Cooking multiple meals at once, AKA “meal prepping,” is a great way to save time, money, and achieve health goals. Yet some people haven’t tried this activity, perhaps because they think it will take too much time and that a day’s food should be decided “as I get hungry.” But healthy meal prep is as simple or complicated as you make it. We caught up with Kevin Curry, founder of FitMenCook, to distill the secrets of healthy meal prepping and make it as easy as possible to accomplish.
“Fitmencook is a community of people who are enthusiastic about healthy eating and want inspiration,” says Curry. “It started off as just as a passion I had to share my diet and get help then it turned into something much larger. It’s my journey in healthy food, my content that I'm sharing now, but people are taking the recipes and making it their own and sharing it. That's how we're able to keep on growing.”
The benefits of meal prepping are many—from saving money on eating out, to having healthy options readily available throughout the week, and, for advanced athletes, having the ability to control your diet to atee.
“I prepare my own meals myself and I think that's what everyone should do,” Curry says.
Check out Curry’s top seven tips for healthy meal prep—and you'll have plenty of time for Tough Mudder training and perform your best without breaking the bank.
1. START SMALL
Prepping a whole bunch of healthy food at one time can be daunting. The last thing busy people want to do is spend an extra couple of hours in the kitchen trying to figure this stuff out. I'd start with the meals where you're most susceptible to cheat. So, don't prep every single meal that you're going to eat, just start with the food where you're having most trouble or spending the most money.
For me, I started with lunch first, moved onto breakfast and then moved to dinner. If you're spending $15 everyday on dinner, then start prepping your dinner. If your goal is to lose weight, then prep the meal that's giving you some trouble. That could be breakfast because you're stopping to get donuts everyday. That could be lunch because you're out with your co-workers all the time and making selections that aren't too healthy. It could be dinner because after you leave the gym, you feel like scarfing down a greasy burger and fries. So, overall the meal prep should align with your goals.
It's easy just to look at things in a very linear structure and say, "I'm going to spend the next two hours cooking up these potatoes then after the potatoes are finished, I'm going to cook the chicken and after that I’m going to cook the vegetables.”
But, healthy meal prep is all about doing multiple things at once, that way you cut down your time in the kitchen. So, while the potatoes are baking, you want to be seasoning your meat. After seasoning meat, move on to the next step in the potato making or the first step of another task such as boiling vegetables. Keep the activity inside the kitchen as fluid as possible.
3. ADD VARIETY
Adding variety in food options is important because you don't want to get bored with your food, and it makes the process more fun whenever you're discovering different things about food. If your meal prep is always going to be broccoli, brown rice and chicken, then it's going to become a lot more laborious for you. If you're switching up your complex carbohydrates and protein, then you're making the process a lot more engaging for yourself.
The more variety you have, the better the experience inside the kitchen. Plus, the excitement of popping open a container and seeing something different is encouraging for future meal preps.
4. CREATE A BUDGET
You want to get the grocery bill down to a point where the actual cost per meal is not more than the cost that you would endure if you ate out. Buy quality products but also look for deals to keep the cost as low possible. Create a budget and stick to it before you go to the grocery store.
There are meal prep services out there but you're going to run into the same problem as eating out: spending a lot of money on food.
5. DON’T WASTE
If you do all four of the preceding things, then you will have made strides towards not wasting. Make sure that you're not over preparing. If you're eating the same thing everyday, by the end of the week, you may not want to eat it and may even consider discarding that meal. Keep a variety and prepare food that you actually want to eat, not what someone else cooks in their meal prep.
6. KNOW HOW TO STORE
If you’re storing food in plastic containers, I'd suggest that it be BPA-free. So that way, in case you re-heat it inside the microwave, you don't have the concern of some of the contaminants getting inside of your food. Glass is the best option for meal storage, however it tends to be heavier and more expensive. You have your work bag and gym bag so sometimes glass may not be the most practical option.
Meat generally lasts about three to five days in the fridge. Fish usually lasts two to three days, and produce, can last the longest depending upon the type of produce, three to five days. Anything that's going to be longer than the suggested food storage life, then I would suggest freezing those things. You don't want to freeze raw vegetables, just because a lot of raw vegetables and fruit are mainly water, so when they defrost in the fridge, they just become limp.
7. ATHLETES EAT MORE
When training for competitions or events like Tough Mudder, people tend to confuse that with dieting down, so they'll end up eating less calories. The last thing you want do is lose weight or to get shredded if you’re training for an athletic event. You're dieting to become more explosive in your training so you're probably going to need to add a little bit more calories to your diet.
One of my favorite carbohydrates sources, especially being from Texas, is sweet potatoes. Another power food that I eat every single day are avocadoes. Avocado is a great healthy fat, and on the morning of a Tough Mudder, I have an avocado on a toasted rye, sourdough, seeded or whole grain bread.
For more meal prep tips and healthy recipes, visit fitmencook.com and download the Fitmencook Mobile App on in the Apple Store. Look out for the Fitmencook Cookbook in Spring 2017.