As you go about your busy day, you make little decisions about what to eat in order to get the nutrition you need. Busy schedules leave little time to think in advance, which means even if you’re on a diet, you may be tempted to venture away from it if you run out of time and need a quick meal. But the thing you don’t realize is that the effect of all those little decisions adds up and affects your body. Maybe it’s stopping by Starbucks for a quick breakfast after waking up late, or grabbing lunch at the drive through because you forgot to pack a healthy lunch. Whatever the reason, those little decisions can really affect the way your body reacts to the changes you’re trying to make. They can really slow you down. But how can you eliminate this frequently-overlooked element? The answer is in meal planning.
The key to staying on track with your fitness goals is to be more mindful of everything you’re consuming. Instead of blindly grabbing things at the store or in the drive through, think about healthy meal prepping as your way of mindful eating.
Sure, it can sound daunting or like you have to be a super organized, robotic superhuman who’s ready for anything. But that’s not the case (although it would help). Meal planning can be a tremendously effective way to stay on track with your diet and can help you cut out those little decisions that lead to eating unhealthy food that will hold you back. Meal prepping isn’t difficult, it’s just different from what most people are used to. It takes a little discipline to begin, but once you’re in the routine, it comes easy and makes a huge difference!
What exactly is meal prepping?
Meal prepping is just what it sounds like—preparing meals ahead of time that you know are in line with the diet you’ve chosen. Maybe you have a very specific diet that avoids eating lots of carbohydrates or that cuts out sugar. When you’re preparing meals ahead of time, you can easily avoid those things and feel confident that later, when you sense that urge to eat something you shouldn’t, your healthy meal is already prepared and ready to eat.
Many people choose to prep meals in different ways. You may prepare a week’s worth of meals on the weekend, or just plan a few days out. The great thing about meal prepping is that you can design it to fit your schedule. Most people either refrigerate or freeze prepped meals in small, portable containers so you can just grab and go! You can even include the kids by prepping some healthy meals to toss into their lunch box in the morning before school.
How do I start meal prepping?
First, you need to get acquainted with what types of foods you want to stick to. Your diet may have a broad range, or a pretty narrow scope. Whatever you decide to eat, think about how you want this to play out in your weekly eating schedule. Check out the basic rules of meal prepping to make it a success!
Next, think about how many meals you want to prep. Does it work better for you to plan a full week in advance or just a few meals at a time? Will you be prepping all daily meals or just a brown bag lunch?
Once you have a good idea if what you’d like to do and how you’d like to do it, make a grocery list of items you need to plan for the number of days you need meals for. Some people choose to make one very large portion of the same food to eat for lunch 5 days in a row, while others would rather make a few small meals for the week to avoid redundancy. Think about what you need to make the items you want. You can always check out some great meal prepping websites or Pinterest for ideas!
Finally, set aside a specific time when you can prep these meals. Put it on your calendar or set an alarm on your phone so you don’t forget or run out of time. The easiest way to slip back into quick, unhealthy eating decisions is to run out of time.
If you’re new to meal prepping, try it the first time on a weekend…maybe a Sunday afternoon when you don’t have plans and the kids are watching TV would be a good time to begin. This helpful site contains some quick reminders for what to get before you begin prepping meals (you’ll at least need some reliable containers).
It takes forethought to plan out what you want to make, get your food items from the store, and then find time to prepare the food. But once you make a routine of it, it becomes second nature. It may take a few preps to get together, but it all becomes worth it when you realize you don’t need to pack a lunch from scratch because you’ve already carefully and mindfully prepared your meal for the day. It’s always helpful to see what others are doing in terms of meal prepping. You can google it or find a favorite blog spot for prepping meals.
Reaching your fitness and health goals isn’t for free—you have to choose to be mindful of what you’re consuming, so meal preps are one of the best ways to get into the mindfulness of eating. No more frantic leafing through your cabinets for something that could add up to a meal! Do it in advance and you’ll eliminate the panic of not having a meal as well as the unhealthy decisions made when running out of time! Meal prepping is the smarter way to stay on track with your fitness and lifestyle goals.