Meal prepping is one of the best ways to ensure that your nutrition stays on track, with little effort, in an incredibly economical way. It can keep you healthy, help you meet your goals and save you an awful lot of money.
However, it can seem like a bit of a hassle, especially when you’re first starting out. There are some mistakes that a lot of people commonly make when they first get into meal prepping, and they can turn what should be a roaring success into a dispiriting failure.
I’ve put together three of the most common mistakes that I see in people looking to meal prep, alongside how best to overcome them. Hopefully, this will help to put you on track for meal planning success.
1. Don’t eat pre-packaged foods
This might seem obvious: if you’re preparing your own meals, prepare all the food yourself.
However, so many people fall back on pre-packaged ready meals, protein and diet supplements, and processed foods that it is a point worth making from the start.
Don’t go in for pre-packaged foods: make it all yourself.
Buy the basic ingredients: veggies, proteins, fats and oils, fibrous carbs and grains. Use them to make all the meals you will be eating for the foreseeable future.
Why should you do this?
First off, this is cheap as anything
As I recently wrote, you can get by on an athlete’s diet for around $200 per month if you do it right, cooking with good quality ingredients.
Second, it’s usually healthier
Processed and packaged food are notorious for the kinds of ingredients you don’t want in your diet. Things like added salt and sugar, artificial flavourings and preservatives, and ridiculous quantities of unecological, fat inducing palm oil are all regularly found in pre-packaged products. You will even find them in protein bars supplied by reputable supplement companies!
Forego all of these. Make your own meals and control what you put into them.
Plan ahead and always have a ready stash
Again, this might sound obvious: meal prepping needs to be planned in advance. However, doing it right will make or break your efforts.
You will need to do a few things to make sure your efforts are fully planned out.
Work out your macros
Use a decent macro calculator to work out what amounts of protein, fat and carbs you need. Then reverse engineer this to make sure you can hit them.
Each day, as you plan your meals, make sure to include the measurements you need. It sounds daunting at first, but you soon get used to it.
Work out what you want to eat
Getting a decent nutrition plan together doesn’t need to be a chore. Make sure you include all the ingredients you love to one degree or another. If you like leafy greens, go for it. If you prefer egg to steak, or fish to chicken, make sure to include them in your menu.
This will make your meal prep easier to stick to and much more enjoyable.
Never prepare food on an empty stomach. We all make our worst mistakes when we’re hungry. Your body will be crying out for fast-digesting, highly caloric food- this will mean you go for the junky fats and sugars.
Always shop and cook on a full stomach so that you can think more objectively about your dietary choices.
Prep in bulk
Set aside one day per week or month and get most of your cooking in then. Instead of spending an hour or so every day preparing your food, spend five hours every so often and then forget about it.
Make sure you have plenty of containers on hand, of course. Decant your food into them, label them clearly, and put them in the freezer.
It will always help to have a microwave on hand.
Round out this list of obvious points, drink plenty of water. As with the above two points, this may sound straight forward enough, but is so often overlooked.
Even a little drop in hydration can lead to decreased cognitive and athletic ability. It can slow down your metabolic rate and lead to some pretty nasty health complications in the long run. Making sure you plan for your liquid intake as well as your food intake can stop this from happening.
Plan to have drinks constantly throughout the day. Always have a bottle of water on you, and drink from it often. Couple this with the correct nutritional intake from your meal prep food and you will be good to go.