Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How the heck does anyone like MEAL PREPPING?!
So let’s first answer those question.
Who is meal prepping? Just about every fitness guru on Instagram. Being honest, if we get on social media and notice what “athletes” or photogenic gym fanatics are posting, it is typically a marketing call to action, a photo of them endorsing a supplement or clothing line, or their weekly meal prep. That meal prep includes: 4 broiled salmon filets, 3 baked chicken breast, 12 oz. of grilled asparagus, 12 oz. of broccoli, and 20 oz. of brown rice. Of course all this stowed away in cute little meal prepping boxes and ready for the freezer… Also, I am a gym fanatic. I am a personal trainer, and I also love life.
Alright, what, by definition, is meal prepping? Well, here it is according to mealprepmondays.com… “in a nut shell is the act of preparing food in advance to stick within a certain diet/mealplan/schedule, etc.”Meal Prep” can also be defined as preparing and seasoning meats (or any other proteins) in advance, as well as washing and drying of certain fruits, vegetables and/or snacks.” By definition it sounds alright to me. I myself follow this sort of ideology. Although, MyBodyKitchen.com points out that “Depending on your meal prep planning, it is possible that you may eat the same thing every day for an entire week when you meal prep.” Which if you are looking at main stream social media, and follow what the trendy fitness models are doing, you will probably be experiencing NO variety when it comes to what’s IN the box.
When do you meal prep? Many of these insta-famous icons are doing their prep on #mealprepsunday. Typically it is a once a week ordeal where the kitchen becomes an overload of dirty pans, Tupperware lids flying around, and a sore back.
Where do you meal prep? The kitchen. No where else. Go slave over stove…
The golden question: Why would one meal prep? The internet told us it works. The little meal prep trays are cute. We want to have 12 of the same meals all lined up in orderly rows and columns just to take a picture of it and post it on our own instagram. Oh look, I’m up to 12 likes on this post. I’m not saying people do it for likes, but it is the trend, and we want to do whatever beautiful people are doing. Just with any fad diet, they come and go. Meal prepping is a great concept. Some people meal prep identically to the way a professional body builder shows they meal prep on their social media account. It is something that works for them, but may not work for everyone, and most likely won’t work for a lot of people.
How do you meal prep and like it? I cannot answer the later part of this question in regards to conventional meal prepping. First set aside the time. A meal prep session where you prepare meals for 5 days may take 60 – 180 minutes, according to MyBodyKitchen.com. That is just in kitchen time. Don’t for get about the fun shopping trips where the 4 broiled salmon filets, 3 baked chicken breast, 12 oz. of grilled asparagus, 12 oz. of broccoli, and 20 oz. of brown rice will be bought. Oh look, country style pork ribs are on sale… That trout looks mighty tasty. I could go for shaved turkey, but maybe tomorrow I’ll want turkey meat balls on a whole wheat hoagie. Oh wait, never mind, I’ll be eating salmon with asparagus for the next 7 days. I am sure the point is understood.
That looks painfully difficult, as well as physically and mentally exhausting. I am a cook-aholic, and the sight of this makes my skin crawl. Just in case someone who meal preps like this in the above photo is reading and thoroughly enjoys it as well is content with their way of eating, then that is just fine. Eating is a very personal and spiritual thing I believe. Eating should fuel our bodies, as well as make us feel happy and content. When I am sad nothing makes me feel better than a cup of tomato basil soup with my almond motz biscuits. When I am feeling bouncy and happy, I can almost always go for a tuna salad sandwich, or even a whole baked chicken! (I wont eat the whole thing… promise- my dogs help me)
The purpose of this article isn’t to persuade you to give up meal prepping, or think that meal prepping is wrong. The purpose is to show the advantages of swapping traditional meal prepping with a method that works for YOU. Take a second to really think about how you feel during the week. Is it one single emotion, one single energy level, one single predicted day/time that cravings will hit? I want us to become equipped with minds that can properly process all these varying factors, and not feel bummed because we felt inclined to cheat or less excited to eat chicken breast for the 4th day in a row. Instead of having this “bite the bullet” attitude about food, I have a very open and cognitive mind for what I feel, why I feel that way, and what that feeling is telling me I need. That may be sleep, journaling, yoga, or food. I used to struggle with binge eating. Just because I had 3oz. chicken breast, with some rice and an abundance of asparagus, did not mean I wasn’t going to stop by the vending machine to grab a bag of chips, or reach for a doughnut if they were out for the taking. I was still probably going to opt for a latte instead of a plain coffee and just mull over the food that I wanted to consume.
