Could Meal Prep Be the Key to a Healthy Diet?Monica
Have you ever been on a food blog or Instagram page that claimed they had the solution to easy meal prep? You may have seen a brightly coloured salad or stir fry packed into identical aesthetic glass containers too. The truth is, there is no ‘one way’ to meal prep and you have to find what works for you.
It can seem daunting at first to plan all your meals in advance, but there are so many benefits that I’m sure you’ll be making it a habit in no time. You have likely heard that meal prep can save you money, but did you know it can improve your health too? Keep reading to find out what these benefits are and how preparing meals ahead of time can improve your life!
Health Benefits of Weekly Meal Prep
Firstly, when your meals are prepared in advance, it means you won’t be going out to eat or eating ultra-processed, convenience foods either. Restaurant food and ultra-processed foods like frozen pizza tend to contain much higher amounts of fats, sugar and sodium compared to meals cooked at home and from whole ingredients. It has also been shown that we eat more fruits and vegetables when we prepare meals ourselves. That means by eating more food cooked at home, you’ll be on track to eating a more nutritionally dense diet.
Secondly, meal planning can help us avoid eating impulsively or binge eating. When a meal is ready to eat and its portion is controlled, we are less likely to overeat or eat high calorie snacks between meals. I know I often grab a bag of chips or crackers when I get home to stave off my hunger while I begin preparing dinner. If I had a meal ready to eat, then I wouldn’t need this snack of empty calories and could enjoy a healthy meal right away.
Lastly, meal preparation can be a valuable tool for those that adhere to a specific diet or have distinct nutritional goals. For example, your goal might be to consume 30 g of fiber each day to improve your intestinal health. A goal like this can be very difficult to accomplish if your meals are not carefully planned out. By planning in advance, you can purchase specific ingredients to help meet your goals and you can portion out how much to eat of them every day.
Stressed Out? Meal Prep Can Help!
Anyone with a busy life knows the stress of packing a lunch or cooking dinner at the last minute. Another benefit of meal prepping is that a lot of this stress can be avoided by preparing meals in advance. Try to carve out a couple hours each week when you’ll be able to shop, cook and clean up without anything derailing or distracting you. Make this time fun by listening to music, a podcast, or cooking with your partner or a friend. Then you’ll have a set of meals, ready-to-go for those busy mornings rushing off to work or those nights when cooking is the last thing you want to do.
Meal prep can also save you a lot of time in the long run. It may seem time intensive to plan recipes, buy groceries and do a lot of cooking all at once or on a few occasions throughout the week. However, you will end up saving more time throughout the week since you will only have to cook and clean up once, or a few times, rather than before and after every meal. The time you save could be spent on activities like exercise, socializing with friends, or spending time with family.
Food Groups and Macronutrients to Consider
The type of meals you decide to prepare will depend on your personal nutrition, fitness and health goals. For example, if you’re trying to increase your muscle mass, you would want to include lots of high protein foods in your meals like meat, fish, dairy and legumes. If you’re trying to lose weight, you could focus on low calorie/low fat meals like salads or bowls made with whole grains and lots of vegetables.
If you’re going for a general healthy diet, it can be helpful to follow the recommendations of Canada’s Food Guide. The guide recommends filling half your plate with fruit and vegetables, one quarter with protein foods, and one quarter with whole grains. Whole grains can include brown rice, whole grain bread, quinoa, barley and many others. I have attached links below to some of my favourite meal prep recipes that follow these guidelines and are packed with flavour.
Breakfast: Try preparing Freezable Breakfast Sandwiches or Homemade Granola with Yogurt and Berries
Lunch and Dinner: Try making Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos , Thai Red Curry Chicken, or Taco Soup
Snacks: Try snacking on Homemade Trail Mix or Lemon Blueberry Oatmeal Cookies
Remember . . .
When following a recipe, feel free to add or subtract ingredients based on your preferences and what you have on hand. Especially for the breakfast sandwiches, curry, and burritos, you can swap out whatever vegetables you enjoy most or you could use a different protein source.
Are you convinced?
Did these health benefits and recipes sound good to you? If so, then meal prep might be the next step in your journey to a healthier lifestyle. Whether you start by doubling your dinner recipe tonight to have lunch for tomorrow, or diving in and prepping a weeks worth of meals at once, you’ll be on your way to eating a better diet in no time.
If you’re still worried about the time commitment and unsure of where to start, Fit Kitchen is here to help too! We can get you started with some delicious and healthy meals to inspire you and keep you fed on those extra busy days.