“I’m too tired to cook tonight; I’ll just have cereal.”
How many times have you said that or something similar?
Chances are it happened right around Thursday. Work is kicking your ass. You’ve been running around all week with the kids. You’re exhausted. Mustering up enough energy to cook dinner seems like it would require as much energy as running a marathon.
Thankfully in those situations fast food places, restaurants and frozen meals have you covered. They are more than willing to help you in your time of need and in the process adding to your waistline. Consider it a convenience tax.
If there was only a better way to have healthy meals on-demand like the old episodes of Homeland (my current obsession).
What if there was a way to ensure in your time of need, you could have a balanced meal you didn’t have to prep after a 10-hour day then dealing with a screaming kid? If you could find something to pop in the microwave and 2 minutes later you had a delicious meal that tasted way better than anything out of a can.
That would be ideal because we all know that our diet will give us 90% of our weight loss results. If only.
That’s when the bodybuilding gods opened up the heavens and bestowed upon us two wonderful hashtags that can be found at nauseam in Insta…#MealPrepSundays and #MealPrepMondays.
The holy grail of diet adherence. If you prep it, gainz will come…bruh.
Now I’m going to work my inner salesman to convince you to come over to the meal prep side. Be prepared to be sold.
WHY YOU NEED TO MEAL PREP
STEVE JOBS AND YOUR EXPANDING WAISTLINE
Your brain is lazy.
Your brain defaults to habits to handle all the things you do every day to save itself to tackle the big stuff – like trying to figure out why the hell the Kardashians are famous.
Routine builds habits. Bad routines build bad habits and good routines build good habits.
The same part of the brain that controls driving to and from work day after day is the same part of the brain that is keeping you unhealthy.
Do you know what made Steve Jobs so successful? Black turtle necks amongst other things, but for our purpose his key to success was those turtlenecks.
He would wear the same black turtle neck so he could focus his mind on innovating rather than asking himself “What color goes with these pants?” He built a habit of picking out clothes.
Which brings us back to our Thursday night inner monologue. Chances are just about every Thursday we are tired from a stressful week. So one Thursday dinner of cereal turns into two, to three, to then creating #CerealThursday.
Constant bad choices in the moment and a lack of a plan are the genesis of bad habits and an ever expanding waistline.
HACKING THE HABITS
I’m not a big proponent of changing habits. It’s tough to do and most of the time it leads to frustration and failure. Instead, I like to work within the existing habits and “outsmart” myself.
Using the same cue of being hungry on Thursday night with absolutely zero ambition to cook, all we need to do is change the habit to eating an already prepped meal.
For instance, people who quit smoking most of the time gain weight. Why? Because they fill the habit of smoking with food. The habit of smoking is still there but instead of a cigarette filling the routine, food takes over.
The same goes for eating junk food. We are hungry and tired and junk food just happens to be convenient. It’s almost like the junk food companies knew this. Meal prep allows you to “outsmart” yourself by taking the place of junk food.
Somewhat convinced? I’m not surprised if you aren’t, I couldn’t sell you anything even if you wanted it. Maybe the next section will help you come over to the prep side.
Meal prepping does require you to eat the same meal multiple times a week. To some, that sounds almost like a life of prison. Just a guess, I’ve never been to prison so I’m not sure on the meal situation over there.
I’ve heard people say “I like to eat different meals every day.” “I can’t eat the same thing over and over, that’s so boring.”
Then I ask them what they eat during the week and 99 times out of 100 they eat roughly the same thing every day. WTF?
If you keep track, like actually write it down, you’ll notice that you eat relatively the same thing just about every day. Yea a dinner here and there might be spontaneous or off the cuff but most of the time we eat the same thing day in and day out.
Eating the same thing day after day is just the diet version of Steve’s black turtleneck. It’s not a bad thing, it’s actually a good thing because it gives us a framework to work with.
Realize you are just like everyone else and get over the fact you indeed can eat the same meal multiple days in a row without feeling like you need to fill the requirement of being some bad man’s boyfriend.
MEAL PREP 101
The first thing to do is figure out which meals are your problem meals. Meaning which meals do you find yourself eating crap food the most. For me it was lunch.
