Stay up to date! Sign up for our newsletter and be the first to get all Blast Fitness news!
You’ve probably heard the suggestion to ‘prepare and portion out all your meals on Sundays and Wednesdays’ before. Heck, you may have even heard it from me! This somewhat worked in my life, for a time, but now I do the opposite.
And for a few of you, my loyal readers, the twice a week meal preparation routine might totally be your thing. And others (like me) may not love this way of life.
Last week I wrote a post on the Blast Fitness with Lana Facebook page, where I frequently communicate with our growing community, and in that post I confessed that I don’t really do meal prep.
A nutrition-loving, fitness professional who coaches women on how to eat well that doesn’t prep all her meals ahead of time? Yes. That’s me.
I wrote that twice a week meal preparation was short-lived in my life because I really do not enjoy eating the same thing over and over, I don’t love pre-portioning out my food and I really need some spontaneity with my food decisions each week to feel satisfied.
According to most coaches, my strategy is a recipe for disaster. It’s largely unplanned, frequently spontaneous and not pre-portioned. But I’ve been able to have success with eating freely because I stick to a few uber important principles that make a big difference in what I end up eating.
In fact, I hear from tons of my clients that want an alternative to twice a week meal prep. They say that hours of meal prep works for them sometimes, but vacation, work trips, busy weekends and boredom often get in the way. As always, I want you to live in your reality and find useful solutions to help you eat well based on what is realistic in your life, whether that is working from home or spending days on the road.
So here goes, the anti-meal prep plan (or AMPP for short!).
This accounts for about 20% of the effort I end up putting towards food each week. To me, smart preparation means buying my food staples and a couple variety items that are different each week.
I think about a couple meal ideas (like two, not ten!) and shop for them to be sure I’ve got the correct ingredients. Yes, there needs to be some real food in your fridge in order to eat well and not break your bank account.
Let’s say I want to have Taco Salads at some point. I’ll be sure to buy extra lean ground beef, shredded cheese, leafy greens, bell peppers, an onion, avocado and salsa.
In my basket I also grab my staples that I don’t have to think about because I buy them every week. Eggs, oats, apples, berries of some kind, cabbage, zucchini, rotisserie chicken, a chocolate bar (not kidding), spinach, feta cheese, hummus and wild salmon.
Rather than getting home from the store and preparing all my food over the next few hours, I unpack everything into the fridge and often make one meal that I can eat when I am on the go or if I don’t have time to spend 10-20 minutes throwing some food together.
This quick action could be tossing ingredients into the slow cooker for butter chicken, making chili, or baking some low sugar, protein-packed muffins like my Flourless Carrot Spice Muffins. The key here is that it always takes less than an hour and helps me to have at least one thing prepared.
Ok, this is where I think the commonly recommended twice a week plan falls short. It’s like 80% preparation, 20% follow through. If we don’t have time to prepare, the plan doesn’t work! And if we get bored of what is pre-packed and portioned in the fridge, we don’t have a back up plan.
Instead, I spend a bit of effort on mini-prep (20%) and mini cooking (20%) and then put the majority of my focus and effort on what really matters:
MAKING GOOD DECISIONS RIGHT BEFORE YOU’RE ABOUT TO EAT.
Yes, I was yelling that out loud, ha.
Follow through is about actually eating healthy and lean foods when I feel like being spontaneous and whipping up something on a whim. This is when most people have peanut butter on toast or a grilled cheese sandwich, right?
The first part of follow through has to do with making good decisions when you’re at home.
Here is an example of a spontaneous meal I whipped up last week. It literally took less than 10 minutes to throw together. I chopped up the purple cabbage, kale, tomatoes and cucumber. Tore off some rotisserie chicken and put it into the bowl and added crumbled feta, pumpkin seeds and olive oil with half a freshly squeezed lemon on top.
Yes, it will take time to figure out what your weekly staples are and what your go-to meals will be. I do protein pancakes (oats, eggs, baking powder, vanilla, almond milk), poached eggs, scrambled eggs with spinach, macro bowls like the one above, a plate of chicken with carrots and hummus, a big salad with fish on top and some type of roasted veggie every week.
None of these meals takes a long time to prepare, and I love the variety and spontaneity of eating what I want when I want it, not because it’s pre-made and portioned in the fridge. Don’t feel like eggs for breakfast? Whip up protein pancakes. Don’t feel like a salad for dinner? Get the veggies roasting.
I follow the formula Protein + Fibre + Fat and that’s how I craft various meals from what I’ve got on hand. Some nights I literally chop up a carrot (fibre), tear off some rotisserie chicken (protein) and eat it with hummus (fibre + fat).
The second part of the follow through equation includes making good decisions (good meaning, in line with your goals) when you are out to eat. This is another area that my clients say they get stopped up. ‘I was doing great with food choices until I went out for dinner..’.
There are actually a ton of great options to eat at most restaurants. It’s also fun when someone else is about to do the cooking and cleaning for you! I still follow the Protein + Fibre + Fat formula when I’m out to eat, or if I order in and I don’t stress about extras like sauces or dips. I just make sure to get enough protein and veggies and let the extras be part of a great dining out experience. Here’s an example of one of my favourite restaurant salads (from Bocce Restaurant in Calgary) that has tons of greens and tomatoes, roasted chicken, ham and the best pistachio dressing.
While the more commonly suggested twice a week meal preparation habit requires about 80% preparation (the part I don’t like, that I find un-spontaneous and too time consuming week after week) the AMPP way of eating requires significantly less preparation but a lot more game time decision making.
Remember that you must consider yourself, your lifestyle and quite possibly your personality type when you try new ways of operating around food. The AMPP style of minimal food prep works for me because I can afford to spend a tiny bit of time each week preparing, and that is how I end up staying consistent with it week after week. More than two hours on a Sunday and Wednesday doesn’t work for me (tried it!) so I needed a different way of operating.
How do you meal prep? Do you struggle to make it happen each week? Maybe it’s time to consider a different formula?
If you take anything from this post, let it be this: follow through matters more than preparation and planning. If you’re a great planner but you lack follow through, it’s time to put more effort on the finishing and less on the preparing.