Between meditating, appreciating life, regular exercise (yoga, weights, cardio), being involved in activities I enjoyed, and finding a sense of peace but active recognition of my goal weight/health, I have been able to eat intuitively and fully love food. No grudges, no mulling over the cake I can’t eat, no fear of hating the meal I have to eat tomorrow, because I will eat what I want. Let’s rewire our brains, attitude, and ties to food and the way we view it.
So Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How do you do a Courtney Simpson meal prep?
First though, I would like to share with you how I view food. It is where happiness begins. Food sustains life, and therefore should sustain happiness. Food should be created with thought and made out of love. It should play a role in creating a table worth of wholesome conversation and good company. It is not an enemy making us fat, or making our ailments worse. We must derive from food the healing benefits it can offer us in all aspects. Physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Who does a Courtney Simpson meal prep? Individuals whose diet is a way of life, and not some short term project. This is for people who are busy, but want to keep their health in check. They may have goals of gaining weight, losing weight, or simply maintaining their weight. Maybe it is nothing to do with weight. They could simply want to feel better all around. Required is the ability to see that we are complex humans with complex needs. Plants are happy with water and sunshine. As humans, we need a hosts of different forms of fuel.
What is this form of meal prepping? It’s what YOU make of it. It’s eating without restrictions other than the boundaries that YOU want. At the grocery store, when I am looking at food for dinner or lunch, I buy what looks good and fits in my nutritional needs. Here’s the trick. I buy extra. When it comes time for dinner, say I am having chicken, quinoa, and broccoli. I will cook approximately 2 extra chicken pieces, 2 cups of quinoa, and 1-2 cups of broccoli. I will freeze the 2 extra chicken pieces (I will explain my freezing method below in How To). I freeze what I know I can’t eat before it goes bad of the quinoa and broccoli. I freeze in snack size zip lock baggies in single portions so I can pull out what I need easily. Say tomorrow I have pork chops with green beans and red potato bites. I will do the same process here. I do this process on and on. I quickly have freezer full of meals and sides that I can mix and match at my leisure. This form of meal prepping allows you to mix and match a large variety of different foods for your lunch or dinner.
When is this meal prepping done? All the time, but in little increments of time. There will be some nights when we simply don’t have time to cook a dinner. That’s when your freezer or refrigerator full of different foods comes in handy. The last thing you want to see after a long day is a little predetermined meal that frankly is getting old. This also holds true when you DO have time to cook dinner. If you have the time to cook, take that time to connect with food. Create something tasty and rewarding in nutrients. That is the golden time of when the meal prepping is done. This is a time to be proud of what you’re cooking and feel inspired about what YOU are wanting and needing.
Where is this done? The kitchen, but not a hectic meal prepping kitchen. It might just be you cooking a typical meal for the kids. Maybe you have relatives over and your favorite cousin is over helping you put together an Italian inspired dinner. That food will be filled with good tastes, as well as good memories. That food means something so much more than a diet. It’s connecting with your emotional needs as a human as well. This meal prepping is done with the heart.
