Building up on last week, where to start and what to eat? How can you actually make it work for you? Let’s say you just embarked on your journey, you have a coach guiding you and you were given your target. Now what?
Fail to plan, plan to fail. Such a cliche but that doesn’t make it any less true.
In studies, there are commonalities in the traits and daily habits of naturally slim people. Naturally lean people cook and prepare the majority of their food intake themselves. In doing so, you gain better control of your nutrition and through that of your results.
One thing that is important is to accept is that none of us have a special amount of willpower that enables us to stick to our workouts or meal plan better than others. No one has 3 extra hours in a day to do fancy prep and spend time in the gym. But all of us have it in our power to prioritize our lives differently. Successful people don’t end up succeeding by accident. Success is reached by building daily habits around what you value. If something is important to you, you need to learn to make it a priority in your life. Or accept that maybe, right now, it is actually not a priority for you. And that can be okay too.
Planning ahead and finding what best suits your lifestyle is key. Hitting your macros daily is almost impossible to sustain if you need to figure out what to eat and where to get your food meal to meal and day to day. None of us have that kind of time or energy to devote to this.
You need to set up your environment to succeed. For some it means making some meals ahead, for others it means filling the fridge and pantry with healthy food options and for some it can be as simple as pre-ordering meals from a meal-service delivery. In the beginning there might be a lot of changes to be made to your current lifestyle and it is important to make it easy on yourself to succeed. I preach keeping things simple, because let’s face if your starting point was eating out at every meal this will be an adjustment. And making fancy meals nightly will make this a real nightmare for you. Start simple and build on your successes.
Batch Cooking & Meal Prepping vs Meal Planning.
It’s important to experiment and see what is both enjoyable to you and low-stress. Two keys to longevity.
Ask yourself a few questions?
- How much time do you have to cook?
- What are my kitchen skills like?
- Do you prefer to grocery shop daily or weekly?
- How much do you actually enjoy cooking?
- How much variety do you like/require in your diet?
- Are you responsible for cooking for others in your family?
- How long are your work days outside the house?
Batch cooking refers to cooking things up front ahead of time and making batches for the week. You don’t need to put together meals, but you do prep meal components ahead of time.
- Can be done 1 or 2 x a week depending on schedule.
- Less time cooking day to day.
- Still allows you to customize it a bit day to day.
- Keeps tracking fairly simple with simpler meals.
- Less variety. Need to be okay eating similar meals.
- More time needed to cook up front.
- Prep 2-3 protein source:
Some examples but not limited to.
- Seasoned lean ground meat like beef or turkey is super easy. You can use taco seasoning or any spices you like. I often keep it to simple salt and pepper so I can just adapt it and season it as I build my meals.
- Grilled or BBQ meat. Chicken breasts or skinless boneless thighs with seasoning of your choice are quick and easy. To me the extra fat on the chicken thighs are an easy trade for the added flavour. They also taste a ton better reheated. Another great lean protein that grills well is pork tenderloin.
- Meat in the crockpot. I like to throw either chicken or beef with either broth for plain or a jar of salsa in there on low for 5 hrs and shred it all. If you have an InstantPot this process can be taken down to 15 minutes. No lie! It’s magic. Shredded me is great on rice or in wraps.
- Salmon cakes-super economical with a can of wild salmon.
2. Pre-cook 1-3 carb options:
- Cook a batch of your favourite rice. We almost always have rice in the fridge, Scott’s favourite easy meal is fried rice.
- Roast some yams, potatoes or squash, like delicata or butternut.
- Quinoa or pasta if they are a part of your diet.
3. Prep some veggies:
- Washed lettuce, I never get tired of lunch salads.
- Cut up veggies-if it is easily accessible you will eat more!
- Bagged coleslaw-the easiest thing to add to rice in fried rice for some volume.
- I like grilling or roasting a big tray of veggies. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness and it’s amazing on anything including your morning eggs.
From there all you need is switching up your combinations and seasoning options and you can mix and max to reach your goals easily. Don’t forget to add a flavour booster!
