Looking to start eating better but don't know where to begin? Feel like you're stuck in a nutrition slump? It's easy to find yourself lost and confused when it comes to clean eating. One day you’re super psyched, the next you’ve got no idea what to do next.
If you want to find success with your clean eating efforts, you’ve got to embrace meal planning and prepping food in advance. To help you get started, here are 5 steps to make it happen as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Step 1: Plan Your Menu
This first step is probably one of the most important parts of meal prepping. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll be lost. You know the phrase, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” Or how about this one, “Plan to succeed.” These two phrases never held so much truth than when it comes to nutrition and clean eating. Take some time to put together a tentative meal plan of what you’d like to eat throughout the week for meals and snacks. Don’t think of this meal plan as the end-all, be-all because it’s not – there can always be revisions and will most likely be times where you have to make last minute adjustments. That’s totally ok. This meal plan is supposed to work as your framework and guideline.
Step 2: Make a Grocery List – and Shop!
Using your brand new meal plan, create a grocery list. Go to the store and get everything you need for the week. Having all the healthy foods you want in your house leaves no excuse to grab fast food or reach for the cookies you have stashed in the back of your pantry.
Step 3: Start cooking!
Pick one day during the week to cook and prepare the foods that will make up your meals and snacks. Most often Sunday is a good day for this because it’s generally not a work day and it’s the day before the start of a new week, so your food will have less of a chance of spoiling before you eat it. Fire up your grill (or oven) and cook up a bunch of chicken breast, steak, fish, burgers or whatever lean protein source you prefer. Boil a huge pot of hardboiled eggs to store in the fridge and peel as you need them. Make a big pot of brown rice, quinoa or whole-wheat pasta to portion out for your meals. Clean and cut fresh fruits and veggies. You can do all of these takes simultaneously. Boiling water for eggs and rice can be done in two separate pots at the same time while your steak and chicken cook on the grill. Find ways to save time and multi-task.
Step 4: Portion It Out and Pack It Up!
Get yourself an insulated tote or cooler and some plastic containers that aren’t too big or too small, but just the right size to fit your meals and snacks. Freezer and sandwich bags work well too for excess food you won’t need until later in the week. Spend some time portioning out meals and snacks for Monday through Friday in your containers and plastic baggies. Leave Monday-Wednesday meals and snacks in the fridge and put Thursday and Friday in the freezer. When Wednesday rolls around, move Thursday and Friday meals from the freezer to the fridge to defrost. If you prep and package everything in advance, it will be easy to grab-&-go everything you need to eat for the day before heading to work. And if you have these foods with you all day, you’ll have no excuse to eat out saving money and calories.
Step 5: Always Pack Extra
Sometimes you get stuck at work or worse, stuck in traffic just at that moment when your stomach starts to growl. This is where those “just-in-case” extra snacks you packed in your lunchbox will come in handy. Carry extra pieces of fruit, baggies of baby carrots, packs of mixed nuts or almonds, and Pure Protein bars with you, and more often than not, you’ll be thankful you did. If you’re not prepared for the worst, you’ll end up falling off the wagon and slowing your progress. Think ahead and plan for your entire day whether you’re going to work that day or not.
Creating a meal plan for yourself is easier than you think. But if you’re still a bit unsure, here’s a sample meal plan to get you started. Tweak this one to work for you and your lifestyle, or try it the way it is. Good luck!
Sample Meal Plan
- Breakfast: 2 hardboiled eggs with 2 slices Ezekiel toast and 1 cup grapes
- Snack: 6 ounces plain nonfat Greek style yogurt with 1 100-calorie pack almonds and ¼ cup blueberries
- Lunch: Large salad topped with 4 ounces grilled chicken, 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese, 1 tablespoon dried cranberries, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. On the side, 1 100-calorie pack of hummus with sliced baby carrots, sliced cucumber, sliced red pepper and celery sticks.
- Snack: Chocolate Salted Caramel Pure Protein Bar
- Dinner: 1-cup brown rice with 4 ounces grilled salmon and 1-cup steamed broccoli
- PM Snack: 1 cup sliced strawberries with whipped cream
- Extra “Just-in-case” snack: 1 apple or banana and 1 Pure Protein S’mores Bar
*Always consult your doctor before beginning this or any diet or exercise program.