Organisation and planning can help solve most of the problems that arise from trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Actually, they can pretty much solve almost every problem, ever. Being organised and planning meals ahead of time is a tried-and-tested way to make better food choices, stick to a weight loss plan and improve your diet. We all know that choosing food when you’re hangry/in a rush/on the road can easily lead to overeating and less than ideal meal choices.
Research in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found a greater amount of time spent on home food preparation was associated with a higher diet quality, including the intake of significantly more fruits and vegetables. It found those who spent less than an hour per day on food prep spent significantly more money on food away from home and frequently used fast food restaurants.
But seriously, who has an hour per day just sitting around to make healthy food? If you’re as busy as I am, don’t stress – meal prep is here to help.
Meal prep is the epitome of food organisation. Because most people don’t have a spare hour to spend on food prep on an average day, it makes sense to prepare things in bulk in one or two days to save that time throughout the week. Meal prep is one of the most effective tools I’ve found to date to lose weight.
Here are 7 ways meal prep will help you lose weight:
1. Count calories once per week
Let’s be honest, counting the energy content of food isn’t an exciting task. It’s tedious, time-consuming and filled with numbers. But for weight loss, it’s pretty essential to know at least the very basics of the food you’re consuming every day. Have you ever eaten super clean for a few weeks to no avail? Chances are you’re consuming a little too much energy, even if it is coming from healthy sources. But with meal prep, you only have to worry about doing this boring task just ONCE. And for the rest of the week, you get to kick back, eat your delicious healthy food and know exactly how much energy you’re putting in your body. If you use an app like My Fitness Pal to track your energy intake, you can even copy meals between days to save time. Less time calorie counting = more time for spin class (and by that I mean watching Netflix in the bath).
2. Portion food once per week
You thought calorie counting was bad? Portion control isn’t that riveting either – sometimes, it’s even downright depressing. I mean, have you seen what a “serving” of chocolate is? Or the energy content for that matter? *Gasps* Luckily, meal prep means you only have to go through this (sometimes painful) experience once per week. Measuring out your portions on meal prep day will make it easier not to overeat during the week. Get your measuring cups dirty on Sunday by measuring out rolled oats for breakfast, brown rice for lunch or poached chicken breast for dinner and you’ll be ready to grab and eat during the week.
3. Clean up food prep mess once per week
Do you know what I love? Eating delicious food. Do you know what I don’t love? Cleaning up the mess I’ve made to prepare said delicious food. It’s this mentality that makes takeaway food and eating out that much more appealing than preparing your own nutritious food at home. But what do you think your beloved digestive system prefers? Yet again, meal prep swoops in to save the day. Cooking all your food in one or two batches means MUCH less cleaning up time. Cook once, clean once, eat 4+ times. Is there anything meal prep can’t do?
4. Grocery shop once per week
There is nothing worse than hitting up the store after work when you’re tired/hangry/just want to put something edible in your mouth. Suddenly, those promo stands of salty snacks and chocolate bars staring at you next to the register become that much harder to resist. So why waste your willpower in this situation any more than you need to? We’ve established that meal prepping means you only have to cook and clean up once per week, but it also means you only need to food shop once per week too – if you’re organised, that is.
5. Plan food choices ahead of time
Planning healthy food options BEFORE hunger strikes is a battle-tested method for weight loss. It seems there’s something about making food decisions when you’re gripped by hunger/boredom/emotions that doesn’t always end well for healthy eating progress. But alas, meal prep can take care of this issue too. Imagine you’ve just gotten home from a lousy day at work, the weather is horrible and it’s only Wednesday. Besides wanting to down the nearest bottle of Pino, you:
Scenario one: look in the fridge and there is a shrivelled up carrot, two eggs and some (possibly mouldy) cheddar cheese.
Your probability of hitting up the nearest McDonalds drive thru? A strong 85 percent.
Scenario two: look at your Shape University meal prep plan and it says tonight you’ll be eating spaghetti and turkey meatballs with parmesan cheese. After spending a few hours meal prepping on Sunday, you open the fridge to find a bunch of yummy dishes already cooked, portioned and calorie-counted – ready to be microwaved for a few minutes and then, promptly demolished.
The probability of caving in to take away? Like 0, dinner’s already sorted!
6. Know what you’re actually eating
I often hear people say they manage to eat healthy without preparing much of their own food. But to me, this sentence sounds like a complete oxymoron. How on earth can you know you’re eating healthy food when you didn’t prepare the food yourself, and you don’t actually know what’s in it. I mean, if it’s a salad for example, you can take an educated guess by looking at it that it contains some chicken, some salad and dressing. But there’s no way to be sure what type of oil something was cooked in, how much salt has been added, how many days ago it was prepared and even what country the ingredients came from. This is one of the reasons eating out can be a nightmare for people with allergies. Preparing your food with your own bare hands is usually the healthiest way to eat, and the best way to know what you’re actually putting into your body.
7. Save a tonne of money
It’s no secret that buying in bulk is a great way to save money, but it can be difficult to warrant buying a five kilogram budget bag of an ingredient if you’re not sure when you’ll use it again. Take the sushi salad recipe in the meal plan below. Most people would usually steer away from buying the giant, family-sized can of tuna while grocery shopping even though it’s sooooo much cheaper. Why? Because they have no idea how they’ll eat so much tuna before it goes bad. Instead, they opt for the convenient one-serve cans that are FAR more expensive. Shopping this way makes healthy eating more expensive than it needs to be, but meal prep easily solves this problem.
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Happy meal prepping!
Let’s chat below! Have you tried meal prep before?