Clean Eating

How & Why We Prep Meals

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If you have been following myself or Sarah on social media lately, you’ve been seeing those little black to-go containers full of food, neatly packed together, in a methodical, yet practical fashion.   Did we order 5 of the same entrees from our favorite restaurant? Even better friends. We made those meals ourselves, with a widely known method called “meal-prep”.

Meal-prep has been around longer than most people think and not just something bodybuilding goons do so they can get their meals or calories in for the day.  Meal-prep is a just a simple way of planning  your meals for the week for whatever meal period and having a corresponding entree.  It is a matter of picking a protein, a carb source, and a vegetable that you wouldn’t mind eating for a couple of meals.

Depending on your goals, whether it is to lose or gain weight, maintain, or just to simply have a lunch packed everyday, meal-prepping ensures you are always prepared.  Remember; failing to plan is planning to fail.

 

Why We Prep Meals for the Week

Last September, I started intermittent fasting with the goal of losing weight.  I was researching meal-prep ideas and learning a little about nutrition until I finally decided to start planning our meals for the week.

By doing meal-prep, Sarah and I are able to control each portion of food, down to the last ounce.  It allows us to eat healthier while we are out working or when we are at home on our days off.  It helps save us money because it reminds us we have a meal ready to go versus having to eat fast food .  It also eliminates making  bad choices at work like having fried, greasy food.

Since Sarah and I are on a “fertility-diet” so to speak, meal-prepping allows us to know what ingredients go into each meal and allows us to know what goes into our bodies as well.

 

How We Prep Meals for the Week

It all begins with a grocery list. We research recipe ideas beforehand so we can get some ideas floating around. We start with a couple of proteins (like beef, chicken, pork, etc.) and then decide on the starch (sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, etc.).  We usually have a lot of frozen veggies on hand, but we also pick up a few more bags because we go through them so quickly. Depending on the recipes we chose, we may pick up some barbecue sauce or some salsa too.  We go through many bottles a month!

Once we have all the groceries ready to go, we cook the starch while cooking the protein.  We love using our crockpot for our proteins because it allows us to just throw the ingredients in and forget about it for a couple of hours.  We usually bake our sweet potatoes or boil up some rice with some herbs and spices and coconut oil.  So, our meat can be cooking in the crockpot while the carbohydrates are cooking in the oven or on the stovetop.  We love multi-tasking for saving time!

Once everything is cooked and cooled down slightly, we portion each meal accordingly.  Sarah usually can’t eat as much as I do so I usually opt for more protein than her. I usually don’t like too many veggies so we load her meals up with those. Once they are portioned, we simply refrigerate them on separate shelves so we know whose is whose. It’s usually easier to determine when both of us have different proteins/starches/veggies too.

This is all done in one day, usually in just a few minutes of prep time and a few hours of cook time while we are doing other things.

 

Our Meals for this Week

Items from the grocery store:

This past week we picked up some chicken thighs, lean ground beef, a large jug of salsa, sweet potatoes and green beans.

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Salsa chicken:

Using our slow cooker and liners, this is the easiest way to make salsa chicken.

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We first put the chicken thighs in the lined slow-cooker.

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Next, we put a generous cup or two of salsa.

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We then throw in whatever spices we feel like.

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A generous shake of paprika, a dash of red pepper flakes, a few sprinkles of meat magic and chili powder and a cap full of Mrs. Dash

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Can you tell that this has gotten a lot of use?

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After a  5-6 hours on low, the chicken is easy to shred and looks amazing. Drool.  This recipe makes for SUCH juicy chicken!

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Meatballs:

We started with some nice lean ground beef.

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Next, some Italian seasonings. I never have measurements, I usually just wing it!

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Since we are trying our best to avoid gluten and dairy, we used about a half-cup coconut flour for this recipe instead of all-purpose or whole wheat flour.

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We then added 4 eggs to this particular recipe.

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 Coconut flour, seasonings, and eggs, all together.

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Next, we mixed all the seasonings together until they were fully incorporated in the meat.

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Using a small 2 oz. ice cream scoop, we portioned out each meat ball.

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Making sure the meatballs didn’t stick to our pans, we used coconut spray.

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All the meatballs – portioned and ready to go into a hot oven.

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We set the oven to 375 degrees (F) and covered the meatballs.

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We cooked them covered for 30 minutes, removed the foil and let them brown up for an additional 10 minutes.

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Roasted sweet potatoes:

We first washed and cubed up the sweet potatoes.

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After it was cubed up , we tossed it in a large bowl.

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We drizzled some olive oil,  salt and pepper, and cinnamon on the potatoes.

