Meal prep can mean different things to different people and can really work as a way to keep consistent with good nutrition. The biggest pro to it is that it keeps you prepared for the week, and makes you much more likely to eat nourishing, tasty foods throughout.
The downside is, it’s either going to cost you time or money and that’s why many don’t do it, which is fair. But in the spirit of keeping it real, you’re going to have to invest a little of one, or a blend of those two resources if you want to be able to make a sustainable change in your life.
Let’s cover the different ways to “meal prep” on a week to week basis. And remember, “meal prep” doesn’t necessarily mean having actual food prepared, it just means having a plan that you rely on weekly to make sure you ain’t eating McDonald’s. Ja feel?
Option #1: Conventional Meal Prep
Food Variety: Not the best but can change week to week
If you can’t/don’t like to cook, just skip to the next one. Not that meal prep requires Gordon Ramsay like talents, but if you might burn the house down or cook some dirt dry chicken, then this may not be the best option for you.
For those that have a little somethin somethin in the kitchen, here’s what this would typically look like. You can either meal prep both lunch and dinner, or just one of the two. There are plenty of healthy, fun, exciting options that you can find online, but it might be simpler just to learn a few things really well that you like, and stick to that.
Usually, you’re looking at cooking a protein, a carbohydrate, and a vegetable source for each meal. So if you want to do lunch and dinner for the whole week (Mon-Fri) then that’s 10 total meals. If you’re doing it with a significant other/roommate/friend, just double it. Yes, it is a huge pain in the butt to do this on Sunday, but once you do it, it’s over, and the rest of the week you just get to portion out what you want and enjoy.
So let’s say you’re doing it for yourself, lunch and dinner, Mon-Fri. 5 portions of 2 different meals. For lunch, if you want to keep carbs moderate you could do a sirloin, steamed broccoli, and half an avocado. For dinner, you could do a chicken breast, mashed sweet potato, and roasted zucchini. Salmon, asparagus, handful of nuts. Cod, brown rice, squash. Find a good seasoning, use a healthy oil to cook it with, it’s not as boring as it sounds. A little bit of extra fat used in cooking is always worth it if it means a lot of extra flavor. It has to taste good or it won’t work.
Option #2: Eating out every meal (aka baller status)
Food Variety: Delightful
People often say eating healthy is expensive. If you cook it at home, not at all. If you want to eat healthy meals out all the time, you damn right then. That’s why this is the baller status option! To get the same amount of protein as you would if you were to cook it, you’ll likely have to get extra meat on wherever you go with is an extra few bucks.
Chipotle, Cava, Sweetgreen, Zoe’s kitchen...all great options and there are many more but just be mindful of what you’re getting. Use guidelines outlined in this previous blog and follow the same principles as if you were cooking the food at home.
Option #3: Cooking dinner daily/eating lunch out daily
Food Variety: Delightful
Basically a combo of the first two options. This is probably more for the family man/woman who doesn’t want to worry about getting lunch ready, but likes a nice wholesome dinner. Just maintain principles of the other two options as you apply them to daily eating out/cooking choices.
Option #4: Meal prep company
Food Variety: Pretty solid
Don’t like to cook? Don’t want to leave the house? Is time and convenience priority #1? This is the option for you. There are a bunch of companies that will send you portioned out, healthy, from what I hear, decently tasty fresh meals to you. Freshly, Territory Foods, and many others will send you meals that you select on their site and you can keep them at home, bring to work,, whatever you like.
**I have no affiliation with these companies. No sponsorship here. I promise.
So, to sum up, these are your “meal prep” options. The goal is to find whatever will be reliable and consistent for you. Whatever it is, you have to actually like the food, or it’ll last maybe 2-3 weeks. These aren’t the only 4 options of course, just some frameworks to give you some ideas.
What it really comes down to is determining what resources you value most and going with an option that allows you to keep the most of that. Might take some trial and error, but create a system that works for you, HAS GOOD TASTING FOOD, and one that you can be consistent with.