Dare to Prepare
The key to making sure your eating plan stays on track? Always have plenty of healthy options on hand.
You don’t have to be training for a competition to be the type of person who plans out her food choices. Knowing exactly what extra ingredients are in that chicken dish or how much fat goes into the salad dressing can go a long way toward helping keep your calories in check and your macros in line with your goals. In fact, research from Johns Hopkins University found that subjects who cooked their own dinner six to seven times a week consumed fewer calories, fat, and sugar on an average day compared with those who only cooked dinner once a week or less.
Having your food ready to eat when hunger hits will also keep you from bingeing on snacks or prepackaged convenience food. As both a nutritionist and an IFBB figure pro, I not only encourage my clients to organize their meal prep in advance—I also practice what I preach. Here are my top tips for keeping your menus on track and your body adequately fueled.
SEE ALSO: 5 Key Points For A Successful Meal Prep
Step 1: Organize Your Meals
Plan on eating about every three hours, with either six small meals a day or three main meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and snacks in between. Organize each eating opportunity around a quality protein (chicken, fish, or beef), a complex carb (sweet potatoes, brown rice, or fresh steamed vegetables), and some healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts, etc.).
Step 2: Hit The Grocery Aisles.
Make sure you have a list in hand with all your necessities. Try using an app such as AnyList, which allows you to easily share your must- gets with your spouse or roomies so everyone knows what you need. Some staples to keep on hand: canned foods like tuna and beans, frozen veggies to use in a pinch, and high-protein or brown-rice pasta.
Step 3: Get Creative
Experiment with low- sodium, low-sugar seasonings, such as turmeric, sesame seeds, or spice blends. Try mixing different veggies together (onions and mushrooms, tomatoes and bell peppers) to add color and variety. Use flavored vinegars and hot sauces, but be careful of added sugars, and look for hidden sources such as high- fructose corn syrup and artificial additives.
Step 4: Portion It Out
Weigh and measure your food to keep your serving sizes in check and to ensure your macronutrients meet your needs. Aim for three to five ounces of protein, 1⁄2 to 1 cup of complex carbohydrates, and1⁄2 to 1tbsp of healthy fats, like olive oil or coconut oil, per meal. Pack up fare in easy-to- transport containers and use food-cooler bags to keep your stash safe.
Step 5: Stay Prepared
When you don’t have a chance to grab a full meal, keep some emergency healthy snacks on hand. These can include a shaker cup with some quality whey/casein protein powder in a plastic baggie (just add water or low-fat milk or almond milk when you’re ready to sip), some mixed nuts and fruit, or a few quality high-protein energy bars.
SEE ALSO: 10 Meal Prep Photos To Get You Fired Up
These innovative accessories make it easy to pack up all your favorite meals
Wean Green Kitchen Starter Set
Reheat food safely with this set of eight tempered- glass storage containers. Secure snap-on tops feature a silicone seal, so lunch doesn’t leak out before you dig in.($45, weangreen.com)
Black+Blum Bon Appetit Lunch (Box) Meal Prep Pack
Get a week’s worth of ready-to-grab lunches or dinners in this collection of five BPA-free containers. ($50, blackblum.com)
Fit & Fresh Perfect Portion Kit
These innovative containers include snap-in reusable ice packs so your food stays cool for hours. The kit includes a breakfast chiller, four 1-cup containers, four 2-cup ones, and a snack box. ($40, fit-fresh.com)
This petite bento box is made from food-grade stainless steel. There’s room for one entrée and two sides, and they all stay separate. ($26, ecolunchboxes.com)
Sample Prep Menu
Oats with scrambled egg whites and berries. Or scrambled eggs on sprouted-grain bread with a side of fruit (melon or berries).
Grilled shrimp over salad and balsamic vinegar with avocado. Or grass-fed beef burger in a low- carb wrap with lettuce, tomato, and mustard.
Salmon fillet with brown or white rice and green and yellow zucchini noodles. Or grilled chicken breast over quinoa with grilled eggplant and asparagus.
Fresh fruit with cottage cheese (1%, no salt added) and 1⁄4 cup of mixed nuts or almonds. Or whey-protein shake blended with ice, PB2, a small banana, and almond milk.
Top 12 Food Prep List
- 0%-fat plain greek yogurt
- Chicken breast
- Grass-fed beef (fillet, flank, or sirloin)
- Mixed salad greens
- Vegetables (broccoli, asparagus)
- Berries, apples, melons
- Brown rice or quinoa
- Sprouted-grain bread (such as Ezekiel)
SEE ALSO: How To Make Food Prep Easier