Losing weight is probably one of the hardest battles that anyone can face. Not only does having excess weight impact your self-esteem but it can markedly affect your appearance and lead to depression and anxiety. Of all available weight loss methods, proper diet and nutrition are the most effective way to not only lose weight but to keep it off. Developing healthy eating habits can be your key to slimming down that waistline and gaining more confidence. As they say, ‘six packs are made in the kitchen’.
However, sticking to a healthy diet is easier said than done. For most people, it takes a lot of effort and can be considerably harder than previously imagined, as evidenced by the thousands of people who try diets and give up after only a few days. So what’s the secret to retaining a nutritious and healthy diet without falling off? Meal preparation!
Meal prep is the latest weight loss craze and it’s not hard to see why. Through the simple act of preparing healthful meals ahead of time, many have been able to accomplish their weight loss goals in a fraction of the time it takes the average person. Meal prep helps you to maintain a healthy diet even during those stressful days when you would most likely succumb to junk food cravings. Here are some simple tips to get you started on a meal prepping system that’ll help you shed those extra pounds.
Tip # 1: Have a plan
The first rule of meal prepping is to plan ahead. It doesn’t help to meal prep if you don’t know what exactly you’re preparing and why. So think about the types of meals that you want to cook and the types of recipes you’re good at preparing, and make sure to come up with a versatile meal plan that you can use as your go-to for a number of months.
Another helpful element of meal prepping is to plan your meal times in advance. Instead of eating haphazardly or when you feel the urge, designate specific meal times and stick to them. Not only will this prevent unwanted and unplanned indulgence in unhealthy snacks, but it’ll also reduce those midsection inches and keep you healthier.
Tip #2: Create a grocery shopping list
Once you’ve figured out what you’ll be eating and when now it’s time to go shopping. The trick to sticking to your planned meals is to create your grocery list ahead of time and make sure that it only consists of ingredients that you’ll be using to prepare your meals. This will prevent you from buying on impulse or getting confused while shopping.
Ideally, you want to stick to organic and whole foods with enough variety to meet your body’s nutrient needs. Good carbs found in vegetables and fruit, lean protein and low GI grains are definitely the way to go to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
Tip #3: Get to chopping
Chop and slice vegetables and fruit according to your recipe requirements and store them in individual containers according to the relevant portions. Chopping veggies ahead of time cuts cooking time in half and encourages you to consume more salads and veggie based snacks than you would otherwise. Plus having chopped fruit on hand will satisfy your sweet tooth cravings to prevent reaching for ice cream or puddings during dessert.
Tip #4: Be generous with your portions
Try and cook big portions, especially when it comes to dinner meals, as the leftovers will take care of lunch the following day. Just be sure to store the leftovers in the fridge overnight and warm them up before you leave so that they’re nice and fresh for lunch time.
Also, preparing large portions will leave you feeling satisfied after each meal and prevent overindulging at your next meal, or running to the snack bar. And it’ll prevent from running out of meals before the week is done.
Tip #5: Have a designated meal prep day to keep you organised
Schedule your meal prepping time so that it falls on a particular day of the week, or you can even do it twice a week if your timetable allows. Just be sure to allocate yourself enough time to chop, cook, assemble, label and store all your meals so that it’s easier to find what you’re looking for during the week. Preferably 3 or more hours are enough to prepare meals for an entire week. If need be, you can also split your meal prepping to two days a week, so that you can slash your meal prepping time by half.
Tip #6: Use the right containers
The effect of good quality storage containers on your food preparing endeavours cannot be underestimated. Having the right single-serving size containers, for example, will help you stick to the right portions and prevent binge eating or feeling unsatisfied. On the other hand, BPA free, airtight and fridge friendly containers will keep your food fresh to maintain nutrients for longer. Some good quality suggestions include Tupperware, glass and stainless steel containers. Not only do they meet all the stated requirements, but they also won’t melt while you’re warming your food in the oven.
Another good tip is to purchase small sized containers to keep snacks, as this will prevent overindulgence during snack time, and small containers are mobile enough to take with you in a handbag when you’re on the go. Lastly, glass bottles and jars are ideal for storing and travelling with your healthy smoothies and juices, and you can also use them to store things like oats, muesli and salads.
Tip #7: Make meal prep work for you
There’s a wide variety of healthy food options to choose from, so you should never feel forced to include certain health foods in your diet even if you don’t like them. Rather opt for healthy versions of the foods you like, such as spiralized zucchini noodles instead of pasta, or avocado fat instead of butter. Through healthier ingredients, you can enjoy the health benefits of genuine food without compromising on taste and flavour.
Tip #8: Organise your fridge right
When storing food in your fridge make sure to organise it in a way that will not only keep your food fresh but is also advantageous to your weight loss goals. For instance, keep the healthy selections at the front of the fridge so that it’s the first thing you grab when feeling peckish, and keep unhealthy options in the back to avoid consuming them at all.
The best place for cooked foods is on the top shelves, while the fridge door is better suited for keeping foods with a long shelf life as it’s the warmest place in the fridge. Also keep ethylene-producing plants such as bananas, avocados and tomatoes away from veggies with a short life span such as potatoes, cauliflower and spinach. On the other hand, the lower shelves provide ideal storage for foods that still need to be cooked, like chopped veggies and fruits.
Tip #9: Create a variety of options
Prepare a different meal for each day of the week to keep your palate excited and avoid getting bored at eating the same thing every day. Have an assortment of go-to recipes that use similar ingredients so that you can rotate them throughout the week. This way, you’ll have different options to choose from at all times and you can eat what you like instead of what’s available.
Top #10: Start with the complicated recipes first
Preparing the more sophisticated recipes while you’re still fresh and full of energy, and ending off with snacks will make meal prepping more enjoyable. Also, if you’re splitting your meal prepping duty into two days instead of one, then prepare the complicated recipes on the weekend day and the less complicated recipes during mid-week to save time and energy. It’s also a good idea to only prepare the recipes you know really well instead of trying out new and potentially time-consuming recipes that may not turn out the way you expected.
Step #11: Have enough snacks
Healthy snacking is part of a balanced diet and will help to stave off hunger pangs in between meals while keeping your sugar levels in check when you’re on the go. Things like dried fruit, nuts and seeds, energy balls, trail mix and string cheese are all healthy snack options that you can turn to satisfy your mid-afternoon cravings. Ideally, you should stock up on these during your grocery shopping, and be sure to buy enough to last you for the entire week. Also, remove all unhealthy snacks from your pantry and preserve your healthy snacks inside those cute mini containers, so as to prevent binge eating as well.
Tip #12: Use healthy condiments and sauces
Add some flavour to your food by using healthy spices and sauces, and avoid the store bought variety as it’s laden with calories, unhealthy sugars, fat and sodium. Alternatively, you can easily whip up a healthy marinade or dressing with simple but healthy ingredients like crushed garlic, olive oil, fresh ginger and herbs.
Tip #13: Develop a positive mindset to stay disciplined
Lastly, approach your food prepping with a positive attitude. Remember that you’re doing it to not only to reach your goal weight but to experience better health and to feel good about yourself. Don’t put pressure on yourself to prepare a week’s worth of meals if this is your first time. Rather start small with enough meals for three or more days and increase the amount as you get the hang of it to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Also, avoid preparing food on an empty stomach, as you might end up ‘tasting’ your way to excess calories.