Tag Archives: meal plan

The Pros/Cons of Meal Prep

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If you’ve ever been on Pinterest then you know that it’s pretty much impossible not to have stumbled across people’s personal pins displaying a dozen or so lovely, similar meals packed away into individual Tupperware containers for the week. If you’re not into social media, then maybe you’ve heard of someone who does this; cooks all their week’s meals on Sunday afternoon or evening so they don’t have to worry about what to eat during the work week. Sounds ideal, easy and cost-effective – and it is! But there are some things to consider about planning your meals for the week, whether you’re portioning them out into grab-and-go containers or not.

I will start with the pros of meal planning and prep, and then I will get into some of the downsides. To end, I will offer a couple of simple suggestions to help you make informed choices about your food.

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PROS OF MEAL PLANNING

Weekend meal prep is a useful strategy for people wanting to lose weight via portion control and people who track their macronutrients (think bodybuilders trying to ensure maximal protein and minimal carbohydrate consumption). It also makes things easier for time-pressed working professionals and even busy parents!   

It’s Cost-Effective

Planning and cooking your meals for the whole week at once means you’re armed and ready with a set grocery list when you hit the store, allowing you more time to scrutinize prices while you shop. You’re also more likely to buy bulk or cheaper high-volume, low-cost items since you know that no ingredients will go to waste. More money left over to treat yourself!

 

Takes Away Last-Minute Planning

With a plan in place, you’re never going to be the person scrambling to find their way to the office vending machine at lunch time. You don’t settle for less than your well thought-out meals. No last-minute pizza or overpriced takeout for you!

 

Portion and Calorie Control

It goes without saying that you’re in charge of portions and calories when you put effort into measuring out food for each meal. Casseroles, soups and lasagnas might be tricky to figure out calories for, but you can at least put reasonably size portions into containers and not be tempted to overeat come lunch. Meals that are easier to calorie count (if that’s your thing) include salads, sandwiches and proteins with veggies, rice, quinoa, beans or fruit on the side.

 

Reduces Time in the Kitchen

Although you’re going to be clocking in some major hours in the kitchen one day of the week, you’re ultimately saving a lot of time – a bonus if you work late hours leading up to dinner or often have to take lunch at your desk.

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CONS OF MEAL PLANNING 

My mom’s opinion on Sunday meal planning: “Here I’ve worked hard all week and Sunday is finally my day of rest, and you’re telling me I’ve got to spend the whole time in the kitchen?!? Forget it!!!” If you share this sentiment, then maybe you’ll be happy to hear some of the drawbacks of meal planning. But, even if you don’t meal prep on the weekend, you still need a plan in place for healthy foods and cooking during the week.

 

Calories Don’t Change

Meal planning allows for calorie control, presumably a great thing for those of us looking to trim our waist lines. But wait…is eating the same number of calories every day a good thing? Not necessarily, according to science. “Calorie shifting” is an approach to eating that aims for a total caloric amount every week (aimed at weight loss or management, depending on one’s goals), but with varying calories consumed every day. This helps keep the metabolism “sharp” and from adapting to a set daily intake. The good news is that this approach allows you to consume more on days you need it! Our metabolisms are not static and our activity levels change day-to-day, so don’t be surprised, if you’re a meal planner, if some days the meals are too much or too little.

 

Potential Lack of Nutritional Variety

If your meal plan is a PB&J with an apple for every lunch and a chicken breast with broccoli for every dinner, you’re probably saving some money and controlling your calories, but you’re majorly missing the mark on nutritional variety. Where are the dark, leafy greens? What about some foods with heart-healthy omega fatty-acids (like salmon)? Variety in all food categories (veggies, fruits, proteins, grains, etc.) is going to be best for packing in the nutrients your body needs. One idea: Change up the protein and/or veggie with your dinner for half the week. Another: Trade your apple for an orange or mango. Better yet, try a healthier alternative to the PB&J like avocado toast or smoked salmon and capers on multigrain!

 

Susceptible to Stress or Overeating on “Off” Weeks

If you’re the type of person who flails and flounders without a set plan then you may be prone to overeating or stressing out when you don’t have time for meal planning. Ultimately, meal planning is a tool to help you with your work week, but thoughtful eating and confidence approaching on-the-fly food selections is a skill.

