Don't sweat Your Prep! Easy, time saving food prep strategies to fuel your goals
Food prep = Preparing your meals in advance to keep you on your goal, stay fuelled, and easy logging if you are calorie counting
That’s all this is. As with anything fitness related, it will only work if you make it part of your routine and you set time aside to make it happen.
People get so overwhelmed by this, as if as coaches, we hold the magic key to the holy grail of fitness but honestly all it is, it’s to get organised, make it simple & have foods you enjoy at the ready to fuel your life.
We are all busy in different areas of our lives, wether it would be your job, your social time with family and friends, your hobbies. These are for a lot of people priorities. In the grand scheme of things, Food Preparation may not be high on your priority list but you have been thinking about, not quite knowing where to start.
Others may not know how to cook, it is a skill after all, so maybe they will learn to make simple foods they enjoy or would need to outsource food prep to a company, and individual or convenience store.
In this blog i want to give you my favourite strategies to make Food prep simple, easy, time saving and money saving too + a couple of strategies you can use if you do have to outsource or you are on the road a lot, and have to eat out.
Base your meals around 1 protein, 1 carb source, 1 fat source and if it contains fibre thats a bonus. As adults, according to statistics, we consume way below the recommended fibre intake of 25g-30g per day for an adult (RDA = Recommended daily amounts)
Decide on a menu for the week- This may sound like hard work but think about it, you probably eat the same foods day in day out. Think of your favourites, write them down and keep it simple: two breakfasts (i usually prefer to make these fresh to be honest), two mains, two snacks.
Having this structure will help you get everything ready, shop for what’s needed, assemble and forget about it until you have to eat it.
2a) PROTEINS: lean white meat, % lean mince, Heck sausages, lean burgers, loin chops or fillets, white fish, eggs & dairy (ricotta, feta, quark, cottage cheese for instance), oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna these also add to your omega three and healthy fats bonus);
Proteins keep you full for longer, help grow & repair tissue in your body, help building muscle, allows metabolic reactions to take place and coordinates bodily functions, give you energy so we want preferably 1g-1.6g per kg of body weight in our daily diet. To keep it simple, include above 100g of proteins per day.
CARBS: Carbohydrates are made up of three components: fiber, starch and sugar. Fiber and starch are complex carbs, while sugar is a simple carb. Depending on how much of each of these is found in a food determines its nutrient quality. They are essential to our body energy systems and functions, so do not be scare-mongered in to thinking they are the devil (this is so for another post). They are an ESSENTIAL macronutrient.
Choose complex carbs instead of simple for better quality carbs, but nothing is ever off menu, apply moderation.
COMPLEX CARBS: Legumes, whole grains, nuts, vegetables, fruits, alternative flours (think lentil, spelt, rye)
SIMPLE CARBS: refined flour (white mainly), juice concentrate, confectionaries (biscuits and cakes), breakfast cereal
Rice, pasta, potatoes, alternative flour pasta/rice, noodles, sweet potatoes
Fiber rich fruit banana, berries, apples
Fiber rich veggie carbs broccoli, leafy greens, carrots
NOTHING IS OFF MENU. Just be aware of the quality of the carbohydrates you purchase, in which quantity you consume them & hell from time to time soooo have a donut, croissants or your fav cereal. Calories matter tho. Stay accountable.
Avocados, Dark Chocolate (YES, in moderation 70% plus dark delish), whole eggs, fatty fish, nuts (careful with the quantity 10-25g per portion), Extra Virgin oils (rapeseed, olive oil, these are best quality oils), good quality butter (avoid spreads which contain trans fats)
So let’s make an example menu up:
2 poached eggs, warburton soft brown thin, spinach, low fat chilli jam or
overnight oats with added protein, crushed dark chocolate (melt it in microwave) or
Warburton thin bagel, philadelphia lightest, smoked salmon, capers
grilled chicken breast, wholewheat tortilla (weight watchers calorie save at 118kcal per wrap), baby leaf salad, 0% fat yogurt cucumber dressing
%5 fat lean mince chilly, with wholegrain rice, sauteed spinach
Cod fillet, cherry tomatoes, capers, rocket salad
Protein yogurt, raspberries, 70% dark chocolate cube
Rice cake with ricotta, strawberries, balsamic glaze
Warburton thin, leerdamer light slice & chicken, baby leaf salad
Salmon fillets, grilled asparagus, watercress salad
Turkey burger with leerdamer light slice, warburton protein thin bagel, baked sweet potato
Tin of tuna in extra virgin olive oil (drained), baked potato, green salad
This is an example with a variety of proteins, carbs and fats - you pick the menu that suits you and your goals, baring in mind that less ingredients easier the prep
Make a food shopping list before you hit the shops, so you are not wondering about the aisle aimlessly picking up food items you may never use, waste or not compliant with your goal; I never used to make lists, and let my imagination roam, with a list now i don’t have to spend hours around the shop and go straight for what i need- in and out lol PS DO GET MICROWAVABLE TUPPERWARE, MICROWAVE BAGS FOR COOKING (Saves tons of time)
Time & money saving shopping items that are also convenient as hell
Ya don’t want to prep your food? No problem. Look around the shop and you will find that most foods will come in fresh, pre-prepped, frozen, tinned items
Life savers for me are frozen vegetables and fruits. The veg is cost effective, easy to bulk prep and it’s all chopped and ready to cook most in 15min or less.
