chef up food for a whole week. Sure, it’s a bit time consuming, but it’s way more rewarding.

Finding Your Own “Recipe”

Meal prep is an art and, like all other art forms, is extremely subjective. Only you know what works for you and only you have the ability to control what you eat and when.

Your goals are obviously going to be different than mine, and that is okay! It’s important to tailor your prepping technique to fit your lifestyle and goals. Here are some tips on that…

  • For bodybuilders/powerlifters in the middle of a bulk or cut, I would recommend meal prepping in bulk. That means cooking up heaps of rice, sweet potatoes, protein, etc. to have on hand throughout the week. That way, you can mix and match to create meals at any time of the day.
  • For someone who’s looking to simply live a healthy lifestyle, I’d recommend preparing some food in bulk such as vegetables and grains, but preparing 2-3 meals to eat throughout the week. I like to make something like chili or a stir fry bowl and nibble on it for dinner all week. You may get a tad tired of it, but it’s better than scrambling for everything but the kitchen sink!
  • If you’re a bit forgetful, PLAN AHEAD. Have your tupperware for each meal and portion out each food appropriately. This way, there’s really no excuse to eat junk because you’ve set yourself up for success rather than failure. 

Staying Inspired

I get it… It’s easy to get tired of eating the same foods all the time. It’s important to switch it up as often as possible so you don’t get bored or underwhelmed, much like you would do with your workouts! If you have no idea where or how to find inspiration, let me help ya with that as well.

  • If you’re not all that creative (like me), don’t be afraid to admit it! Start checking out a couple of food blogs as a source of inspiration. You can make the recipes ingredient for ingredient or take what you like and leave the rest, whatever you may choose. A few of my favorites are The Roasted Root, Ambitious Kitchen, Minimalist Baker, The Iron You, and Oh She Glows, just to name a few. Shop around, find what works for you, and make it yours.
  • Another alternative for the option above is to follow healthy food and fitstagrammers. It’s a super easy way to spark ideas and share recipes and information. A few accounts to get you started include realfoodmatters (me!), shutthekaleup, eating_peanut_better, purely_elizabeth, and goodhealthgoodvibes
  • Beyond finding inspiration from others, another source is to step outside your comfort zone and continually try new things! If you love grocery stores as much as I do, really look at what they have and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Try new spices, vegetables, meats, and don’t be shy to make new combinations for meals. Let’s be real, life is more fun when you’re open to new experiences, right? 

No two meal preps will look the same, and that’s the beauty of it. Whether you need to scoop out every single meal into Tupperware or want to follow a more recipe-based approach, find what works for you and stick with it. Once you realize the benefits of prepping, I can promise you’ll never go back. Happy cooking and bon appetit!

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Author Hannah Chapman

Hannah is a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University studying Health Science and English with hopes to become your go-to trainer, dietitian, and wellness expert! When she's not planning her next four meals you can find her at a music festival, a yoga class, or the cutest coffee shop in proximity.

More posts by Hannah Chapman

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