4. Add some Flavour Boosters:
- Hot sauces
- Dried spice mix
- Hummus, Yogourt dip.
- Salad dressings-
- Sauerkraut, kimchi…
- BBQ sauce etc…
Learn to read labels more carefully. Not all sauces are created equals. Look for some with shorter list of ingredients with names you can pronounce and macros that will fit your goals.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring unless you make it boring.
Batch cooking is a great entry point. You don’t need to be a whiz in the kitchen or package everything neatly in meals. You can mix and match as you go daily.
Meal Prepping 101:
Similar to batch cooking it involves cooking ahead, but you take it up a notch by actually portioning your meals ahead and lining up Tupperware in your fridge to just easily grab and go. The beauty of this is you can also calculate ahead the macros for each meals and plan your days ahead.
- Similar to batch cooking, can be done 1 or 2 x a week depending on schedule.
- Virtually no time cooking and prepping day to day.
- If you calculate your daily macros and your meals ahead of time you don’t have to do has much macro-math day to day.
- Less variety. Need to be okay eating similar meals.
- Also need to be okay eating meals that have been put together days ago.
- More time needed to cook up front.
- Get yourself a set of fancy meal containers. I love the glass Pyrex sets from Costco.
- Keep it simple by picking a few recipes, you can rotate week to week to keep boredom at bay. But it makes things simple if you have 1-2 lunch on rotation and same for dinners. Once you figure out the macros it makes it very easy.
- Get cooking + packing.
This is where I land. For a few reasons, but mainly because I enjoy cooking and I need more variety in my diet for it to be sustainable to me in the long-term. Also, my family enjoys sitting down for meals. This is not entirely without planning, but the planning looks different.
Meal planning involves planning your meals ahead for the week. This can be done on weekend or whenever your weekly day off falls. For me Sunday is when I plan my meals, it is also when I grocery shop for the week because I do not have the time or inclination to go to the stores daily.
When making these decisions and planning my week I take into account my schedule in the upcoming week and make sure I plan accordingly, accounting for my work and family demands.
Grocery shopping ahead is key for most. I like a full fridge and only buy what I plan on using. Less waste and money saved. I am routinely home by 6-6:30 and hungry, so meals are simple and if I had to shop daily I would give up for sure. Don’t be afraid to tweak recipes to suit your needs and taste. Also stop depriving yourself. If you think you can only eat dry chicken, broccoli and rice on repeat you will fall off the wagon for sure! There needs to be a pleasure element to our meals, deprivation leads to binging.
- More variety in your diet.
- Allows you to be more spontaneous.
- Requires more time spent in the kitchen.
- Requires you to adjust your meals daily to match your target.
But what about you?
If you do not have time to cook daily? Batch cooking or meal prepping will make your life 100x easier. Same if you don’t enjoy the process of cooking.
Are away from home a lot? Meal prepping allows you to grab what your prepared meals in the morning, stuff them in a cooler bag and get out the door!
You actually enjoy cooking? Like me you may really enjoy meal planning.
You have time to cook + shop daily? You have the highest amount of flexibility in your life! Lucky duck, you can probably take it one day at a time.
Cooking for others? Batch cooking can be an easy way for everyone to customize their meals to their taste + needs. Depending how picky your family is you should always make an effort to cook 1 meal for all. When my daughter was young I often plated her meal before adding adult seasoning and spices.
Wherever you fall I believe everyone can make it work. Remember that if something is important to you so will be finding time to make it work.
One last option I did not go into much is using a meal delivery service. We are lucky to have a few great ones in the lower mainland. Choosing from pre-packaged meals that you can easily bring with you, most including complete macronutrients breakdown, or from meals that you can cook and put together for your family very easily. The cost is anywhere between 12-20$ per meal, which is a consideration if you are looking for longterm solutions. It can be a great option for work lunches or for when life gets really busy. However I believe it can’t replace you developing your own kitchen skills.
Now go ahead and get in the kitchen and start cooking.