 

Boredom

Meal planning is generally not as suitable for those with adventurous and varied palates. If you cook a lot of one thing in bulk and plan to eat it day after day, you may quickly tire of the taste and opt for something else. This means you’ve wasted time, money and food! “There are starving children in Africa!” Eat your leftovers!

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IMPROVEMENTS FOR MEAL PREP & PLANNING

A happy medium can be found if you’re a meal planner. Here are a few ideas to help ensure you’re able to have the best of all words – cost-efficient foods, nutrient density, variety and appropriate quantity!

 

Back-up Plan

It’s important to have a back-up plan for weeks when meal prep just isn’t feasible. There will be times when you’re too tired to do it, when you haven’t hit the grocery store in time, when special events or travel conflict with cooking, etc. Here are a few back-up plans to consider:

  • Create a budget for a week of every month to buy meals from a healthy, affordable restaurant for lunch or dinner. For example, once a month you could plan to buy salads for lunch from your favorite local café.
  • When you miss your weekend meal-prep, plan another day and time early in the week to tackle your shopping and cooking.
  • Try your hand at cooking every other night of the week and make enough for leftovers at lunch the next day.

 

Stash Meals in Freezer

When you meal prep, try making several large-volume dishes at once. Use your slow cooker, oven and stove top to prepare three separate meals so that you can both use and store some of each meal for optimal present and future variety!

 

Supplement with Snacks

If you’re lacking variety in your planned meals, try supplementing them with nutritious snacks. Snacks are also a way to implement “calorie shifting” into your week (see “Calories Don’t Change” above). A few ideas you can easily prep: Kale chips, sliced fruit, carrots and humus, cottage cheese or greek yogurt and fruit, ¼ cup nuts, a healthy nut or protein bar, apple or banana and a TBS of nut butter.

 

Meal Plan for 1-2 Meals Only

One way you can ensure that you don’t get bored with your food is to meal plan and prep for just lunches or dinners. This will allow you to take the most time-pressed, stressful or expensive meal of the day and make it easier. By sticking to just one or two meals, you still have room in your daily diet for nutritional variety and flexibility.

 

Hope this is helpful info as you kick-off 2017! Cheers to health and happiness!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea

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Healthy Grocery Store Routines

If you can change your grocery store routine for the better, you can change your life. I’m totally serious. What we eat impacts our energy, body shape, body image, confidence and overall vitality. Healthy eating habits aren’t just about weight loss or gain. There’s a reason women and men trying to conceive are told to watch their diet for three months prior to trying. Even people attempting to heal from a physical injury are consulted on how best to eat to reduce inflammation and improve more quickly. The scope of what we can change through better eating is endless. The best place to start is your grocery store routine. From the moment you arrive to when you leave, there are simple strategies you can use to make the experience healthier. Here are 5 easy ones to try.

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1) Where You Park

We’ve all been there…driving furious laps around the grocery store parking lot, attempting to find a space near the automatic front doors. It can feel like a personal assault that no spaces are open when we are in a hurry. We may even roll our eyes in exasperation as someone packing up their car with grocery bags seems to take fooorreeevvveerr.  

Instead of wasting time trying to find that golden parking lot spot near the front or waiting for slowpoke to roll out, just take the first spot that you see. Why waste time going up and down the lanes when you can save time by parking in the first open spot (even if it’s way in the back) and walking in to the store? The extra steps won’t hurt you. In fact, changing this simple “find the easiest route” mentality is a huge deal. If we look at walking 100 yards or less from our car to the store as a nuisance, what other forms of movement throughout our day are we trying to shortcut? Do we avoid getting up more than a couple times a day from our desk to stretch, get water or loosen up with a little stroll around the office? Do we routinely take the escalator when the stairs are right beside it? Change this one simple thing and you’re on your way to including more movement across your whole day.

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2) Shop the Periphery

The periphery of the grocery store is where the good stuff is. You might be thinking I’m wrong because the cookies, crackers, chips and soda are all in the aisles, but I promise you, the periphery of most stores is where you want to do the bulk of your shopping. Why? The perimeter is where the fresh items are: fruits, vegetables, freshly baked breads, meats, fish, and dairy (or dairy substitutes rich in calcium). These foodstuffs are lowest in additives like sugar, sodium and processed chemicals. They are also lower in calories than processed foods and can be delicious on their own or cooked with a little olive oil or some spices.

