Welcome to our guest blogger, Jeff, who is the owner of Revamp Strength and Nutrition - revampstrength.com. He's graciously written us a kick-butt blog on the 5 meal prep hacks that will help us on our way to eating better and saving time (and avoiding the junk food)! Check it out!
The difficulty with cooking all of your food yourself is that we are also busier then we have ever been before. We work longer hours, we never seem to have the time to prepare healthy meals for ourselves or our families and we often end up relying on fast food or takeout to nourish our bodies with sodium loaded meals and little to no nutritional value.The best thing you can do for your nutritional health is to cook your own food. There has been a multitude of studies come out in North America the last few years showing that the healthiest people all have one thing in common-- they cook most of their own food themselves!
Below we share 5 hacks that will help you find the time to create delicious, nutritious meals your whole family can enjoy.
Hack #1: Schedule and plan.
Schedule your life, then schedule your nutrition. Your proficiency in meal planning and meal prep are going to be huge factors in your nutritional success. The easiest way to be successful is to schedule your life as much as possible. This may sound boring but it actually gives you a lot more free time if you can get good at it.
To begin scheduling, you must look at your whole life.
What days are your busiest?
Do you have days where you are home late?
Do you have kids in afternoon programs?
Do you often go to work/school unprepared and resort to fast food?
When can you find time to plan meals each week?
If you have a busy schedule, like most of the population does nowadays, meal prep is going to make a massive difference in your nutritional success. Find a time each week where you can plan out your meals and make the list of groceries that you need to purchase. Then, plan out when you can cook the meals you’d like to eat to ensure you have leftovers in the fridge for busy nights and a healthy lunch to take to work.
Hack #2: Cook in bulk.
Lunches, dinners, or even snacks that you can prep all at once and keep in the fridge will be a lifesaver for you when you are busy or have pizza cravings because you don’t feel like cooking dinner.
Whenever you are meal prepping make enough for 3 days. Three days is usually the max you want to push meat and veggies in the fridge-- by day 4 they’re usually not very appetizing anymore.
When it comes to your carb source, make enough for your 3 days, plus a few extra portions for dinners. When you do this, you have ⅓ of your dinner already made when you get home. Season the carbs with very basic spices so you can make them fit with any meal, then season them appropriately before you reheat them. Potatoes and rice are especially good when they are cooled and then reheated for more than just convenience! When potatoes or rice are cooled down and refrigerated, they develop resistant starches. Resistant starches are prebiotic and we need prebiotics in our diet to feed the good bacteria in our gut.
Pack the food in glass containers and make sure to put the date on the container so you know how long it has been in the fridge for. Nobody wants to guess wrong on how many days the chicken has been lurking in the back of the fridge for!
I don’t like using plastic anything, but especially a container that you are going to reheat! BPA free or not, the chemicals in the plastic are leaching into your food and then into your body ( that is a can of worms for another day). Glass is a little more expensive but as long as you don’t break it, it will last forever. Plastic, on the other hand, will start to stink, warp and discolour after time while leeching more harmful chemicals into your food. I suggest using glass for health purposes, however you may form your own opinion on this!
Hack #3: Keep things simple.
Making nutrition more difficult than it needs to be is a lot of people's biggest roadblock.
Find a few meal combinations that you enjoy and can eat a few times over again during the week without getting sick of them. Enjoying the food that you prepare is as important as preparing it yourself. Nobody is going to have success nutritionally if they are choking down poor tasting food.
Meal prep can be as simple as seasoning up a large pack of chicken thighs, chopping up a bunch of veggies and sweet potatoes, and then roasting them all in the oven or throwing them on the grill.
Don’t worry about creating extravagant meals every day. The key to nutritional success is not being stressed out about your food choices and feeling pressure to create the most Instagram worthy bowl. It’s about keeping all the healthy nutritious foods you enjoy close at hand.
Hack #4: Spices over sauces
As far as flavor goes, all you really need is a good sea salt, garlic and pepper. You can get more creative and try cumin, curry, cayenne, or any of the hundreds of spices out there but those first 3 are a great start.
A lot of spices and herbs have health benefits which is why they have been used for so long by different cultures. Find a few flavor combos that you enjoy, then try mixing up different spice combos to make new flavors!
