Healthy Meal Prep: The Benefits and Struggles
A dad who is looking for a easy, healthy meal prep, ways to lose weight or a develop a healthy diet plan may not have noticed the explosion of ready-to-eat meal kits and food delivery services that have turned up over the last few years.
Backed by slick marketing and beautiful images of wholesome-looking food, these services that either deliver whole meals to your door or ingredients and recipe cards are examples of the “on demand” culture in which we live. Add in takeaway delivery from dozens of local restaurants with the touch of an app on your phone, and we’ve got a difficult road ahead convincing anyone of the benefits of preparing meals in advance.
But using a “healthy meal prep” and organizing your food in advance has plenty of benefits. Today we’ve listed below the main ones that will fit into a balanced weight loss program and a healthy diet plan.
Keeping on Top of Calories and Macros
One of the most difficult things about sticking to a healthy diet plan is not knowing whether or not you are doing it right. Say, for instance, you’re at work and you’ve been out for a meeting that’s gone over time, and you have to choose from the café options for lunch. You choose a tuna sandwich with a side salad. Well done – super healthy choice, right? Maybe not. If that tuna sandwich had mayonnaise and butter on it, and the salad had a dressing, then you might be eating as many calories as half a pizza.
Repeat that experience a few times a week, and while you might think you’re making all the right choices, your macros (carbs, proteins, healthy fats) will be completely off. Planning allows you to know exactly what is going into your lunch box, and by extension, your body.
The biggest, most enduring benefit to a healthy meal prep is undoubtedly being able to consistently and repeatably stick to a healthy diet plan by eating nutritious food that you’ve taken the time to think about, plan, and prepare in advance.
For most dads, mornings are far from relaxing with work to plan, kids to drop off, and very likely, a commute. Coupled with that, a lot of guys find it hard to eat something first thing in the morning. Get a healthy meal prep ready for breakfast, the night before is best, which means that you can get up, get everything around the house done, and get to work before taking your breakfast out of your bag and eating it while you check your emails.
Bircher muesli/oats, boiled eggs on rice cakes or corn thins with some tomato relish or even a smoothie in a portable container are all quick and easy options that can be made with healthy ingredients. And the muesli, oats, and smoothie all come with plenty of options for flavor and topping combinations, meaning you won’t get bored of eating the same thing. You can even add your oats to your smoothie to make it a power start to the day.
The problem with not doing a healthy meal prep for the day, especially when it’s a work day, is that your cravings are more powerful and less manageable. Typically, hunger pangs will start, and end up driving you to either the closest source of food (which is typically the snack bar or a vending machine), or to the closest supermarket, quick-serve deli, or café. And that’s where the big mistake is made. We all know that doing the grocery shopping when we’re hungry is likely to lead to all manner of rubbish being put into the trolley. So why would it be any different for a food-craving driven snack or lunch stop?
Meal prepping your meals and your snacks in advance gives you control as well as convenience.
Freedom From Choice
Making decisions is exhausting. Apple founder Steve Jobs wore the same clothes to work each day because he wanted his mind to be free to work on harder problems and not get bogged down in boring decision making. We’re not suggesting that a dad looking to get his abs back after 40 needs to be quite so drastic with his food, but the lesson is still a good one.
Having to think about what you want to eat, could eat, or should eat every time you get hungry is an exhausting pursuit. Preparing a few meals and snacks two or three days in advance, in bulk, is a huge time saver overall. For a little upfront investment, you make a deposit on way more free time later in the week, while also freeing yourself from the daily chore of deciding what to eat.
This is obvious, but we’ll say it anyway. Buying food on demand is a sure-fire way to dent your bank balance. No one is suggesting that you meal prep to the point that an impromptu lunch can’t happen. But heading to work with a bag devoid of any food is a poor financial choice.
Look at this seemingly thrifty example that doesn’t have any excessive purchases in it. Your breakfast was at 7:00 am, so when you go to get your morning coffee you grab a muffin too. That’s £1.60. At lunchtime, you grab a relatively cheap £4 lunch deal. You need a snack to get through to the end of the day, so that’s another £1.60 from the corner shop. And just like that, you’ve spent £10.20 in a day. That’s £30.60 each week if you do it just three times a week, which works about around £1468 in a year (assuming you work 48 weeks of the 52). Yep: £1468.
While health and fitness should be its own reward, there’s no doubt that money is just about the most powerful motivator there is, so coupling the two of them is a huge push towards preparing meals in advance with ingredients from the supermarket. Making a few healthy meals in advance is suddenly looking a lot more attractive, isn’t it?
Any dad knows well that despite everyone’s best efforts, a lot of food ends up in the bin at the end of the week. But it’s especially frustrating when that happens to fresh food or uncooked ingredients because a recipe only needed half of a particular ingredient. Meal prep is a little like running a mini commercial kitchen. Because multiple serves of everything are made, it’s much more likely that ingredients are fully consumed, not left half used and put back into the fridge to go moldy.
Meal prepping means automatic consistency of effort with your food. As we’ve talked about before, health and fitness goals are 80% dependent on what goes into your body, in other words, your diet. But that 80% is made up of dozens and dozens of individual choices across any given week, and hundreds in any month. Each of those is a chance to veer off course and put that 80% “weighting” at risk by making poor choices or not being able to get the right food at the right time.
Meal prepping doesn’t force you to make the right choices; it just allows you to make them by default. Defaults are very powerful behavioral cues, and having a healthy meal in the fridge ahead of time is one of the most powerful default settings you can create for yourself.
The end result of having good defaults is more good choices and fewer poor ones. And the upshot of that is reaching your health and fitness goals much faster as a result.
Leaving aside the fact that purchased food is way more likely to be an inappropriate portion size for someone trying to lose weight, meal prepping also allows you to be smart with your portions. And at the other end of the spectrum, it also allows you to make the right amount of food, and not get trapped by bringing last night’s leftovers, even if what’s left is too small to actually be a satisfying meal.
The arguments in favor of preparing a majority of meals ahead of time are compelling. When a course of action helps to save money, gives you more time in your week, accelerates your journey to your fitness goals, and gets you eating healthier all at the same time, it’s hard to think of reasons not to start doing it immediately!
Our NO GYM Guide will help you shortcut your meal prep to make it quick and easy.