Dat Tupp Lyfe
Food prep is seen as this magical way to prepare food that only the fittest and most knowledgeable bodybuilder can achieve. You see the glamorous women in their Lululemon yoga pants organized with matching containers and with no mess in toe. Every container for every day of the week numbered and put in their fridge. Well I am here to tell you; food prep isn’t that pretty and you will not feel the need to look good while doing it, your containers won’t match for long, and you will be doing in at the end of the night in sleeping shorts and your BFs XL t-shirt. Food prep is designed to make your life easier, and make ensure that you stay on track during the week. It is essentially just cooking healthy food in bulk, so you always have healthy food on hand when you are hungry. That way you don’t stray off course from your goals. You don’t have to complicate it, and there is no perfect method. I will always stress to you that everyone’s journey is unique; therefore your methods will be different along the way.
I have found that food prep is essential for one reason. That reason is CONSISTENCY. Whether you are a fan of “clean eating” or “flexible dieting”, consistency is the only way you will meet your goals. You can’t eat great for five days of the week and completely derail on the weekends and expect to reach your goals. You also can’t expect to reach your goals if you crash diet and continuously do damage to your metabolism. Food prep makes the “consistent” part of your diet much easier.
I have been food prepping since high school and way before I knew it was called food prepping. It is second nature for me at this point. Every night after dinner, I get my food all weighted and measured for the next work day. It takes around 20 minutes each night plus an hour or so 2-3 times a week. I don’t pack my food in advance on the weekends or on any days I have off work.
Tools of the Trade:
Ziploc Bags (multiple sizes): I put my protein powder/supplement powders in them, so I don’t have to carry around my protein jugs or any other huge items. I also put grilled chicken in them. Ziploc bags are great space savers when you have to pack a lot of food for the day.
Tupperware: I have a whole array of sizes and shapes for different kinds of food. To be honest, I have a whole cabinet in my kitchen just for Tupperware. You will need a few larger ones for when you cook bulk chicken or green beans to store them in the fridge. You can also think outside of the box. The other day I was searching for the perfect containers to store portioned almond butter and ended up buying Jello-shot containers. My sister opened my amazon box, and was very confused by this.
Aluminum Foil: I know this sounds random, but it makes clean up a lot easier when you are prepping. I pretty much broil all of my veggies and meat on a sheet pan. It takes so much less time and gives your food a good texture. So I go through a lot of foil.
A large lunchbox: I have done my research on this, and it takes a pretty big lunchbox to fit a whole days food in (I normally pack at least 3-4 meals, I am gone for most of the day). My day-to-day lunchbox is from Vera Bradley and it’s the “Stay Cooler” size ($30-35). For weekend trips or for a whole day, I pack my Six Pack bag ($65-80), it is a larger bag and has room for multiple days worth of food and supplements. For a vacation or a road trip I now have a huge Yeti Cooler (expensive). This isn’t necessary for everyone, but my food allergies make it hard for me to travel sometimes and this just makes my life a lot easier.
A food scale/measuring cups: I hear a lot of people complain about not seeing results from dieting, and I always ask them the same question. Do you measure and track what you eat? Most people don’t. I am not saying that everyone has the same goals and that you have to track everything you put into your mouth (I do). You need to eat according to your goals. I would suggest being aware of what portion sizes are and using measuring cups when eating things like oatmeal and cereals. Measuring and weighing your food is the only real way that you know what you are putting into your body. Food scales are relatively inexpensive and so are measuring cups. I know it seems like a hassle at first, but it is a practice that is meaningful, and teaches you a lot about nutrition and awareness. You become much more in tune with your bodies needs.
Now that you have all of your supplies, I want to go over the methodology of food prep.
1. Certain food is good to cook ahead of time, and others aren’t. I cook my protein sources for 3-4 days in advance; this includes ground turkey and chicken breast. I also prep canned green beans and some veggies in advance. I used to prep everything in advance, and I have found that there are much more efficient ways of food prepping.
2. Food you should not make in advance: Do not wash your fruit in advance or cut it up. You are just asking for soggy and inedible fruit. I just bring my fruit in a container (not bags, because they get squished), and wash it all right before I eat it. Please don’t tell me you don’t have anywhere to wash it, because there are bathroom sinks and water fountains everywhere. You do what you gotta do. The next thing I don’t make in advance are most of my veggies. I love eggplant and zucchini roasted in the oven. These are very water dense veggies and get kind of slimy after they are cooked and stored in the fridge. A good rule of thump when prepping cooked veggies is that harder veggies (carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, peppers, spaghetti squash) can be cooked in advance (and stored); where as softer ones should be cooked for the day of.
3. Meal Prep Mondays are not necessary. Except for the things I mentioned in number 1, I make most of my other food the night before. I put protein powder in bags; I portion out my almond butter. I fill up a blender bottle with almond milk. I make my protein pancake, and assemble my spaghetti squash. Meal prep should really be called Meal Assembly. That is basically what you are doing. You have all of your ingredients prepared, and you are just organizing them the night before. Its not rocket science. I just takes some patience and consistency.
Wishing you health and happiness