Some of my favourites that are wonderful to make in advance and keep in mason jars are: (each seasoning is a link to a recipe!)
Stirfry (5 spice) Spice
Classic salt and pepper
Garlic and rosemary
Sauces, on the other hand, are often filled with sugar, loaded with sodium and packed with chemicals to preserve them for months of the shelf. For any sauce you love, try researching online how to make your own with spices you probably already have on hand.
Hack #5: Grocery delivery and pick up services.
This last hack is a game changer for efficiency and is also helpful if you are tempted by the potato chip or cookie aisles in the grocery store.
Almost all of the big grocery store chains now offer grocery delivery or pick up services. You can go online and place your order, then schedule a pickup or delivery time. This can save you hours per week or going to the grocery store-- especially if you go multiple times per week. Online grocery ordering will also save you money because you won’t see all the stuff you are tempted to buy but really don’t need.
Once you meal prep, then make your grocery list of what you need for the week, all you have left to do is go online and place your order. No more searching for loonies for a cart and navigating through hordes of people just to stand in line or try to use the self-checkout machine that never seems to work correctly.
Follow this last hack and you probably just bought yourself 3 hours a week!
Go-To meal prep foods
Below is a list of my go-to meal prep foods. This list can be a guide for you of what to grab at the grocery store to create some easy, nutritious and delicious meals. Combine an item from each category to make meals your whole family will love, or select the items you enjoy most for a meal you’ll enjoy eating again and again.
Chicken thighs- They cook faster than breasts, and have more flavor.
Chicken breasts- Old faithful, super lean and high in protein.
Lean Ground beef- Versatile, you can do so many things with it.
Wild caught Salmon- High in healthy fats and protein. Plus anti-inflammatory omega 3's.
Skirt or Flanks Steaks- Any steaks are good but skirt and flank cook really fast and are very lean.
Pork chops or tenderloins- The other white meat. Lean, high in protein and versatile.
Any fish that you enjoy eating is great! Just make sure to eat wild caught fish. Farmed fish is filled with toxins, dyes and antibiotics almost all of the time. When you’re shopping for fish, look for a country of origin as well. Choose North American companies.
Plant Based Protein Sources
Lentils- Great source of protein, as well as carbs and fiber.
Hemp seeds- Awesome in shakes, yogurt, oatmeal, on salads, in desserts, or snacks.
Chia seeds- Can be used very similar to hemp seeds.
Spirulina- Very high in protein, but not as diverse for ways to consume. Mostly in shakes or juices.
Nutritional yeast- Cheesy flavour. Sprinkle on top of salads, incorporate into dips, or make a cheesy sauce out of. Very high in protein.
Pumpkin or Sunflower seeds- Great in yogurt, oatmeal, on salads, or just as a snack on their own.
Beans- High in protein, carbs and fiber, they have a multitude of uses.
Organic tempeh, tofu, edamame- A complete protein containing all amino acids. Tempeh is especially good because it contains healthy bacteria from the fermentation process.
White/brown rice- Simple, lasts for a long time in the fridge
Potatoes- Same as above.
Quinoa- A nutty flavored carb.
Sweet potatoes- My go-to carb, delicious when roasted, baked or mashed.
Yams- Very similar to sweet potato
Squashes- Butternut, spaghetti, or acorn are delicious.
Avocado- Easy to pack on the go. Very nutrient dense, also high fiber.
Nuts- Great on the go snack. Very calorically dense.
Eggs- Boiled eggs are great for on the go meals.
Coconut oil/MCT oil- Great for cooking. Also great in coffee.
Extra virgin olive oil- Great for salad dressing. Don’t cook at high temperatures with it though!
Avocado oil- Great for roasting or pan frying.
All-natural nut butters- Same as nuts; very calorically dense, but great in proper portion sizes. When purchasing a nut butter, be sure the only ingredient is nuts.
Every different colour of vegetable has a different micronutrient profile. Try to eat a wide range of coloured vegetables to get all of the different micronutrients and minerals you can. The following are great for meal prep as they can be consumed raw easily and they hold up to being reheated after cooking.
~Jeff @ Revamp Strength & Nutrition
What are your favourite meals to prep in bulk for nutritious meals on the go? What are your favourite seasonings? We'd love if you shared your meal prep hacks!