Many of us find the time to go to the gym, but have a hard time sticking to another commitment which is just as vital for health and wellness as exercise; yup, sticking to a healthy diet.
“On paper, five to seven compact tasty, nutritious meals a day to keep your metabolism revved up and your muscles nourished for optimum performance sounds great. But in between classes, office jobs or running family errands, the majority of us can barely squeeze in gym time every day, let alone find an hour or two to prepare several small feasts,” says Ivana Buchanan, group training specialist at Zone Fitness.
Luckily, there may be a way to bypass the time constraints of a routined existence.
Enter meal prepping
Meal prepping is exactly what the name suggests; preparing meals in advance. But here’s the thing; meal prepping is a practice made for people with real lives.
“By taking one to three hours every Sunday, you can easily prepare three to six days’ worth of meals, saving you lots of time – think an hour or more each day – and effort through the week,” Buchanan says.
What you need
A well-equipped kitchen with basic appliances – stove, oven, knives, chopping board, blender, fridge and freezer, pots, pans and baking trays, measuring cups and spoons – is a must. If you live in res, why not ask the matron if you can slip into the kitchen each Sunday?
“Besides the obvious, your biggest ally is plenty of Tupperware,” says Buchanan. This is a bit of an investment if you’re doing it once-off but a worthwhile one at that! If it’s a bit out of your budget right now, old glass jars and ice cream containers will do the trick for the time being.
How to plan
First of all, work out a meal plan. “Enlisting the services of both a personal trainer and dietician to help you plan meals according to your daily routine, exercise regimen, dietary needs and budget is a source of great help to make meal prepping work for you,” Ivana says.
What’s also nice about meal prepping is that you can mix it up every week with new recipes so you don’t get bored. Researching the amount of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and kilojoules you need will make all the difference in helping you know which recipes will work.
How to pull it off
As mentioned above, if you’re smart about it, you can get everything done in one to three hours. “Cook everything in bulk, together. Meat (if you’re not vegetarian) and vegetables in the oven, and grains (think brown rice and quinoa) in a pot, all at once. In between, you can prepare sauces and dressings,” says Buchanan.
Bare in mind that not all meals can be prepared in advance, due to the freshness factor. Try to prepare salads and smoothies daily, or the night before – these require minimal effort anyway.
“Make meal prepping fun by playing music while you cook, or even getting a friend to do it with you. Also, opting for foods that you don’t like will most likely result in you not sticking to your fool-proof meal plan,” Buchanan continues. “Search the internet for nutritious recipes that consist of foods that you do find appetizing. Even better, get creative and make up your own!”
Bringing it all together
In a fast-paced world, we need to make sure that every second counts, and save precious minutes around every corner. Meal prepping on a Saturday or Sunday gives you a big headstart for the rest of the week, plus buying in bulk could even save you a bit of money at the end of each month. For meal inspiration, follow a few appealing blogs and Instagram accounts; just search for #mealprep.
“Why not get on board and showcase your own prepping on your social media accounts?” Buchanan asks. “Meal prepping really is popular right now, and with good reason; it’s like fast food, but super healthy!”