Sunday funday meal prep: how to plan ahead for the week
Committing to a balanced diet can come down to a simple science: plan ahead for the best results. In the heat of the moment, we can make impulsive decisions that don’t align with our goals. A busy work day can lead you to the nearest fast food drive-through just for the sake of convenience, but there is a better way.
Meal prepping allows you to cook staple food items at the beginning of the week so that you don’t stray from your diet regimen. With just a couple of hours, one day a week, you can set yourself up for success and navigate the challenges of a busy lifestyle. Instead of loading your body up with high-calorie, processed junk, you can load your fridge with nutrient dense, clean options that will make you feel your best.
For starters, break down your grocery list into your three macronutrients: proteins, carbs and fats.
Lean protein sources
- 99/1 ground turkey
- Chicken breast
Higher-fat protein sources
- 93/7 ground turkey
- Chicken thighs
- Regular or sweet potatoes
- Rice cakes
- Pancake/waffle mix
- Green vegetables
- Avocado/olive oil
- Low-calorie dressings/sauces
- Peanut butter
Now you have a couple of options when it comes to your meal prep style. You can make big batches of your meats, carbs and vegetables, and put your meals together as you go through the week depending on what you’re craving that day. Or you can put all your exact meals together so they are ready to grab and go.
Variety is a big priority for me in my diet so I like to stick to the big batches. That way I can mix and match my different food elements, and make meals that sound good to me. I don’t have to eat the same chicken, rice and broccoli every single lunch. I can come up with new combinations and throw in new sauces to change up the taste.
If you’re a cooking whiz that knows how to prepare your meats with marinades, rubs, and fancy grills, more power to you. But for the average, everyday chef, I’ll give you a rundown of how I cook my staple food items.
- I bake my chicken breasts in the oven so that I can make a pretty big batch all at once. I season both sides with some kind of steak or taco seasoning, and pink salt. I throw them in the oven on 400 degrees. After 10 minutes, I’ll flip the chicken over and cook another 10 minutes.
- I prefer ground turkey, beef and pork, as opposed to big cuts of meat or patties. It’s easier to cook and toss in with other recipes. I cook them on a skillet on the stove, same seasoning as my chicken. I’ll cover it with a lid and keep it on medium until it browns. I make sure to drain the excess liquid before I put it in the fridge.
- I don’t meal prep fish very often, I find it doesn’t keep very well and tends to dry out. I choose to buy individually packaged, frozen fillets and just make them at home for dinner.
- I make my potatoes in the microwave. Take the potato, poke it with a fork so that steam can escape and it won’t explode. Wrap it with a wet paper towel and heat it for 5 minutes. Take it out of the microwave and the skin should peel right off. Then you can mash them up to your liking and season.
- I prefer basmati, jasmine or coconut rice over the regular stuff because it has better flavor. I cook mine in a rice cooker, but you can just as easily put it on the stove or in the microwave. Just read the box to see how much water you need and wait for it to all cook out, leaving the rice moist and soft.
- My favorite green veggies to prepare are green beans, brussell sprouts, and broccoli. I shred my brussell sprouts before throwing them on a skillet. I season with garlic, onion powder and pink salt, and I wait for them to burn a little. They have a great flavor that way.
After an hour or two, I now have 2 or 3 different protein, carb and fat sources to choose from for the whole week. I sit down Sunday night before bed and track my meals for Monday in MyFitnessPal. Once I’ve decided everything I want to eat, I’ll put together all my meals for the next day. I’ll also pack a few protein bars or fruit to snack on between meals. Then I do the same thing every other work day, just sticking to a productive routine. Because I took the time to plan ahead, now I don’t have to sneak a donut at the office or pull through Taco Bell. I have all the tools I need at hand and can stay on track with my diet no matter what comes my way.
We’ve heard all the excuses about what we do and don’t have time for in our lives. There’s only so many hours in a day right? But when it comes to health and fitness, it’s not about what you have time for, it’s about what you make time for. You don’t have to be meal prepping day in and day out, all week long. Pick a day, buy your food and get cooking. If real physical change is something you want, find the time to make your goals a priority. If you have time to brush your teeth and shower before bed every night, you have time to pack a lunch.