Meal prep is one of the most useful tools for healthy eating and when you are trying to go sugar free. The beauty of it is that there is no one “right” way to meal prep so meal prep can be made to fit almost anyone’s lifestyle! Here, Nutritionist Charlotte Press shares why we should all be meal prepping, as well as her tips on how to make meal prep easy!
Why meal prep?
First of all, meal prep will ensure that you have nutritious food on hand that you actually want to eat, since you get to pick what you make! This takes the guesswork out of staying healthy. Once your prep is done, all you have to do is show up and eat! Another reason to meal prep is that you can control what goes into your food. So many packaged/processed/restaurant options today contain unnecessary ingredients (including but not limited to hidden added sugars) that can be problematic to gut health, energy, metabolism and so much more. By meal prepping, we can avoid these potentially inflammatory ingredients and fill our plates with nutrient-dense ingredients we love.
3 Ways to Meal Prep
How to meal prep looks different on everyone and that’s ok! Here are some of the different strategies I have tried myself and that I have seen my clients have success with.
- One Day Prep: The most traditional format is to prepare most or all of your meals on one day, and portion them out for the rest of the week. The benefit of this strategy is that it takes all the thinking and work out of eating later in the week, however, it does require a large time investment on one day and also careful planning. Another con is that it does not allow for flexibility nor does it optimize meal freshness.
- Mix and Match Prep: A second strategy, my personal favorite, is mix and match prep. This means making a bunch of ingredients that you can pair together and doing 1-3 mini preps during the week. For instance, I like to make several different kinds of veggies, 1-2 healthy baked goods or energy balls (with collagen or gelatin added of course!) and 1-2 protein sources. I do this on Sunday and then again on Wednesday or Thursday. This keeps my food fresh and prevents me from getting bored since I can combine things in different ways and add different sauces etc.
- Big Batch prep: A third way to meal prep is to simply batch cook whenever you are in the kitchen anyways. This strategy is best for people who cannot spare 1-2 hours for the other methods. For instance, if you are cooking dinner, make double so it can at least serve as lunch the next day, or if you are making breakfast, make double so tomorrow, you don’t have to worry about breakfast.
Tips to help you meal prep
Any way you choose to meal prep, here are some tips for how to make meal prep fit into your lifestyle as you go sugar free.
Start with a plan
- First step should be to map out yours (and your family’s) week – how many meals are you prepping for?
- Then plan a rough idea of some foods that fit into each category, it does not have to be exact recipes necessarily
- Make a grocery list off the plan, never go shopping without a list-stick to the list!
- It’s always a good idea to get a few non-perishable pantry staples such as healthy cooking oils including olive, coconut and avocado oil, natural nut butter, and dried herbs/spices to add flavor and nutrients to your food
- If you are new to meal prep, it will be less overwhelming if you just pick a few items to prep – every little bit counts
- Once you are comfortable with a small amount of meal prep, you can slowly add on an additional item each week
- Starting small reduces frustration/discouragement and food waste and also gets you comfortable with meal prepping so that it gets easier and easier
- If you’re not going to prep 100% of your food, that’s fine! Just make sure you prep the foods that will make the biggest difference in your week. This will prevent you from wasting time prepping items that won’t really save you that much time later and/or won’t prevent you from reaching for convenience foods that may be overly processed
- For instance, if breakfast is always on the run and you end up skipping it, prep that ahead of time, if dinner with your kids is the hardest, maybe use the slow cooker for some busy weeknight dinners
Prep foods you love
- This may sound obvious but a lot of people think they should be eating certain foods, then prep those, but never actually want to eat them and end up wasting food and choosing less healthy options
- Healthy food can taste great, and you should crave the foods you prep
- If you hate plain, steamed vegetables, try roasting/sautéing or grilling your vegetables and adding plenty of seasonings
- If you crave dessert every night, don’t deny yourself since that can potentially cause binging. Try prepping a batch of Coconut Raspberry Collagen bars or Chocolate Almond Butter Cups and allowing yourself to have one each night and enjoy it!
Make a master list of your favorite recipes
- You will inevitably try some recipes you love more than others in your meal prep journey. Make a master list of recipes you loved and also ones you didn’t so that you don’t accidentally make those recipes again
- For the recipes you love, having them all in a consolidated place will help you see which ingredients overlap so you can create grocery synergies in future preps
Give Mix & Match a Try
- Traditional meal prep tells us we need to set aside one day and perfectly portion exact meals for the whole week. But that can get boring and does not help us eat intuitively.
- Try prepping a few foods from each category – for instance make some basic protein, veggies, and then some portable options like overnight oats or energy balls. This way you can mix and match based on your mood, enjoy your food more and waste less
- Remember, certain foods don’t have to be eaten at certain times, if you want salmon for breakfast and egg cups for dinner – listen to your body!
- Be sure to have some sauces or dips to add flavor – whether that is some avocados you can mash up, some hummus or a guacamole.
Use these cooking hacks to help your meal prep
- Don’t be afraid of healthy fats – these add so much flavor to your meal prep, help you absorb fat soluble vitamins, as well as helping in stabilizing blood sugar. Some of my favorite healthy fats for cooking are coconut oil, ghee and avocado oil since all are safe at high heats (above 375 F)
- Roasting is a convenient way to get a bunch of food prepped at one time (I love doing this for veggies and proteins like poultry or fish)
- Make sure to pair things together that have the same cooking time – for instance mushrooms and tomatoes have shorter cooking times while sweet potato and cauliflower have longer cooking times
- Herbs and spices are your friends – these can be such a great way to add flavor to your meal prep without changing the nutrition
- Often people think they need to avoid salt all together, but salt can bring out so much flavor in your food and sea salt has minerals like magnesium! It’s salt from processed foods that we need to be more careful with!
Remember, any type of meal prep will help you stick with to your sugar free detox or pledge to eat healthier. Try incorporating some of my tips to help make your mealtime less stressful and healthier.
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