Food prepping will simply your morning routine and make you more effective all day. A lot of us know the feeling of rushing out the door with a protein shake in one hand, car keys in another and forgetting our billfold. This kind of disorganization comes from a lack of preplanning. I have been guilty of this for years but I am learning new skills that are greatly improving the quality of my life.
How to Begin Food Prep
This may be a no-brainer for a naturally organized person but for those of us who struggle with the concept, it’s a challenge. I was of the mindset that if I was going to spend all that time on my off days food prepping then I would spend the same amount of time just prepping when I was going to eat. While that is mostly true, The HUGE difference is that food prepping gives me ultimate control over my nutrition. When I food prep, I make my choices about my meals based on what I should be eating, not on what is handy.
Mind you, all that is “handy” in my house is healthy choices. I don’t have junk food. There’s not a grain of added sugar in my house. I don’t have a bag of sugar in the cabinet either. All of the food in my house is either whole or minimally processed, with rare exception. So, you would think that anything that I grabbed while I was rushing to work would be just fine. While I can stay within my caloric and macro limits that way, I don’t maximize my nutrition making last minute choices.
A good example is the choice between an apple, which is good and a sweet potato which is better. If I don’t food prep, the apple will win almost every time. I don’t have to cook it and I can just grab it while I’m running out the door.
While the calories and fiber are similar in both, there’s 6 grams of sugar in the baked potato and a whopping 19 in an apple. The sweet potato will not require as much insulin to digest so it will satisfy me longer and cause less cortisol response. Cortisol is linked to belly fat. I AM NOT saying that apples cause belly fat. I’m saying that for a body builder, these things make a difference over a long period of time. Since the sweet potato keeps me from being hungry longer, it may help me stay within my caloric limit easier with less stress. Again, stress activates the cortisol response.
Food Prep Basics
- Choose which meal is your greatest challenge. For me, that is breakfast. If prepping is hard for you, just do that one meal for the number of days that you need control of your time the most. Work days are the ones that I choose. I prep on off days and then on my work days, breakfast is waiting when I get up!
- If lunch is a challenge in that you may eat out because it’s easier, then by all means PREP LUNCH. Otherwise, you very well may fall prey to the party mentality of the office and either hit the buffet or order pizza.
- Get the containers that you need! I have tried to food prep before with whatever I had on hand. While I have been cooking since I was 6 years old, I have never been one to invest in a lot of kitchen gadgets and unnecessary clutter. The first thing that I did was go out and buy exactly what I needed to store meals for me and my son for four day stretches of time. I only work four days without a break. It makes a HUGE difference when you have good containers instead of using grandma’s twenty year-old Tupperware.
- Set aside the time to do it. This was a challenge for me, the ultimate challenge. Believe me, it’s worth it. When you glide out the door well-fed with a bag full of well-balanced, nutritious food in your hand the first time, you will be a convert.
- Make your menus.
- Make your grocery list.
The Best Food Prep Foods
I like frozen berries when I prep yogurt. I put them in the cup frozen and then when I eat the yogurt, they’re perfect. Both sweet and white potatoes can be prepped ahead of time. They are good reheated. Crunchy fresh veggies like celery, carrots and bell peppers stay crunchy and romaine lettuce keeps great. Just wait until you are about to eat before you dress it. Whole grain breads hold up better than highly refined breads and tortillas. They are better for you also. Refined breads break down if prepped ahead of time just like they break down quickly in your digestive tract.
Beans and peas hold up well and actually take on more of the flavor of the dishes that they are cooked into over time. Lean meats are better than fatty cuts because the fat tends to permeate everything in the container quickly. Whole fruits are easy to carry and retain their color and texture better than after they’re cut. If biting into an apple is a challenge for you though, by all means, cut it up!
All nuts and seeds carry well. If you are going to add them to oats or yogurt, add them just before you eat. Otherwise they will loose their texture. Boiled eggs are as easy as whole fruit. Peel them at home and pop them into a container and keep them cold for an easy snack or small meal.
You can up optimize your nutrition and streamline your life, especially your mornings with just a little planning. After living both ways, I can assure you, you will be glad you learned how to food prep. Keep doing it until it becomes your normal. I guarantee that you will see a difference in your progress towards your health and fitness goals.