Whether it's losing or gaining weight, nutrition is no doubt one of the most important factors in achieving and maintaining our overall fitness goals. However, sometimes it can be difficult to stick to a proper diet for many reasons. One of these reasons is simply time; We don't all have the time to make our meals fresh every single day, especially every single time we eat. One of the more effective ways to resolve this issue is to meal prep.
Meal prepping is important because when we get hungry, and we lack the time to prepare a proper meal, we end up compromising. These compromises are often in the form of fast food, but may also come as canned and frozen foods. While the latter are typically healthier than the former, all of these options make it more difficult to maintain our planned diets, as the amounts of included saturated fat and sodium often put us beyond our daily needs.
Instead of getting stuck in the details of why processed and preserved foods are damaging to your overall nutritional goals, let us discuss the benefits of meal prepping, and some techniques in doing so. Meal prepping will help you stick to your overall diet and help you reach your fitness goals, whether you're trying to lose weight and get shredded, or gain weight to bulk up; The idea is to have your meals ready to go whenever you need them so that you can stay on point.
What type of meals do we create for meal prepping? The answer is entirely up to you. We can make simple, deconstructed meals containing the essential ingredients to allow us to hit our macros, for instance a grilled chicken breast, a 1/2 cup of brown rice, and a mix of baby carrots and spinach. Or we can also create a soup with said chicken and carrots, while having a slice or two of bread on the side. Meal prepping by no way compromises what we decide to eat, rather it allows us to consume our preferred meals in a more convenient manner.
So once we know what type of meals we crave, the next step is to decide how far ahead of time to prepare them. Using meal prepping, we can prepare to hit our metrics on a daily basis. If you wish to have your meals for the entire week, it may be advisable to spend some time on one of your days off, such as Sunday afternoon or evening, to prepare your meals in batches. The easiest method may be to make five portions of three meals; Breakfast, lunch and dinner would serve your most basic needs. However, this can feel monotonous, and may cause you to give into cravings and indulge in something less healthy. Another option is to choose two to three full dishes for each of your three meals of the day, and fill the rest with salads and more simple selections.
One of my favorite meals to make using this pattern described above is breakfast! Typical breakfasts may include foods such as eggs, potatoes, grains, fruits and meats. While fruits typically sit on the sides, the rest of the ingredients can handily be mixed together into dishes such as burritos or scrambles. If you prefer multiple formats, you can even cook up all of the main ingredients together in a large batch, then mix them into separate servings, some wrapped in a tortilla and others binded with melted cheese, and store everything away for the entire week.
What if we want a fresher meal? We tend to brown bag our lunches, but surely dinner should be fresh, right? Not to worry, as we can use meal prepping to accelerate the time it takes to cook our meals before dinner. Instead of preparing and cooking the entire meal and storing for later, we can instead simply cut and portion our ingredients, veggies and meats, and store separately in the refrigerator until it is time to cook (always store raw meat separately from other foods). This method allows us to have our fresh meals with less waiting!
Finally, if we are not as concerned about variety, we can select foods that are easy cook, easy to store, and have a long shelf life while dry. My favorite happens to be pasta, whether it's spaghetti, rotini, or rigatoni. These all typically come in multiple variety, such as enriched semolina, whole wheat, spinach or others. There's no end to the variety that can be achieved! You can mix and match different meats to serve with the pasta, and pack in as many veggies as you want, especially when they're cooked down into a sauce. I always try to make sure I get plenty of vitamins by cooking kale into the sauce, to the point where it's hard to even notice. And unlike rice, pastas typically don't dry up in the fridge when they're stored with sauce.
So there you have it. Food prepping can help you achieve your fitness goals by keeping you on a healthy diet. You will be able to eat the meals you prefer, while avoiding fast food and other processed or preserved foods. You can keep your meals simple and deconstructed, make a variety from the same ingredients, or even pre half way to do the cooking part right before you eat. With so much variety available, meal prepping is an invaluable tool to meet your nutritional needs.
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