I’m a fitness & nutrition coach, and I don’t meal prep. *GASP* “But Lo – you HAVE to meal prep! How do you stay on track otherwise?” Trust me, there’s nothing more satisfying than opening the refrigerator to stacks of perfectly portioned fancy glass storage containers with color coded lids. But what if I told you there was another way to set yourself up for success? One that requires less creativity, structure & stress, and offers more flexibility and time out of the kitchen.
It’s time to release the pressures of meal prepping and revolutionize the concept of food prepping. What’s the difference between meal prep vs food prep? Aside from a small difference in semantics, the execution of the two concepts are actually widely different. Let’s break it down:
Meal prepping involves a detailed process of carefully planning out breakfast, lunch, dinner & snacks for the next week and is a useful & necessary process for someone closely tracking calorie intake. If you enjoy spending hours in the kitchen, consider yourself a good cook, and love trying new recipes / ingredients – then meal prepping may be for you! A few dedicated hours over the weekend can give you the peace of mind to walk into a week never having to think about what you’ll have for meals, and enjoying the convenience of grab-n-go containers from your fridge. This can also give you control when tracking calories or macros. But preparing 3+ meals / day for a whole week, and eating the same meals on repeat isn’t for the faint of heart. You also end up with a pantry or refrigerator full of half-used ingredients from a recipe you tried once and hated.
Food prepping, on the other hand, is a less structured and rigid approach. Instead of stressing about perfectly portioned container meals and mile-long grocery lists of complicated ingredients, simply select 2-3 proteins, 2-3 vegetables, and 1-2 carbohydrates to prepare and store in large containers for endless meal combinations throughout the week!
- Proteins: Hard boil eggs, brown ground beef, bake chicken breasts
- Vegetables: Microwave frozen steamer bags of broccoli, roast brussels sprouts, saute fajita peppers
- Carbohydrates: Cook basmati rice, bake cubed sweet potatoes
- Fats: Hummus, avocados, dressings, nuts / seeds
You can get as basic as frozen microwave options, to more time-consuming marinating & baking techniques. You choose! Don’t fret over complicated recipes, or worry about preparing full meals. These individual foods are now ready to be combined into endless meal combinations to help you beat food boredom or burnout from cooking. Using the food list prepared above, you can enjoy the following options: Taco bowl with ground beef, rice, peppers & avocado, Chicken Sweet Potato Hash with Brussels sprouts, Chicken Broccoli Stir Fried Rice, etc. You can make as much or as little as you need to fit your household. This process keeps recipes simple, prevents food waste, and saves from extra ingredients building up over time. The only downside to food prepping is that “some assembly is required” at meal time.
Do you cringe anytime you, your spouse, or your child asks you, “what’s for dinner?” Perfect the practice of food prepping and consider those days a distant memory. A batch of already-baked chicken breasts can easily be transformed into a wrap, a salad, a bowl, or even a quick quesadilla to satisfy everyone’s requests with little additional cooking required! Reheat some prepped veggies, add your favorite dressing or condiment and dinner is served.
It’s probably no secret that my husband and I have very different dietary needs & tastes. While I enjoy more simple dishes (hubby likes to use the word ‘bland’), he prefers the staple food groups of his previous bachelor days (think boxed mac n’ cheese, frozen pizza, nachos, etc). Food prepping literally saves time, money, my sanity, and potentially our marriage. I can batch prep a couple pounds of ground beef for him to use for tacos while I use it to top off a Buddha bowl of steamed veggies, rice, and avocado. We’re both stuffed, satisfied, and following our respective views on nutrition.
If you’ve been intimidated or overwhelmed with the idea of meal prepping, or are experiencing burnout using this method, I encourage you to explore shifting your mindset toward food prepping! Perhaps you’ll find it more manageable for your family dynamic, and still feel confident in controlling food quality and portion sizes to suit your needs. Be sure to share your food prepping creations on social media and tag @thelodownonfitness!