Meal prepping is not a recipe for success in and of itself, but it’s about as close as you’ll get. It's common knowledge that nutrition is more important than any workout, and can be the missing link in many people's progress. Food is fuel for your brain and body, so a little extra time and planning is worth the investment. For many people it’s the convenience of less nutritious foods that sabotages their intentions more than anything else. Taking a an hour or two twice a week to set yourself up for quick, easy, delicious options will allow you to fuel yourself well even amidst the busiest of schedules.
And you'll feel on top of the world when you finish and your fridge is full and ready to go!
1. Prioritize Protein
Whether you track your macros or not, protein is the most effective way to stay satiated (full) and the hardest source to find on the go. When you first realize what your body’s protein needs are, it seems like you’ll never get it in, but then it becomes second nature and you’ll get strategic about fitting it in throughout the day little by little and in no time you’ve got lean muscle, fewer cravings and more clarity of thought.
I always cook 3-4 chicken breasts with various herbs and spices (usually from Trader Joe’s) to have on hand throughout the week. I can incorporate them into so many meals and I find that I cook them well (I typically sear them, then cover to allow them to cook with steam) they don’t dry out at all.
Hard Boil eggs or just have a carton of liquid egg whites on hand to make omelets, add to oatmeal for more volume or add to rice for a protein boost to simulate “fried rice.” Eggs are a great source of protein since they don’t have carbs or fat (unless you use the yolk).
Greek yogurt (fat free or low fat) is an easy way to boost protein without many additional carbs and fats. You can add stevia, berries, protein powder, granola, etc to sweeten it without too many unnecessary carbs. Cottage cheese is also a yummy snack paired with vegetables or fruit!
EXAMPLE: Chobani Flip Vs. Plain Chobani Greek
EASY way to save 10g Fat, 18g Carbs, and gain 6g protein by adding choosing plain and adding some "friendlier" toppings
Checking the labels of foods will quickly show you where the sources of protein are that allow you to fill your daily allotment without sabotaging your carbs and fats. You;ll learn to flip things over before you add them to your cart and get creative with your foods to avoid unnecessary items (like fatty sauces) that steal a lot of macros without filling you up!
2. Have “VOLUME” Foods Ready To Go
What I mean when I say “volume” foods is basically foods that take up space on your plate that you can eat a lot of that don’t add up to many macros. Everyone likes to munch, but it can quickly add up if you’re not careful. My favorite volume foods would be:
Spaghetti Squash- (WAY fewer carbs than sweet potatoes per serving)
Greens- You can add a huge side salad to your plate, kale to your stir fry, lettuce to your sandwich, etc
Broccoli, Asparagus, Brussels Sprouts- Fills your plate, your tummy and barely makes a dent in your macro budget
Cauliflower “Rice”- You can make the biggest stir fry you want with chicken, eggs, peas, carrots, soy sauce, etc and you carbs will still be sitting pretty.
Cantaloupe, Honeydew, & Berries- These are some lower carb fruits that fill you up without sending your carbs out the window like bananas can.
Protein Ice Cream- I’ll let you make this and then you’ll understand why I have it 4-5 times a week.
3. Treat Yourself
That’s right! Food is enjoyable and SHOULD be. It’s natural to crave chocolate and sweet things, so be realistic about it and realize that it CAN be part of your diet without it sabotaging all the healthy options you are choosing. My advice is to make some compromises and retrain your taste buds a bit. Try some items that are a little “lightened” up and stick to the serving sizes you have planned for.
Inputting the treat that you plan to consume into your app of choice (if you’re tracking your macros), allow you to piece together the rest of your day while knowing all along that you’re going to enjoy something later! When you get to that point of the day, you enjoy every bite of your Enlightened Ice Cream or Halo Top or dark chocolate square or candy bar. Realizing that it’s made up of carbs, fats and protein like everything else. Granted, it won’t provide many micronutrients, but that’s OK with the ratio of whole, nutrient-rich foods you have consumed throughout the day.
MY BEST ADVICE:
Any eating approach that strips you of your enjoyment of food, is not going to last long. It’s better to have a plan that allows you a little wiggle room, but ensures sustainability and can be more than a 6 week test of will power while your family is counting down the days until you are yourself again. So track your treat, enjoy your treat, and be done with your treat with no feelings attached other than, “Halo Top is pretty good for healthy ice cream.”