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Next,we lined a  baking pan with foil, sprayed it with some coconut oil spray and laid out the potatoes. We baked it at 375 (F) for 40 minutes (or until they are fork tender)

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The final product:

Here’s what the meals look like when they are all done and portioned out. I chose green beans for my meals as the veggie.  I drizzled some barbecue sauce on the meatballs for flavor.

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Sarah was having the salsa chicken and she decided on corn for her meals
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By doing meal-prep, we have saved a lot of time, and it has helped us eat healthier by controlling not only the portions, but the ingredients as well.

Sarah and I dedicated an entire afternoon to make these meals. It took us a couple of hours to have  ten meals prepared for the week.  With our busy schedules and time spent away from home, it’s nice knowing that we have a home-cooked meal waiting for us whenever we need it.

Have you ever tried meal prepping? Did you see a benefit in your health and  your time?

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Eat/Fast/Eat:How Intermittent Fasting Works for ME

In my last post, I mentioned that I started doing this new schedule of eating (if you will), called intermittent fasting (IF).  If you don’t know what intermittent fasting is, please click here first and enlighten yourself.

I’m not here to say that you, your friends, and dog should start intermittent fasting. I’m not here saying that it will be the best thing since sliced bread to help you with your fitness goals.  I will be sharing my thoughts, my dislikes, and my over all opinion on it.

If you have at least got a decent understanding what IF is, then  you understand the ‘feasting window’.  Since I have chosen a 16/8 time frame, I had to first decide what would be the ideal time to break the fast and end it. Since I typically work a random schedule as it is, I can almost guarantee that my first break comes a little after noon most days. Since Sarah does not get home until later in the evening, we usually don’t have dinner until about seven.  So, through a perfect guess, I found that by breaking fast around 1-2 PM and starting the fast a little after 8 seemed to be what works best for me.

I’m not going to lie, the first day was unbearable, considering that I had to wake up a lot earlier than normal and have to work with food all day. I almost pulled a 20/4 window without even trying. I felt more tired, I felt more irritable, and I obviously felt much, much more hungry.  After a couple of days I finally got the hang of it and it’s pretty much been smooth sailing since. Since I’m on a cut (meaning a caloric deficit from what my maintanence caloric intake is), I’m only allowed a set amount of calories a day and doing IF has allowed me to distribute my calories between two larger meals, rather than three or six of them (as some people do). Who wants to eat six small meals with less than 400 calories a piece?

Positives:

By doing IF, it has taught me to have a lot of self control.  Knowing that I’ll be able to have two larger meals later in the day makes me fight my cravings throughout the day. My training at the gym has gotten better because I don’t have something sitting in my stomach weighing me down.  I’ve also have really embraced the idea that food is a gift, a privilege, and a blessing to have readily available.  Time and time again, I’ll vacantly stare at my plate of food. Take it all in. I remind myself that I’m so lucky to have what it is I have in front of me and that each meal acts as a reward for working so hard throughout the day. Eat to live. Not live to eat.  Not only have I noticed weight loss, I’ve also had better looking skin with less breakouts and I also am more focused in the mornings.

Negatives:

The first negative was not having breakfast anymore. I’d say it was the hardest part about starting this for me because I love breakfast. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, sausage, etc., I love it all. Skipping that meal was mentally challenging for me because I was so used to having a fluffy omelette or egg sandwich every morning.  Although I’ve learned self-control, it’s so easy to be tempted by anything and everything around our kitchen at work and at home.  While the idea of two larger meals later in the day sounds peachy, it’s not the easiest feat to shove down a large plate of food. I made the mistake my first few days by trying to eat too much in a short window and it immediately turned me off of IF.  It took over a week but I finally figured out how much I could eat without making it so that I was literally forcing food down my throat.

Overall thoughts:

With all of the new ways of eating and dieting that has come up in today’s time, I’ve finally found the one that works best for me. It’s not easy starting out either. It took me a while to finally understand the timing and to finally build up enough mental strength to continue on.  Since I’ve started IF, I’ve lost about ten pounds in three months.  It would be more if I actually ate really healthy, but hey I’m only human.  I also enjoy doing it because it’s allowed me to prove to myself that I can follow through on my fitness goals and stick with a new program/diet.

Do I recommend IF for everyone? Not at all. Do I think people who are struggling with weight loss should give it a try. Yes.  Of course people assume, “so you’re starving yourself to lose weight?”.  To a degree, yes and no. Yes, in the fact that there is a large window of time where there is no food consumption. No, because I’m still getting all of my calories and macro-nutrients in for the day, just at a later time.

With patience and time, I managed to find my stride with my new eating routine. Has there been new trends or diets that seem to click with you and your body? What were the ups and downs of those programs? What helped you refocus and attain your goals?