Meal prepping is all the rage these days. Some days my social media feed is full of aspirational pics of peoples' meals, all lined up and ready for the week.
It looks amazing, and there certainly are some benefits:
Home made food is definitely healthier than food court and fast food options. You will be consuming less saturated fat, less salt, and if you make an effort to prep healthy meals you will be eating less refined carbs, more fibre and micronutrients.
Meal planning can reduce food choice "decision fatigue", and leave you less vulnerable to making unhealthy food choices in the heat of the moment. Having all your meals and snacks prepped for the week can put your daily eating on autopilot, removing choice and uncertainty. This can facilitate healthy eating of you are the kind of person who can make impulsive, less-than-ideal food choices when you are out and about.
Meal prepping can give you more time through the week. You won't be standing in line at the food court at lunchtime, and when you get home from work, late and exhausted, your meal is in the fridge waiting for you to reheat it. If that exhausted after-work period is a danger zone for you, having a pre-prepared healthy dinner waiting for you can be a godsend. My clients who go to the gym after work especially love this option.
Meal prepping can also save you money and reduce food waste. Taking your lunch and snacks to work instead of purchasing food court and cafe meals is a huge money saver. Also, if you plan what you are going to eat and then shop only for the ingredients you will need you will save money on your weekly shop, and you will find you are throwing away less ingredients out of your fridge and pantry.
Meal prepping can also be really helpful if you want to work on your portion control.
But food prepping is not for everyone. Here are some other things to consider:
Some meals don't really stand up well to refrigeration and storage. So you will need to keep food safety and storage top of mind, and prepare meals that store well for a week. Soups, curries and stews are great options - but only if you enjoy them!
If you are prone to "food boredom" (aka flavour fatigue) you might find you become increasingly reluctant to eat your prepped meals as you get to the end of the week. If variety is important to you, meal prepping might not be the best choice. There is no advantage in meal prepping if the meals end up in the bin!
If you have a history of binge eating, be careful about food prepping. If you find yourself regularly dipping into the next day's meals and snacks, meal prepping may not be ideal for you, especially if you start beating yourself up or become distressed about it.
Meal prepping definitely eats into your weekend. For many people, the decision of whether or not to food prep often comes down to how much they value their time on the weekend, versus the extra snippets of time they gain throughout the week from having their meals already prepped. Some of my clients point blank refuse to spend weekend time prepping and packaging all of their food for the week. If you have better things to do with your weekend (and mucho bonus points of it involves healthy movement or wonderful times with loved ones!) then meal prepping probably won't be right for you.
If the kitchen is not your all-time fave place, and if you cope best with kitchen time in small doses, then the time you spend on meal prepping might just be too unpleasant and stressful for you.
And finally, the clean-up after a marathon meal prep session can be overwhelming. And washing up all those containers can be a pain!
I don’t have a set view in favour of or against meal prepping.
We are all different, with different likes, dislikes, commitments, careers, routines, families and so much more. What works for one person might be a disaster for another.
If you like the idea of meal prepping, then definitely give it a try, and decide if it works for you.
But if the idea of full-scale meal prepping is overwhelming, I have a compromise to suggest:
Build a repertoire of 5-10 super-fast, healthy meals that you love to eat. I'm talking about meals that can be thrown together from start to finish in under 20 minutes, or meals that you can spend 5 minutes prepping and then throw into the oven.* This will give you extra time in the evening, and you will be eating freshly prepared nutritious meals. AND if you cook extra, you will have the next day's lunch and/or dinner ready too (or a meal to pop into the freezer for those evenings when you just can't face more than 5 minutes in the kitchen!)
Instead of regimented weekly meal prep sessions, consider the occasional session in the kitchen to whip up a big batch of a dish you can freeze, ready for those times you will need a fast nutritious meal. And if you want to get creative, make it a social catch up, or arrange to swap freezer-ready meals with a fellow healthy foodie!
One thing I really do recommend is Meal PLANNING
Meal Planning is different to Meal Prepping, and involves blocking out 15-20 minutes each week to plan all of your meals and snacks for the coming week, and shop according to your plan. I highly recommend everyone tries out meal planning as there are so many benefits to putting a little thought into your meals for the coming week! I wrote all about meal planning HERE and I also have a FREE PRINTABLE MEAL PLANNER in the Members section for my newsletter subscribers. You can sign up to my newsletter and get free access to the Meal Planner and lots of other helpful resources by CLICKING HERE!
And when you use your Meal Planner you can plan to make some meals that yield delicious leftovers you can use the next day.
* Can’t find recipes like that? Hop on over to my Recipes page. There are lots of healthy, delicious meals that can be easily thrown together in 20 minutes or under!