Successful fat loss goals are achieved 70% in the kitchen, 20% by how well and often you move your body, and 10% from your mental state. Today I want to focus on the kitchen end of things.
Food prep is where so many well-intentioned fat loss seekers (people who want to “lose weight”) drop the ball. For you to succeed at your fitness goals excuses like I have no time to cook or I didn’t know what to eat and was hungry so I just grabbed something must be removed from your lexicon!
Now I’m not going to give you a meal plan to follow (although [shameless plug here] you can order a customized meal plan from my website www.workouts247.com and I’m not going to reiterate what I’ve stated numerous times herein about eating 6 small meals/snacks a day, and avoiding overly processed, sugary and salty foods. What I am going to address is food prep because that is the most time intensive aspect of nutrition and the area that usually intimidates people the most.
As you embark on the journey to change your nutrition there are four (4) important steps you need to understand. The first step is to have a meal plan in place complete with recipes or “meal concepts” for each day of the week. The second step is to prepare a comprehensive list and then shop for the requisite ingredients. The third step (which I am focusing on today) is to prepare as much of the food in advance so that step four – the eating at regular intervals step – can be easily achieved.
I always advise my clients to set aside one day for grocery shopping (which, if your list is in hand, should only take one hour at most), and a chunk of time for the food prep (can be the same day as shopping or a day or two later).
Food prep can take anywhere from 1-4 hours depending upon how many meals and/or snacks you are preparing. The essential key here is to lock in the time required as a firm appointment you keep with yourself. Using cookbooks, Pinterest pins, or just your imagination, you can create several recipes ahead of time that will last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Meals needed for the later in your week can still be made ahead of time and frozen until needed.
The most important aspect to all of your food prep is to enjoy the process (do not see it as drudgery). As you become more comfortable with the planning and preparation process, you can expand your variety and pretty soon you’ll enjoy entire weeks of healthy, lean, flavorful meals and the “I have no time” excuse will be a thing of the past. Also, cooking together as a couple or family is a great way to spend quality time (without any electronics in front of your faces).
Here are a few timesaving tricks to follow, and of course, if you desire more specific advice, direction or a meal plan, contact me directly:
Veggies can be cleaned and sliced and placed in a ziplock bag or food storage container for use later in the week.
Pre-cooked snacks (like my quinoa, black bean, and spinach egg muffins for example), fresh fruit and veggies, nuts, and dried meats (like turkey jerky) can all be individually wrapped in bags or containers that you can “grab ‘n go.”
Breakfast items can be made the night before and simply reheated in the morning when there is less time to cook (i.e., breakfast burrito, overnight oats, etc.).
Crockpot (slow cooker) meals are a great way to easily create enough food to serve several lunches or dinners, and the prep work can be done the night before, then plunk everything into the pot, set it and forget it until you get home for dinner.
Always have a few fast-but-healthy items on hand (fridge, freezer, pantry) such as turkey burgers, salad veggies, cans of tuna or salmon as all of these can be turned into quick meals.
More time intensive items like brown rice, quinoa, or gluten-free pasta can be pre-cooked ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to four days. Then on any given night simply oven-roast or sauté your pre-sliced veggies and protein, sprinkle them with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and any of your favorite herbs and spices, then toss them all in one large pan and roast or sauté until done. Add in the already prepared side (rice, quinoa, etc.) and you’ve a dish that can serve for two family-sized meals (with correct quantity planning).
Everyone should know this by now: nutrition is responsible for 70% of how your body looks (i.e., how lean you are). The biggest complaint I hear from my clients is that they have no time to eat right: they don’t know how to plan, shop, prep and create healthy tasty meals in a short amount of time and with a small grocery budget. The good news is I DO! Like anything else that works easily in life, a “system” is key. A healthy eating system is comprised of the following steps:
4. Cook & Store
Pick one day a week where you will plan out your breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. Whether you are solo or cooking for a family planning is the same, and your menu does not need to be elaborate. For example: breakfast burritos, turkey & veggie wraps, oven roasted chicken & veggies with Quinoa, fruit, nuts, beans, humus, peanut butter and yogurt for snacks.
With your written shopping list in hand, hit the store. If you’ve got a Trader Joe’s nearby that’s your best bet for getting healthy quality for a very affordable price. Fortunately all the big grocery store chains now have organic options and carry formerly hard to find things like quinoa and whole wheat tortillas, etc. Here are some staples I recommend you always have on hand:
Canned Black beans and Garbanzo Beans (low sodium)
Peanut or Almond Butter
Low Sodium Chicken Stock
Eggs, Egg Beaters, or Egg Whites
Canned Salmon (wild caught)
Raw Organic Sugar or Organic Coconut Sugar
With these items you can always stir up a quick meal or snack.
There are two types of prepping: “non-cook” and “pre-cooking.” Snacks are “non-cook.” Place handfuls of almonds in snack bags. Same for sliced up apples or grapes. Fill a lunch or snack sized tupperware with veggies and humus; salad of mixed veggies with canned salmon and drizzled dressing. Many items can be made the night before such as turkey & veggies with mustard (no Mayo) in a whole wheat tortilla.
“Pre-Cooking” is usually exclusively for dinner preparation. In the morning I slice up a myriad of veggies and place in a ziplock bag. I do the same with boneless skinless chicken breasts, thighs, fish, organic chicken sausage (no nitrates) or tofu – whatever protein I’m choosing. Then when I get home it’s ready to cook (see below).
Pre-cooking also works for salads, or crockpot dishes. The idea is simply to slice everything up when you have the time (the night before or the morning of), and then quickly cook it (or let the crock pot cook it all day).
COOK & STORE
At night, I take my already-to-go items and place them all in a roasting pan, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, pepper and any other seasonings I’m in the mood for (curry, chipolte, herbs). Then I place the whole thing in the oven at 475○ for 45 minutes (stirring once halfway through). I might also cook a cup of quinoa in two cups of chicken stock. When the oven roasting is done, I mix in the cooked quinoa. Makes the meal go further and be heartier. (Quinoa can be pre-cooked as well and stored in the fridge.)
Or you can stir-fry the items with a low-sodium marinade if you don’t want to use your oven. Prepped items can be made for grilling as well. Veggies in a foil pouch go on the top rack, marinated chicken or fish on the bottom.
Usually while the dinner is cooking, I take 5 minutes and make the breakfast burritos for the next morning. Sauté spinach and black beans with eggs (or egg whites or egg beaters), then roll into a whole-wheat tortilla, cover in salsa or hot sauce (optional) and wrap in foil. The next day this can be microwaved (out of the foil of course). During the dinner cooking time, I also make lunches for the next day, unless I plan to make the left-overs be lunch (in which case I just get the tupperware out and ready).
Once dinner is over, I take the left-overs and store for the next night’s dinner or lunch (depending upon quantity left). If I made a huge amount (crockpot meals usually), I might freeze the rest for eating the following week.
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Hopefully these tips will help healthy nutrition seem a little less difficult to you and you’ll embrace the freedom you’ll find from having planning, shopping, prepping and cooking become routine. Lots of easy and healthy recipes are floating in the internet for you to find (especially on Pinterest), so have fun experimenting.