Why should someone adopt this meal prepping style? It will give you the power and control over what you eat. One things human dislike is confinement, and that includes what we eat. This fact is a good reason alone, but also you will discover that you’ll never lose 2-3 hours in the kitchen of cooking and cleaning. I know the argument of traditional meal prepping is, “We meal prep so we wont pick out unhealthy lunches or too much to eat!”. That is a great way to think about eating, but the entire idea of this eating life style must be adopted. It can not be forced. If when we open our predetermined meal prepped lunch of 3 oz. grilled chicken and veggies with brown rice, we must not have this resentment of what we are eating. We must not be consumed with thinking about cravings for other food. I guarantee that people who perform traditional meal prep, find themselves always wanting more. If you are wanting ribs, cook up a delicious batch of country style ribs and enjoy them. I rather see myself eat an extra ounce or two of meat, or load up on too much baked sweet potatoes, than feeling stuck, feeling tired, and battling cravings that I find with traditional meal prep.
How to do a Courtney Style meal prep? As stated above, you cook dinner with about 3-4 extra servings, and freeze what you know you wont be eating within 3 days (or it will start to spoil). To freeze meats, wrap your meat FIRST with plastic wrap, THEN with tinfoil. For added protection you can add an extra layer of tin foil. Write on the tin foil what you cooked (turkey “ham” (it’s delicious I promise!)), and the date frozen (turkey ham 07/30). It will last just fine in the freezer about 3-6 months. Chicken tends to dry out a bit in the freezer, so I will put a little bit of the chicken juices, or water on my chicken before I wrap it all up. When it comes time to eating your frozen food, you can either set it out the night before to give a 12-24 hour thaw time, or you can use a microwave to defrost as you typically wood any frozen meal. I always sit mine out the day before. I like the way it taste when I let it thaw slowly. Do the same with the zip lock bags with your single servings if they are frozen. I almost always have a batch of quinoa in my fridge because I use it on EVERYTHING. Salads, fish, yogurt for a veggie dip, etc.
I will show you some of my meals I have put together, and quick recipes.
This is my simple lemon herb chicken with fresh fruits and veggies. This chicken is frozen, so I got this meal put together the day before. I was putting together a veggie tray for dinner the night before, so I went ahead and just threw a bunch of those veggies in my lunch box. The next day I had a yummy lunch all ready for me! I have currently gone fructose free and have forever fixed sugar cravings, but fruit is also a great option. I rather we all eat a handful of grapes than a butterfinger. Did someone say… butterfinger…? *drools*
Citrus Herb Chicken
Makes 4 servings
4 boneless, 1 serving size poultry pieces, (you can use chicken or turkey!)
2 citrus fruits (lemon, lime, tangerine) – I used lemon
2 Tbs. your favorite blend of herbs – I used pepper, sage, and Italian Herb Blend
Preheat oven to 375 °F.
Pound poultry to ¼ inch thick and lather on citrus juices. (You can do this step the day before and let it marinade for extra YUM)
Coat poultry lightly with coconut oil, then continue to sprinkle on salt and herb blend of your choice.
I like to place my chicken on a pan with a little wire rack so they aren’t swimming in their juices, but that is just my preference. To lock in moisture, you can wrap it in tinfoil and bake it like a baked potato as well.
Bake at 375 for 15 – 20 minutes depending on poultry size you are baking. My 4 oz sized breasts took about 18 minutes exactly on the lower rack in my oven.
You can get creative with your left overs. You don’t have to leave it as a whole piece. You can shred it, chop it, and cube it. Put atop salad, roll up in a flatbread, or mix with avocado, onions, and greek yogurt to make homemade chicken salad sandwich spread.
Here are some more examples below:
In this meal prep, I made coconut butter, which I talked about making in my Sugar Free Zucchini Bread recipe. It’s simple: blend up a cup of coconut shavings in a food processor. I had to add a little coconut water (or you can use coconut milk), to get desired consistency. I put this on a wasa cracker with a little bit of Joseph’s Maple syrup drizzled on top. Pure heaven! I love letting my taste-buds add passion to my healthy cooking!
Most of the time we want to eat when others are eating. It is a social thing that feeds are inner self. Break bread with your loved ones and enjoy their company. Share that commonality of tasting the same food, and relate to how wonderful the aftertaste is. Let yourself enjoy this. If you take time to make peace with food, understand what you need versus what you want, you will find eating to be a VERY enjoyable thing.