The first question people ask me when looking to jump on the wellness-wagon is almost always, “What should I eat?”
That question usually sends my excitable nutrition nerdy brain into a tailspin. Instinctively, I want to immediately ask them a series of questions about their home life, their career, their relationship with a power/energy greater than themselves, their friends, their childhood, etc.
If you have not learned this about me yet, my style is less about what you eat and all about why you eat it.
But since you are likely not my client or a member of the boot camp, we will stick to some simple tools that will help you get started, sans personal life influences.
Here are 6 easy steps to crushing the #foodprep game:
- Take Inventory
Pull everything (and I mean everything) out of your pantry/fridge. Toss anything that has expired. Sort all remaining items into “whole foods” (minimal ingredients each of which you understand) and “processed foods” (food that at one time MAY have been food but is now a conglomerate of ingredients you can barely read let alone understand mashed together). Begin to differentiate between food that is making you healthier (apples) and food that is likely making you less healthy (Oreos).
Need a little help sorting your foods into those two categories?
Understanding Food Labels Video
Take the pile of processed food and get it out of your house. It does not serve you and it will make you do silly things at 2am if you know it is in the pantry/freezer (I’m looking at you girl scout cookies). If you need to, do something with it that will make you not feel like you are throwing it out.
Of the whole foods, begin making a written/typed list of the foods you have. Inventory will help you begin to build your menu and shopping list. This will also prevent you from blowing your budget at the store. #wholepaycheck
2. Make a Menu for the Work/School Week
The way I menu plan is pretty simple.
I assume six meals/snacks will happen in a given workday that includes an evening workout. If I don’t workout, I drop the shake and the Healthy Carb (HC) from dinner (sometimes).
At each meal, I identify foods that make up my macronutrient needs for the day:
Lean Protein: meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, egg whites, etc.
High Nutrient Carbohydrate: vegetables (low GI)
Healthy Fat: nuts, seeds, avocado, and unrefined oils
and on workout days I add minimally processed or completely unprocessed starchy Carbohydrate such as fruit, rice, sweet potato, gf waffles, etc.
Then – I figure out how much I think I will need for the work week. It often looks like a ridiculous word problem with long division, diagrams and pie charts. Mental math was never my strength.
Each meal I strive for balance of each macronutrient. Each meal is made up of foods that have a mostly balanced caloric makeup of Protein, Carbs, and Fat.
In my journal and on my refrigerator whiteboard, I will use different colors to identify each. This is not just functional offering a visual idea of where I’m lacking – it’s kinda fun and allows me to add some creativity to my regimented eating preparation. As I’m planning, I’m adding these into my food journal or My Fitness Pal.
Meal 1: 6:30am “Breakfast Omelette”
P: Egg Whites, 1/2 C
C: Spinach/Kale/Mushrooms, A handful each and Salsa, 2 TBS
F: Avocado, 1/4 Fruit
(I do not include spices or herbs in my journal – I just use the ones with legible ingredients in moderation)
Meal 2: 10:30am “Taco Salad”
P: Ground Turkey, 4 oz (measured raw it will cook down to about 3 oz thanks Denise!)
C: Chopped Lettuce, Peppers, Cucumber & Tomatoes, a handful each and Onions cooked in Ground Turkey (1/4 Cup or Less Per Serving)
F: Avocado, 1/4 Fruit (mashed up with salt, lime and cilantro)
(Taco Seasoning Mix Recipe)
Meal 3: 2:30pm “Asian Stir Fry”
P: Chicken Breast, 4 oz (raw)
C: Tri-Colored Peppers and Onion Blend (Frozen), handful
F: Coconut Aminos and Ghee (give or take 1 Tbsp total)
HC: Brown Jasmine Rice, 1/4 C (dry)
Meal 4: 7:00pm “Post/Intra Workout Shake”
P: True Nutrition Pumpkin Seed Protein (Vanilla), One Scoop
C: Coconut Water, 8 oz
Meal 5: When I get home from the gym “Dinner”
P: Different Every Night (Fish, Lean Meat, Eggs, etc.)