There are some healthy items such as beans, legumes, plant oils, nuts and grains that can be found in the aisles, but if you spend most of your shopping experience wandering up and down tossing boxes and bags of food into your cart, you’re probably missing out on the most nutrient-dense items your body needs to thrive. Next time you’re grocery shopping make note of where you’re spending most of your time. See if you can pull away from the chip aisle in favor of the produce section.

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3) Plan Ahead

Healthy eating takes planning. Writing down how many meats and veggies you need for the week is a helpful way to have a game plan versus walking into the grocery store, getting overwhelmed thinking about dinner prep, and buying frozen pizzas and burritos. Leave them for hungry college kids to buy. If you balk at the prospect of making a unique meal for each dinner and/or lunch of the week then find two or three recipes that you can tackle one weekend afternoon and separate into meal-size portions for the whole week (or toss some in the freezer for later). Whatever works for you, write it on a notepad or in a phone memo. You want to go in to the store knowing what you’re buying so that last-minute stress and indecision can’t throw off your choices and wreck an entire week of eating.

Another way planning ahead with a list helps is to keep you from overindulging, especially if you go to the store hungry. This will always backfire so try to go after you’ve had a meal or snack. For example, ever gone into Trader Joe’s in the fall? Every inch of that store boasts a delicious pumpkin item from pumpkin butter to pumpkin ice cream. It’s serious pumpkin overload for both lovers and haters of the food. For those of us who LOVE this time of year, especially at TJ’s, it’s nearly impossible to walk out of the store without making impulse buys without a grocery list plan ready.

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4) Allow Yourself a Splurge (or two)

Would it be fair to walk into pumpkin heaven (see above) without allowing myself to splurge on an item or two? No. That would be mean and cruel. Allowing yourself a very specific number of splurge items to buy is totally fine each grocery trip. I suggest two. I usually allow myself to buy some of my favorite sweet potato crackers as one splurge item and then, depending on the week, will let myself get either dark chocolate or coconut milk ice cream. I don’t eat any of these things in excess or all at once, but I like having them in my kitchen for moments when a little something special fits the bill.

Contrary to what people might think, allowing yourself to eat things that you crave can result in eating less, not more. Studies have shown that people who try to deprive themselves of desirable foods end up caving and eating way more of them (they even think about those foods more too!). People also tend to “eat around” what they really want. For example, they really want ice cream but will try to eat some nuts to satisfy their craving first. When the nuts don’t seem to work, they eat some bread or cheese, and on it goes until the person finally eats the ice cream. At this point, they are feeling so guilty for having overeaten other items that they also overeat the ice cream in a shame-binge. Save yourself from this. Just eat the darn ice cream already. And buy it too. 

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5) Get Active as You Exit

We often stand twiddling our thumbs while the cashier swipes our food items and bags them too. Instead of sitting back waiting to complete your transaction, try offering a helping hand. Start bagging the groceries. You will burn a little more energy, make things faster for other shoppers if the lines are long, and will help the friendly cashier with her job. Help out even if they aren’t friendly – you never know what someone is going through! You will also benefit by getting out the door faster and you will save your bananas and eggs from getting crushed. Always a worthy cause to motivate a shopper.

Lastly, as you prepare to leave the premises, your grocery bags neatly stowed in the trunk of your car, there is one last step before turning your key in the ignition. Put the shopping cart away!!! I see grocery store parking lots littered with shopping carts from people too lazy or busy to be bothered to complete this simple step. It’s a courtesy to the people working at the store and other drivers whose cars are at risk of getting hit by runaway carts. Just like step one in this article, this transition in mentality, taking action instead of the easy route out, transcends into other areas of your life too. This same mentality controls whether or not you get off your couch on the weekends and go on a run. It dictates whether you order take-out or cook something healthy.

Keep making the simple decisions that are best for your health and body. It doesn’t have to be hard. It can start with these basic steps at your local grocery store!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz-blue-sea