People at work are constantly going out for lunch and they would always ask me to go. I’d go and then next thing I knew I had love handles I never knew I had.
Dinner is never a problem for me because either I or my wife will cook or I have leftovers because we always cook too much for just the two of us.
Look at your day to day. What meal do you usually get fast food, hit up restaurants or just eat whatever is in the house or vending machine? That’s where we will start.
Once we identify the meal that is giving us a problem, it’s time to find a food that will fit in said meal.
We need a protein first. Can’t make gainz without it.
If it’s breakfast, look at eggs or breakfast meats (ham, turkey sausage etc.).
If it’s lunch or dinner, look at chicken, turkey or beef (90% lean at least).
If it’s a snack, look at things like beef jerky or Greek yogurt (high protein, low carb).
Then we tackle veggies. Fresh or frozen doesn’t matter.
Then, depending on your diet goal, look at starchy carbs. If you are trying to gain or maintain weight keep add them. If you are trying to lose weight leave them out. Things like brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa or oatmeal fit this bill.
Find a meal with protein and veggies first, then starchy carbs (again based on your diet goals) that you wouldn’t mind eating multiple times in a week.
If you can’t eat bland chicken and rice, don’t make it. Experiment with different seasonings and sauces. It’s time to get creative in the kitchen.
Honestly, I love BBQ sauce. It has a higher sugar content than just about everything else I eat but it helps me stick to my meals. Don’t go for the perfect plan that you won’t stick to, stick to the less than perfect plan you will.
It’s important to keep yourself interested or you are just going to keep the same habits and keep increasing your waistline.
Scour Pinterest or cooking sites to find something that tickles your fancy. Skip cream sauces (high calories), anything breaded (high carbs) or anything fried (overall bad for you).
It’s time to buy stock in Tupperware. Setup your containers and portion out the food you just masterfully cooked to perfection.
How much do I portion out of each?
This is highly subjective but there are some general rules of thumb to go by. I’m a scientist by trade so I like exact portions rather than haphazardly guessing. I use a kitchen scale to measure out my food.
You don’t need to be anal like me, there are simpler ways to portion properly and all you need is one hand.
Protein should fill up your palm.
Veggies should be two handfuls.
Starchy carbs should be your palm.
Simple and stupid easy; assuming you have one functioning hand.
Take it out when needed and enjoy!
TIPS I PICKED UP ALONG THE WAY
It’s hard to do something for a while and not pick up a few things on the way. Here is a random assortment of things I’ve picked up.
GOING OUT IS EXPENSIVE
Dropping $10-20 a meal for lunch every day is expensive. I’m cheap – I still have the broke college kid mentality. So dropping $50-100 a week is crazy for me when I could pick up a package of chicken and have enough for 6-7 meals for $10-15.
Keeping with my cheap ass ways, when the opportunity presents itself to go out during lunch I always think about the food I’d be wasting. This makes going out less and less desirable. I don’t like throwing money away and that would be exactly what I’d be doing if I had to throw my prepped meal away.
By batching my cooking for the week, I can prep lunches and breakfast for a week in about an hour including cleanup. That’s about 14 meals a week I don’t have to think about. If I were to prep each meal individually then it would take me about a half hour each day between cooking and clean up.
INSTILL GOOD HABITS IN YOUR KIDS
Now take this one if you will because you are taking parenting advice from a guy without kids. Kids pick up more things from what you do rather than what you tell them. If they see you eating healthy and prepping meals ahead of time, you’ll be instilling good habits into your kids. Kids see everything.
The trick to eating food without a rubber like consistency is to undercook it beforehand. I do this with eggs all the time. I’ll cook my eggs so they are a little waterier than I like before putting them into the Tupperware. This way when I microwave them later on, they come out perfectly moist and lack the consistency of a tire.
Please don’t be an idiot and eat undercooked eggs or chicken. Salmonella is no joke. Microwave them before eating.
And last but certainly not least, let’s do a visual comparison of a meal prep lunch and going through life with a blatant disregard for planning meals. If you are a visual person like myself you’ll enjoy this.
Do you have any questions that I could answer in a future meal prep post?
Do you plan/prep your meals?
If you know someone who could benefit from this article, please share it on Facebook or Twitter. 2 out of 3 people are obese today, let’s start a change.