Posted by Abby Hollister, BS, ACSM-CPT
We see people here at Athlon with a variety of goals–improving general health, weight loss, weight gain, fitness competition, etc. While all these goals are different, we’ve found one important thing in common for achieving each of them… “meal prepping.” Meal prepping is the art AND science of having your entire week’s meals thought-up, planned, and the ingredients prepared ahead of time.
The biggest excuse we coaches hear at Athlon when asking a client why they’ve fallen off the nutritional bandwagon is, “I was just so busy this week, I didn’t have time to cook,” or “I was having a bad day, and it was too easy to just get some wine and pizza!” When we follow up with the question, “did you plan or prep your meals ahead of time for the week?” The answer’s always, (head-down, bottom lip out…) “no…”
As you know, it’s very frustrating to put in time at the gym and still not see good results. It’s even more frustrating when you know you’re self-sabotaging your results by what you’re putting in your mouth…
Here’s the simple answer…
As the saying goes, “failing to plan means planning to fail.” What if there were containers of already prepared nutritionally rich, tasty meals ready to go in your fridge when you got home from a long, hard day at work? Would you blow them off, ignore your goals, and order in a pizza? No way!
Meal planning and prep does take a little time, but only an hour or two, once or twice a week. It’s just as easy to bake six chicken breasts as it is to bake one, and takes just about the same amount of time to chop a whole bag of celery as it does to chop one stalk. So prepping ahead of time isn’t all the difficult. Plus, the time savings you’ll experience by avoiding the lethargy and sloth you get from a week of eating junk food will be well worth it!
Here’s how I like to do it:
Most people can justify taking the time to cook two meals per week. Plan to cook a healthy Sunday dinner, and cook a lot of it, so there are plenty of servings left over for lunches and dinners for the next couple days; then repeat the ritual on Wednesday.
While things are cooking, it’s a great time to prep some fruit and veggies for the week (chop and put into Tupperware), hard boil some eggs and store in the fridge, and brain storm what your meals will all look like for the next few days AND WRITE THAT DOWN (if you don’t you’ll not think of it the next day after a tough day at work).
During commercial breaks of the “Bachelor,” whip up a breakfast casserole or big batch of post workout oatmeal to have for breakfast this week. Here are some great recipes to try (www.theoatmealartist.com). Time is often the excuse people give for not planning ahead, but clearly there are lots of ways to make the time we have more successful.
Another important reason for meal prepping in advance is it makes eating a more intentional action; you become more aware and thoughtful of what you’re putting into your body, rather than mindlessly grabbing a bag of chips or burrito when you’re hungry. Intentional eating will also get you more in tune with how certain foods make you feel. Perhaps you will find drinking that green smoothie (with certain ingredients) makes you feel more energized versus grabbing a donut… eating certain other whole foods makes you feel more satisfied and more motivated to give it your all in the gym the next day. You may find that you’re finally in control of what you’re putting into your body, and developing a much healthier relationship with food. In fact, food may start to become less of an outlet for dealing with sadness, loneliness, and depression… you may even find you have less sadness, loneliness, and depression!…
Abby’s tips for meal prep and planning ahead:
- Invest in some good Tupperware… if you have it there is no excuse not to double or triple healthy recipes when you cook on Sundays and Wednesdays! Making healthy meatballs for dinner? Make 20 of them and you will have dinner tonight and lunch or dinner already done for two or three days to come!
- Clean and chop veggies (carrots, celery, and bell pepper) before you put them away from the grocery bag! I like to use mason jars with a little water at the bottom to keep my sliced veggies fresh and ready to go. You can even chop veggies you plan to cook (broccoli, onion, mushrooms, spinach, and sweet potato), so all you have to do come meal time is throw them in the oven, pan, or steamer.
- Cook your protein in bulk! Bake several servings of a few different types of protein (chicken, turkey, fish, lamb, and tofu) all at once and then all you have to do for meals is pair it with the veggie of your choice!
- Cook breakfast in bulk/ prepare the night before. On Sunday night make a healthy breakfast with enough servings to feed you for the next few days so all you have to do is grab it on your way out the door. (see below for a great dish I like to make; also, here’s another healthy breakfast casserole (www.eatcleanlivedirty.com/whole30-recipe-fiesta-egg-casserole).
- Portion out your meals the night before. If you have breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner prepared in your containers for the next day to take to work, there is absolutely no reason you won’t stick to your goals the next day!
Meal Prep Recipe Inspiration: Abby’s Healthy Chicken Quiche
Feeling inspired, I decided to try this one out on a Monday night during commercial breaks of one of my favorite shows. I ended up with a healthy breakfast or lunch option for the next 4 or 5 days! Not only is it full of protein and veggies, dairy free, and gluten free, it’s also freakin’ delicious… Enjoy!
For the crust:
- 1 Tbsp. ground flax + 3 Tbsp. water
- 1 Cup almond flour
- 1 Cup Oat flour (could also use coconut flour if you want this to be Paleo)
- A few tsp of spice mixture of choice (I used salt, oregano, and parsley)
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- Extra Tbsp of water as needed
Mix the flax and water and let it sit for 20 mins to form a gel. Mix in flours, spices, and melted coconut oil. Add a little water as needed in order to form dough. Press the dough into a greased pie pan and poke holes in it with a fork. Bake for 18 mins at 350 degrees, set aside.
For the filling:
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 stalk celery chopped
- 1 carrot chopped
- ½ a bag of sliced cremini mushrooms
- 1 cup spinach
- ¾ cup sun dried tomatoes chopped
- ½ cup chopped basil
- ½ cup chopped chives
- A little salt, pepper, garlic powder
- 12-14 oz cooked, shredded chicken (you can even find this done for you at TJ’s)
- 4 eggs
On medium heat, heat 1-2 Tbsp coconut oil and add the onions, carrot, celery, and spices. Cook until onion is tender. Add mushrooms and cook until most of the water is cooked off. Add spinach, sun dried tomatoes, basil, and chives cook until spinach is just wilted. Mix in the chicken and pour onto crust (I found that I didn’t need all the veggies so I put half away in a container to use for omelets). Whisk the eggs and pour over the veggie and chicken mixture. Bake at 350 for 35-45 mins. Let cool and enjoy!
LOOK, FEEL, AND PERFORM… BETTER
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