Setting yourself up for Success Part 1: Meal Prep
Many of us have heard the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Whether you are trying to get yourself into the best shape of your life or just become a healthy example for your children, there are several things you can do as preparation to set yourself up for success. This series of articles will look at the following areas:
- Meal Prep
- Exercise Efficiency
- Goal Setting
- When Life Happens
Meal prep is one of the most important aspects of changing your health and your body. Some have gone as far to say that it is 80% of your success and I wholeheartedly agree. In my own experience, it wasn’t until I got my own eating under control that I began to see real, longlasting results.
Admittedly, weekly meal prep is relatively new to me. While I have been logging and tracking my meals on MyFitnessPal off and on for, well, years…. I have just been experimenting with meal prep up until now. Here are the most important things that I have learned.
- Pre-Prep: First, you need to know what you are making for your week. Make a list of the foods you intend to make for your food prep and go grocery shopping for any items you need. For this reason, most people will recommend making meal prep a two day event. Day one is for planning and shopping, day two is for preparation, cooking and storing. Choose recipes that you enjoy, but be willing to try new things. Which leads me to…
- Variety: The first mistake I made when I was starting to meal prep, was to make every day exactly identical throughout the week. Some people may be able to eat the same foods from meal to meal and day to day… but I am not one of those people! Variety is the spice of life isn’t it? Each of your meals can have at least a little variation. Whether is it just by adding different spices, adding a low calorie sauce or mixing up the types of food in each container, this will help you stave off boredom. Because when you’re bored…. You’re more likely to eat something else or make an extra trip to the drive through!
- Portion Control: Each of your prep meals should be a balanced portion of protein, veggies and a healthy carbs. The actual portion sizes will vary depending on you, your particular goals and how you track your meals. If you’re looking for a starting point, consider about 4 ounces of protein (use a food scale for most accurate measuring), about half a cup of healthy carbs (or another 4 ounces of weight), and pretty much unlimited vegetables. Then put each of your meals into their own container and store in the fridge for easy access.
- Track your food intake: if you haven’t been tracking your overall food intake on some sort of app or website, now is a good time to start. I will be the first person to tell you that it is my least favorite thing about getting into shape…. But it is very important. Especially when you are in your beginning stages of making life changes. If you aren’t making progress despite making other healthy changes, this is even of higher importance. While no one wants to track calories forever, seeing how much you’re really taking in every day can be a real eye opener. This also helps in your meal prep because you can see exactly how many calories each meal is going to be and tweak it accordingly if you need more or less calories. There are several good apps out there, My personal favorite is MyFitnessPal. You can literally personalize everything from your target calories, how many meals you have in a day, how you want your macronutrients split (Macronutrients are Protein, Carbs and Fat)
- Figure out how many calories your body needs. My biggest irritation about apps like MyFitnessPal is that it automatically sets people up for 1200 calories per day. For most active people, this is NOT enough calories and may actually put your body into starvation mode. There are many online calculators for finding out your BMR (basal metabolic rate: the amount that you burn daily without doing anything at all. Don’t confuse with BMI which is a number that puts you into healthy, underweight or overweight ranges.) This can be a starting point for your calorie intake. The more you do in your day physically, the more calories you will require. However, if you are exercising, your body needs more calories. Just not too many calories. It is a balance that requires diligence and that’s why knowing as much as you can about your own metabolism and dietary needs is very important. For a BMI Calculator, go here.
Meal prep is not made to be an end all for eating for the week. It’s meant to make eating healthy easier, more convenient and more enjoyable. Hopefully this information will give you a starting point for meal prep and help you overcome some of the hurdles I have had myself. Good luck and happy meal-prepping!