Frozen fruit is in most cases cheaper and great for breakfasts, snacks, cheeky halo top with berries dessert, shakes you name it.
Pre-prepped vegetables are already portioned, easy to calorie track (scan it in done tick) but can be more expensive than buying to cut veggies. Same with fruit. Yes it’s pre-prepped and convenient but the cost goes up. These are more useful for snacks on the go, if you are out and about.
Tins: tuna tins are the ultimate life saver for me. Simplest meal on the go and ready to prep in five. So i always have some in my cupboard
Ready to micro- pouches: these are the kings of convenience but they come at a higher price. If yo buy a kg of rice or pasta say, you can make more portions at a lower cost, but it would take 15 minutes (between water boiling and cooking), so they are useful for quick meals on the go and no mess.
SHOP AROUND & DON’T BE AFRAID OF ‘OWN’ BRAND PRODUCTS
For proteins like chicken buying bulk saves a lot of money. You prep what you need for the week, you freeze the rest. Butchers usually have a 5kg bag of chicken breasts for about £20-£25 making it way cheaper than most super markets. Check out musclefoods too for cheaper deals on protein.
Own brand products tend to be cheaper and, contrary to popular belief, they are good quality. Just because it doesn’t have a fancy label (marketing), it doesn’t mean that they are poor quality. Tinned tomatoes, beans, tuna, mackerel, vegetables you name it. Read the labels at the back and compare it to a popular bran, you will see the own brand often come it at a more favourable price & macro reading :D
Stick to calorie & time saving methods:
Poach, grill, roast in bulk. Take your food item, time it for how many meals you need to make. Set over, grill, poacher to time of cooking for that food. Have a coffee whilst everything is cooking :D Don’t forget your microwave: potatoes in 6 minutes no added oil (unless you want to of course), veg in four minutes come on TIME SAVER X
Have your scales at hand. Eyeing up portions is the easiest way to include more calories in your meal than you should. So for me these are a kitchen essentials, when i am prepping. All foods should be weighted uncooked. I understand that if making bulk, you pretty much you cook and weigh it later. Simple trick: you are cooking 750g of chicken, when portioning divide that for the number of meals you are making (i.ie 4), when it’s cooked boom, off it goes in your container.
Sounds annoying but with pasta weight an 80g portion, count the pasta quills, when cooked put that number of quills in the tupperware; REMEMBER: rice & pasta double in volume, making it easy to over estimate a portion. Also check the label as it will give you calories if the product is cooked or uncooked.
PORTION IT UP : wait till food is cool before this step (this is more food safety than anything; we do not have blast chillers in our houses, they permit food to get back to food temperature for storage quickly. Let the food cool before portioning and putting it in the fridge);
Most foods will keep well for 3 to 5 days and you can keep them in the freezer for up to a month.
Personally, i prefer fish fresh, so unless it’s tinned i make that on the spot, but have always veg ready for it.
Beside shopping, these whole process won’t take more than a couple of hours at best (if you get a bit carried over with ingredients and cooking methods). You now have all your foods for 3-5 days ready to go and keep you fuelled, on track & not having to stress about what to have for lunch or dinner.
BUT, If you are still not sold on the process, i would suggest:
Check out a meal prep company. The meals will come in at around £3.50-£5 per meal; some companies have subscription packages, so if you can afford it go for it. Literally, everything will be calorie counted, ready for you to just eat it
Ready meals. Although my preference would be to cook it, sometimes these are epic to save time but get a decent meal. M&S do a large range of healthy meals, so do all the big supermarkets. Costs vary for £3-£5 per meal. My top tips would be to ready the label at the back for Calorie content, protein (minimum 15-20g per portion), fats & carbs fill the rest. Do check sugar content (it is added to make the meal taste better below 10g is preferable).
Choose well when dining out for convenience and ask for the calories. It is now law that all restaurants and food chains, need to make the customer aware of the allergens contained in the foods they make. Most chains will have everything calorie counted making it easy to pick an option that suit your goal. With restaurants, unfortunately, due to the nature of the trade, you will be best overcasting your meal calories, going for grilled, poached, roast options- this is a larger topic for another time
ON A FINAL NOTE: Include foods you enjoy, it will make it so much easier to stick to and eat. Food is nourishment, enjoyment & it is nothing to feel guilty about! It’s about balance between healthily delicious foods for your body & goal, but also enjoying what’s on your plate in the long run.
So if you hate, plain chicken, rice and broccoli don’t prep it.
Food is not guilt or punishment!
And when you are out and about and want an ice cream, donut or a tasty meal with your friends H A V E I T no guilt attached. Be aware and accountable to it, just enjoy it! You will see with time this will become an easier habit to stick to
Happy Food Prep :D
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