By VANESSA HAMPTON
One of the biggest challenges many of us face on a day to day basis is making healthy choices, consistently, when it comes to our food. This, however, doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it. If we took a survey of all the people that don’t seem to struggle with eating healthy during their week, we would most certainly find that they all have one thing in common. Food Prep.
Preparing food in advance of our week is the secret to success when it comes to healthy eating. No, food prepping is not just something athletes and personal trainers do. Food prepping is an option for anyone, because it is simply about taking control of your choices. If we are running late in the mornings or don’t have anything ready to throw in our lunch box for the day, it means we are opting to eat out or worse, skipping meals all together. When we get to the end of a long day, there is only so much mental or physical energy we have left. This is the time when it’s way too easy to run through a drive through or eat a sandwich or cereal for dinner. Eating these types of things in the evening will only leave us hungry for more, leading to more poor choices and probably grazing before bed. The calories and, likely, sugars add up fast when we are doing this every day. This pattern in eating makes reaching health goals nearly impossible.
When I discuss the option of taking time to prepare food for the week to some who need my help with eating, it is usually an appealing idea. I often hear “I need to do that” or “yes, that would help”. However, when it comes down to it, all too often it ends up being more of a fleeting thought than an action item. The reality is, it is not just going to happen. You have to make the choice to do it and create a habit. Believe it or not, my food prep is so vital that I plan the return of my vacations and trips around making sure I have enough time to prepare my food for the week, before going back to work. Its that important to me because having control of my food during my week gives me a stronger sense of control in every other part of my life.
For some, the idea of taking the time to do food prep can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to take a ton of time and it doesn’t have to be complicated. I have been preparing my food in advance for so long now that I am very efficient at it. In fact, I rarely do it all at once but, instead, knock it out in pieces over the course of my weekend. Here is how it usually goes with regard to food prep.
- Saturday morning-pull frozen meat out of the freezer and see what other grocery items are needed
- Costco trip
- Saturday afternoon-Put sweet potatoes in Crockpot #1. Start a Chicken meal in Crockpot #2.
- Sunday morning – Cook egg whites, turkey bacon, and roasted veggies in the oven. Cut up fruit.
- Sunday evening -Grill meat for week coinciding with dinner time.
By spreading out the items I need to cook, as well as utilizing multiple crockpots, it makes preparing my week of food very easy and requires very little time. When I first started doing food prep it took me nearly 3 hours every weekend. Once I settled into a routine, I cut that time way down. Now, all together, it probably takes an hour and a half. What it means is that my husband and I never do more than heat up food during our week. We don’t even have to think about it, which makes our normally hectic week a lot more manageable.
There are certain foods that I keep on hand. These include sweet potatoes (wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked in a crockpot), egg white muffin cups, turkey bacon, grilled meats, and crockpot meals. We also keep fresh vegetables for salads, fruits, avocado/guacamole, hot sauce, and nuts. We also like to make rice and oatmeal in the crockpot in advance and keep them in the fridge for the week. Another practice I have is always making extra crockpot meals or other baked meals (such as turkey meatloaf) and freezing them. This way, no matter what life brings or how out of control a week seems, we can always thaw out our meals and still have control of our food choices.
There are many resources out there with meal prep tips and tricks as well as recipe ideas. Here are a few:
If this all sounds good, but you know that food prep is not something you will ever do, there are also great options in meal delivery services both local companies (such as Paleoworks, Entre-Nous, and Eat Well Nashville*) and chains (Hello Fresh, Sun Basket, and Blue Apron**). These companies specialize in making healthy food choices easy for us, but even choosing to take advantage of one of these services requires forethought and some effort in advance.
Now here’s where I am going to practice tough love. If you are stuck in a place of frustration with poor eating choices, then choose to use the tools available to you to set yourself up for success. Sometimes we need to take a hard look inward and determine if we are finding excuses for not making positive changes for ourselves. Keep in mind that there will not likely be a magic moment where your whole mind set will change, the stars will align, and you will suddenly never struggle with this again. It takes work, especially on the front end, to create lasting habits. It may take a few weeks or even a month or two to hit your stride and settle into a routine that is right for you, but give it a chance! Just like with anything else in life, it gets easier the more you do it. Use the resources out there to help and don’t be afraid to ask others what works for them. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just make up your mind, commit to your health, and get prepping!
Vanessa Hampton, owner of Body Balance with V and Body Balance Massage & Wellness, is a personal trainer, yoga instructor, Fitness Coach, and CrossFit coach (CrossFit Cool Springs, Brentwood). Follow her on Facebook or Instagram @bodybalancewithv @bbmassageandwellness or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.