Meal prep has honestly transformed my life! I think the best way for me to truly explain how it has is by giving you a bit of history about my gut health and 2019 wellness goals.
My wellness goals and meal prep
I have a sensitive gut and at the end of 2018 and in the first few weeks of January 2019, I had a few experiences that made me realise I had to change the way I eat. In a nutshell, I felt like my eating habits were giving me symptoms that were similar to gastro. I had also been relying on Movicol on and off to help me go to the bathroom, and I decided this was not a long-term solution to my gut problems and overall health.
I knew I had to work on my overeating and sweet tooth and recognised that I had to start preparing my meals in advance to create consistent eating habits. It felt natural that these formed the bulk of my wellness goals for 2019 (which I discuss more in this post).
So, how did I start my journey?
I’ve been working full-time for a long time and have a rough idea of when I need to eat. Like most people, my energy levels differ day to day, so some days I need more food than others, but overall – I eat around the same time every day. My day usually goes like this:
Substantial afternoon snack to tie me over to dinner
I eat everything BUT dinner at work, and for years I was coming to work with no meals prepared! Yes, that means I was buying food every day, and as we all know, this isn’t the most budget friendly thing. To cut costs I often opted for cheap and convenient, and generally unhealthy, meals to stay full.
I started researching work-friendly recipes
It may sound obvious, but I had to face the facts that I needed to come to work with breakfast, a morning snack, lunch and a substantial afternoon snack prepared.
This was daunting at the time and the following thoughts circulated in my mind before I started my meal prep journey:
The amount of time I’d have to spend cooking on a Sunday when I could be doing other things!
The containers I’d need to bring to work every day!
The planning! The preparation!
Will I be bothered to make enough variety?
Will there be enough room in the communal work fridge for my 1 million containers?
Yes, I have a tendency to overthink but hey, they are legitimate worries that went through my head.
I created a criteria
I created a criteria of the features I was looking for in these meals and snacks I wanted to prepare:
- Had to be made of predominately natural ingredients
- Be vegetarian
- High in fibre (nature’s Movicol as I like to call it)
- Public transport friendly (or in other words – container friendly)
- Low in sugar
Trial and error helped me realise what’s best for me
A few months of trying things made me come to the conclusion that the below meals work for me:
- Overnight oats with banana and chia seeds
- Cereal with Almond or Soy Milk
- Lentil or chickpea stew with brown rice or a wholemeal bread roll
- Salad with a protein (chicken, beef) and brown rice or a wholemeal bread roll
- A large handful of nuts
- Chia-seed pudding
- Rice cakes with peanut butter
- Chopped vegetables
Breakfast and Lunch may sound a little boring, but trust me, they’re not! There are millions of ways you can create overnight oats, cook lentils and jazz up meat protein.
Meal prep requires a bit of planning
I like to plan what I’m eating on Saturday or Sunday. This usually involves googling new recipes or looking on Pinterest. Sometimes I’ll sort through my favourite recipes in my recipe book. Whatever I choose, I make sure to check my pantry and freezer to see if I already have any of the ingredients for the meals I will prep. I’ll go to the shops and buy the rest.
How long does meal prep take?
This really depends on what I’m making. Some things do require a bit of ‘pre-meal’ meal prep. For example, if I’m cooking green lentils, I like to soak them for four hours before I’m about to use them. If I’m baking chicken breast, I like to marinate it for 3-4 hours so it absorbs the flavours more.
Meal prep containers
It’s so important to have the right containers when meal prepping. If you’re preparing for the whole week, you will need a lot. I’ve shown what I use below.
Sistema 940ml Noodle Bowl
I have quite a few of these and I haven’t had any issues with spillage!
1 Litre rectangular container
I use this more in summer when I make grilled chicken salads with brown rice and vegetables. There’s enough room to stir everything evenly so that my dressing coats all the ingredients.
Where am I now?
I have weeks where I fall off the wagon and don’t prepare my meals in advance. Trying to figure out what to eat on these days is stressful. But you know what? It’s made me realise that although meal prep does take a few hours on a weekend, it eliminates a lot of stress during the work week. I try not to beat myself up when I don’t come to work with anything – what will that achieve?
I recently had a blood test and some of my vitamin levels went down because I’ve cut out meat. I generally eat meat at dinner but now I’m not shying away from eating it at lunch. I have found that as I am eating better overall, I can stomach meat a lot better than when I was eating rubbish most of the time.
I definitely think one of my wellness goals for next year is to reduce the amount of weeks I don’t meal prep!
I would love to know if you have been on a similar journey? Or perhaps you taught yourself to meal prep for other reasons?