If you’re looking for one major secret to making progress with your goals, look no further. The answer, quite simply, is meal prep.
Whether you love it or hate it, meal prep is a seriously useful tool (if not the most useful tool) for ensuring that you hit your dietary goals to help achieve that incredible physique.
It is essential that you are always well prepared with a healthy, nutritious meal to fit your macros or dietary requirements, but it can be difficult to keep up with all of the cooking and weighing involved in making macro-specific meals.
Meal prep doesn’t need to be time-consuming or boring, and neither does the food you eat.
This quick-fire guide will help you to master the art of meal prep and enjoy your food no matter what your diet.
1. Shop smart
Meal prep is all about being prepared, so it’s no use walking into a supermarket, with your tummy grumbling, and no shopping list. Take 10 minutes to write down exactly what you need to get and then don’t deviate from it.
Buy in bulk to save money and when you return home, portion things up that won’t keep for long and put them in the freezer.
Dice up raw chicken, beef, fish etc and weigh it out into ziplock bags before freezing. You could even marinade them like this too. Frozen vegetables are fantastic when it comes to meal prep and avoiding food waste – and because they are picked fresh and flash frozen they retain a lot of the nutrients that fresh vegetables can lose on the shelf.
2. Stop separating your foods
When preparing several meals at a time, it’s a good idea to cook a batch of each ingredient and then separate them out into portions accordingly. However, there’s no reason that you should put each ingredient into your lunchbox separately.
Chicken with a side of plain rice and a side of plain vegetables is going to look even less appetising like this so instead try mixing foods together.
Chop up peppers, shred spinach and kale, finely slice spring onions and dice up some fresh chilli to toss through your rice. Pull your chicken (see point 4) and mix together with your rice and vegetables to keep it moist and delicious. Combining components like this will make your meals more interesting – try this Chicken Fried Rice recipe to get started.
3. Pulled chicken
A chicken breast is juicy and delicious when it’s taken out of the oven and eaten freshly. When it’s stored in the fridge and eaten two days later it can be dry, tough and bland.
When taking your chicken out of the oven, pull it apart with two forks whilst warm. This not only helps the chicken cool quicker, it also gives it a tasty texture. You can easily weigh out pulled chicken into portions and mix it into almost anything. Add to salads, stews, soups, rice, omelettes – the possibilities are endless.
4. Befriend your slow cooker
When you have a busy schedule, fitting in a few hours of food prep every week can be a challenge. That’s where your slow cooker comes in handy. Load it up in the morning with diced vegetables, lean meat and a little stock and leave it cooking throughout the day so you have a pot of delicious stew to come home to. If you make a full pot you can then portion out your meals accordingly.
5. Snack attack
Have snacks ready. If you get hungry or peckish you don’t want to be tempted by unhealthy alternatives. Prepare a batch of Chocolate Orange Energy Balls or simply slice up some vegetables and store in ziplock bags in the fridge. Pre-portion nuts into small containers or bags, as they can be easy to overeat.
6. Salad in a jar
This is an easy way to keep your salad fresh and to stop those lovely leaves getting soggy! Start with your dressing in the bottom of the jar. Next add a selection of firmer vegetables such as sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots or peppers etc. Add any protein next; pulled chicken, sliced beef or smoked mackerel for example. Follow with a sprinkle of toasted seeds or nuts.
Finish with your leaves and softer vegetables like sliced tomatoes and cucumber ribbons. Screw the lid on and keep in the fridge for up to three days. When you’re ready to tuck in, simply unscrew the lid and empty upside down into a bowl. The dressing will coat everything nicely and you will have a delicious, mixed salad to enjoy in seconds.
7. Overnight oats
Preparing Overnight Oats in the evening is a sure-fire way to ensure you have a quick and healthy breakfast the following morning.
Skewers are a really easy way to get your portions spot on and help to keep your meal prep fun and interesting. Simply weigh out your strips of chicken breast/beef/fish or other meats and add to a bowl with your diced vegetables.
Season with a marinade or herb blend and then skewer each portion onto a kebab stick. You can store these uncooked or cooked in ziplock bags in the fridge or freezer, and you could try a variety of seasoning blends too.
9. Vegetable Hacks
They can be delicious or they can be awful. So to keep vegetables interesting, try a few of the following tricks:
- Pulse cauliflower or broccoli in a food processor to create a rice-like consistency. This can be used in place of rice or can be mixed into salads like couscous.
- Finely slice and shred. Shredding up kale and spinach leaves makes them more palatable. Slice up peppers, chilli, mushrooms, courgette, butternut and sugar snap peas and mix together with a little seasoning and fresh herbs.
- Spiralise courgette, butternut squash or sweet potato to create a delicious, spaghetti-like vegetable. Different textures are just as important as different flavours when it comes to keeping food interesting. Try this Saucy Satay Chicken recipe with courgette noodles to keep it low carb.
- Blanch those greens. If your greens are dull and mushy when it comes to opening your Tupperware, you’re overcooking them. Drop broccoli, asparagus, green beans, sugar snap peas into boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and immediately submerge in cold water. This stops the cooking process and keeps them fresh and crunchy.
Once you’ve done meal prep for a week or two, you will find you don’t need to weigh each ingredient out as you will be familiar with what your correct portion sizes look like. You’ll develop favourite blends of herbs and spices and your favourite combination of vegetables at lunchtime.
I’ve compiled a few of my favourite homemade herb and spice blends as well as a few marinades that are really easy to put together and store in your fridge.