Most of us don’t plan to put bad food in our bodies. But, when we get busy, we find ourselves reaching for the easy option. Too often that option is laden with simple carbohydrates that are going to head straight to our fat cells.
To overcome that scenario, you have got to be smarter than your circumstances. Meal prepping is a proven way to be able to maintain your clean eating habits no matter how hectic your life gets. But, for the uninitiated, meal prepping can seem quite daunting. In this article, we provide 16 meal prepping hacks to allow you to stick to a clean diet regardless of hectic your life gets.
Hack #1: Start with a Plan
Your meal prepping program needs to start with an evaluation of your actual nutritional requirements. Work out your daily caloric requirements, how many meals you will be eating each day and your proportions of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats)
Hack #2: Build Slowly
The easiest way to fail is to attempt to meal prep a whole week at a time from the start. You really need to ease into this process. Start by prepping a couple of days at a time. For example, on Sunday afternoon, you could prep your meals for Monday and Tuesday.
Hack #3: Prioritize
Analyze your week and zoom in on the trouble areas when it comes to getting your meals in. If you are a busy working person, it could be that your dinner meal is the biggest challenge. At the end of a long day, you may be tempted to grab a pizza or some other high carb option. So, start by just prepping your dinner meals so that, when you get home, you can simply grab a meal out of the freezer.
Hack #4: Have a Recipe List
Meal prepping is all about saving time. So, you don’t want to be eating up the hours on meal prep day, which usually works out to be Sunday for most people, trying different recipes each week. Make a list of tried and true recipes that you know and love. Ideally, the recipes that you use on a Sunday afternoon, or whenever you do your prep, should have cross-over ingredients.
Hack #5: Make a List
It may seem obvious, but most people hit the grocery store without a written shopping list. They think that they’ll be able to remember everything they need, only to get home to discover they’ve forgotten the sweet potatoes or zucchini. The solution is simple – make a grocery list of everything you will need for your meal prepping session, based on the recipes you plan to use.
Research also shows that people who shop from a grocery list end up filling their trolleys with healthier food choices and make fewer impulse buys.
Hack #6: Prep Food that you LIKE
You will come across all manner of super healthy recipes. But if you don’t actually like the food that you are preparing, you are not going to stick with the whole meal prepping thing. So, make sure that the recipes you are going to prepare are the foods that you actually enjoy eating. Of course, you don’t want to get bored with your food, so you should try new things – just make a small batch first to check it out on your taste buds!
Hack #7: Prep Ahead of Time
Prepping your meal ingredients ahead of time will make your life so much easier. When you get home from shopping, chop up your vegetables and place them in sealed bags or Tupperware containers. That way you’ll have them readily available for snacks anytime you feel like a nibble. Portion out such snacks as nuts and crackers into portion controlled baggies so they are ready to grab and go.
Cut up and portion out your meats so that they are ready to put into recipes at a moment’s notice. Another bonus of portioning out your foods is that you will be able to portion out your serving sizes in terms of protein, carbohydrate and fat amounts.
Hack #8: Roast Ahead of Time
Roast a large batch of vegetables in advance. That way they will be ready to use in sandwiches or as a side dish (you can even throw them into your soups). Carrots, zucchini, peppers, and pumpkin are all great roasting choices. When roasting, go with vegetables that require a similar amount of roasting time. Vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and asparagus should be roasted separately to cauliflower, zucchini, and potatoes.
Hack #9: Cook Protein Ahead of Time
Protein is a key component of every meal. Make sure you get every meal right by prepping protein ahead of time. You can then store it in portion size in your freezer of fridge. Have at least two sources of protein on the go at the same time, such as chicken and fish, or eggs and lean pork. Always have plenty of protein meal additives on hand ready to put into salads or to have as a stand-alone snack.
You can make sure that you are meeting your daily protein requirement by investing in protein bars and whey protein powder.
Hack #10: Use Spices
If meal prep is going to work long term for you, then you need to be continually enjoying the foods that you have prepared. If you find it bland or boring after a couple weeks, you are not going to be motivated to keep it going. That’s why you should find a couple of marinades that you really love nd use them liberally. Try mixing Dijon mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper for a great marinade that you can use on salads as well as chicken and vegetables.
Hack #11: Wrap Properly
Once you have cooked your food for the upcoming days, you now have the job of dividing it up and storing it. Make use of plastic wrap, bags, and airtight containers. If you invest in plastic containers, be sure to go with BPA free options with lockable lids. If you aren’t keen on lingering smells from last week’s meals, go with metal or glass containers.
Hack #12: Play It Safe
Once you have cooked your food, you will need to store it quickly. However, you need to make sure that it is completely cooled before you put it in the freezer or fridge. If you put warm foods in your freezer, it can bring down the freezer temperature, resulting in surrounding foods being partially thawed and then refrozen. The result will be mushy food that you won’t want to eat.
On the other hand, don’t allow your cooked food to stand for more than an hour before cooling it. Place it in a wide, shallow container and then put it in the fridge to cool it. From there move it to the freezer.
Hack #13: Correct Your Fridge Temp
Your refrigerator should be set below 40 degrees. At this temperature, the bacteria that causes damage to your food grows most slowly. This allows your food to last longer. As far as your freezer goes, it needs to be set below zero degrees.
Hack #14: Use It Quickly
You should consume any meals that you have stored in your fridge within three days. Foods that you lace in the freezer should be firmly sealed in an airtight container. This will prevent freezer burn.
Hack #15: Label Freezer Foods
Once a food item has been sitting in your freezer for a while, it may not be as recognizable as when you first put it there. That is why you should clearly label the food and the quantity that you have put in your freezer. You should also include the date that you prepared the food. Use a sharpie. Food in the freezer will eventually spoil – it just takes longer than that in your refrigerator.
Hack #16: Defrost
Pull your meals out from the fridge the night before you plan to eat and allow it to defrost in your fridge. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, thawing foods at room temperature or in warm water puts it in the danger zone for the rapid growth of bacteria.
Meal prepping is one of those good habits that really can make your life a whole lot easier. Like any habit, however, it will be a little painful at first. You should block out a whole morning or afternoon when you first begin prepping your meals. Crank up the music and make it a fun experience.
By following the 16 hacks that we have provided you will be able to make a great success out of meal prep. As a result, you will be able to conquer the challenge of not having enough time to stick with your clean eating habits. Your body will reap the rewards by being fitter, leaner and healthier.