C: Different Every Night (Veggies! Lots of Veggies)
F: Different Every Night (Sometimes Butter, Peanut Butter, Oils, Seeds, etc.)
HC: Different Every Night (Slice of GF Bread, Potatoes, GF Waffles, Quinoa, etc.)
Meal 6: 9pm (I’ve recently stopped doing this while trying some food elimination tests)
P: Casein Powder
HC: Berries and Coco Whip
F: Peanut Butter or PBFIT/PB2 if I’m on a “Cut”
3. Create a Shopping List
Based on what your inventory sheet says and what you need to complete your weekly menu, make a list of foods and staples you will need to make this menu happen.
4. Simplify your Grocery Trip and Go!
Remember, your menu (above) was built per day. This means you will need to figure out how many packages of ground turkey it will take to make four to five days of food. I usually do 3-4 oz of ground turkey so that is a one pound package per week. Buying multiples of my frozen veggies helps because if I run out, I just hit up the freezer for the second bag of broccoli. Make sense? No? Email me.
One trick I learned from my friend Jamie is that most grocery stores now have online shopping. I’ve heard people knock this due to the cost and “someone else picking out my produce” but I find this method to be well worth it. For one, it saves you the time you would take in the store and second, you will avoid spending money on things you don’t need. Time is money. Money is money! Just about every grocery store is starting this service. It’s awesome.
Also, you don’t need to buy all fresh veggies. I can’t tell you how much food I have thrown away (with gloves on) thinking that I needed to have fresh everything all the time. Frozen and canned (with no added crap – check your ingredient labels) can be very economical and save you a ton of money on the front and back end.
5. Plan your “Food Prep Playlist”
You don’t have to do this, but I like to download some Podcasts and plan out my Netflix binges. I prop my Ipad up in the kitchen and have it rolling in the background while I prep. My husband even bought me bluetooth headphones so I can freely dance around the kitchen to Pandora while he’s watching golf (napping on the couch) on Sundays.
6. Organize, Time, Chop, Cook and Plate!
Lay all of your food out where you can see it. Figure out the timing in advance – this will save you frustration and daylight hours. Sort your food containers out so you know you have enough to get everything organized. I still haven’t mastered this art, but if you can clean as you go – it will eliminate hours of food prep mess.
Tools You May Want to Invest In
- A Food Journal: Nothing fancy but, I like to track things like when, what, how much I ate. In addition, identifying how you felt physically and emotionally around the time you ate will help you identify how your mood impacts your food and vice versa.Or this will work too!
- A Food Scale: Go fancy like THIS or just get the one I have like THIS.
- A Lunch Box/Cooler & Ice Pack: Here is an article on the best lunch boxes! Enjoy.
- Baller Containers: I use simple rubbermaid and pyrex, but these are cool!
- A Netflix Subscription and a Mobile Device: For binge watching or listening to while you work! “Podcast Roulette” is my favorite! I have about 20 or so Podcasts regularly in circulation for Sunday Mornings. Sometimes I’ll intentionally make more elaborate recipes so I can catch up.
- Measuring Cups and Spoons: These are just essential. I recently bought some metal ones from target just to go with my future new kitchen. These!
- Really good knives (or just one really good knife)
- A slow cooker or Instant Pot: For days where I know I’ll be running around, I rely a ton on my Instant Pot/Slow Cooker. Two sites that have really great recipes for on the go are Nom Nom Paleo and PaleOMG.
Q: Won’t my food go bad by Friday?
A: Food that is cooked on Sunday rarely tastes delicious on Friday (unless it’s overnight oats – for some reason that stuff just gets better with age).
Sunday – I freeze all my meals for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
On Monday, I take out Wednesday’s meals and put them in the fridge.
On Tuesday, I take out Thursday’s meals and put those in the fridge.
On Wednesday, I take out Friday’s meals and put those in the fridge (see the pattern).
That way, the food has a little bit of time to thaw, but hasn’t gone rancid sitting in the refrigerator for five days.
If you have questions, feel free to send me a message or leave a comment.
Happy Meal Prepping!