While we all know that I could live off chips and guac for the rest of my life, my body would hate me if I actually stuck to that diet forever. Now that my go-to restaurant caught fire, RIP Pecado Bueno, I have to meal prep. It’s a rough life.
Now I want to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned through my meal prep successes and failures to help you all on your own journey down the road of kale, poached salmon and midnight trips to the fridge for chia pudding (I’m kidding – I don’t do that).
1) Plan your macros first
Tracking your macronutrients is when you measure your intake of calories, adjusting it so that your carbohydrates, protein and fats all meet or do not exceed a specific percentage of your overall calorie intake. If you’re having trouble finding your macros, send me a quick email and I can help you or check out this site. When it comes down to it, counting your macros is the most effective way to shed weight and earn your abs of steel.
2) Break down your recipes
Think of your favorite meals and use a tool like MyFitnessPal to count the macros in them. Once you know, you can search for healthier alternatives to sub out the ingredients that make your favorite recipes use up all of your macros. This is one of the longest steps, but once you have recipe combinations that fit into your daily macros, you can use those days over and over again. By finding recipes and counting the macros in them before you start your meal prep, you will know exactly what to buy at the store and exactly how much of each food you can eat every day. A few good places to look for healthy alternatives for your favorite meals are: Minimalist Baker, SimplyTaralynn, SproutedKitchen and Oh Lady Cakes.
3) Start with your main foods
Prioritize what you want. For example, I always drink a protein shake after my workout. Therefore, when I start to plan my macros for the week, I put the protein shake in MyFitnessPal first- as well as my beloved pumpkin pancakes. Then, I put the main food I want with each meal into the other meal times (tofu, shrimp, a favorite dish, etc). Once all of those macros are accounted for, I use the remaining macros to insert the vegetables and extra snacks into my macros so that I know what I have to work with and don’t end up planning a day with two meals when I know I want to eat small meals every few hours throughout the day. It’s helpful to overlap ingredients so that you don’t break the bank. This is also great for making bland recipes less dull. If you have allotted yourself 100g of onions with your remaining macros, for example, you can use 50g in your fajitas and 50g in your tofu scramble.
4) Measure everything
My food scale is my best friend when I am meal prepping. They’re fairly cheap and definitely worth the cost. They measure grams, ounces and kilograms out. The best part about this scale is that you can place the bowl on the scale, press the tare button and it will zero out the scale so that you can start at 0.0 when adding food to measure into the bowl. If there is one thing you remember from this blog – remember to get a scale like this.
5) Grocery shop
Once you have your recipes written out, calculate how much of each ingredient you will need for your weekly meals and write it all down. Don’t get extra food or you may be tempted to eat it while cooking. Then, stick to your list at the grocery store. Stick to your list. When you swap foods out, you’re swapping macros out. If you need to change your shopping list – make sure that the foods you change out have the same macros as the ones you are putting in. Don’t guess!
6) Plan time to prep
When I prep for the week, I do it on Sundays. I find my ingredients and recipes throughout the week, plan them on Saturdays and do the actual cooking and putting together of foods on Sundays. I take the day and throw on a movie or listen to a podcast and get to work. Leave plenty of time to measure your foods and make sure you get enough containers to put meals into separate containers. Using matching ones for each meal per day helps me to know exactly what I have left to eat, but you can also make a big bowl of food and measure out what you are going to eat each day. If you use separate containers, label them all with the day and the meal (Monday, meal #4, 3pm) so that later on in the week when you are in a rush, all you have to do is grab and go.
7) Track ahead
The entire point of using something like MyFitnessPal is to accurately record what you are eating – when you are eating it. Take advantage of this to map out your days before the day even begins. Once you have a plan of what to eat, including what times you will eat throughout the day, stick to your plan. Be sure that you are realistic in planning. Don’t, for example, say that you’re going to have lunch at 1pm if you always have a meeting scheduled for 12:30pm. The idea behind meal prep is to be prepared – it isn’t to throw your day off-balance by inserting feeding times into the middle of your routines.
8) Use a master macro list
Using a site like Eat to Thrive, you can easily access a list of fruits, vegetables, grains and everything in between to keep on-hand as you create your recipes. Use this list as you go through your recipe creation for the week – swapping out certain items, like a tortilla wrap for a lettuce wrap on your burrito, when you need to lessen your overall carb intake for the day. Having a list of raw food macros on-hand is the key to creating meals you want to eat without becoming overwhelmed by having to look up each ingredient into MyFitnessPal while you are swapping items out.
9) Recipe book
Save the days that work well for you. Include all of the recipes you used – with the ingredients used – and keep them together in a book or in an excel sheet on your computer. That way you won’t always be starting from ground zero and on weekends where you’re more pressed for time, you can simply open up days that have worked for you in the past and head to the store without needing to create new recipes. Saving your recipes ensures longevity in your meal prep.
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