Meal Prep: Unlock Cooking Freedom

May 2024 - Nutrition

Is meal prep worth a try? Has this 2017-ish trend completed a cycle and we need to move on? The short answer is no. On the contrary, meal prep has evolved from a viral trend to a blooming lifestyle habit that is worth giving a try.

As a nutritionist, and a mama of two, I have struggled to consistently provide healthy meals for myself and my family. The challenge grows bigger the more people there are in a household, and the less time you have between work and driving everyone to the places they need to be. This is why once I started looking into meal prep, I knew there was something worth exploring.

On average, we make about 35,000 decisions per day—that is a lot of things to decide from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed… and while you are sleeping if you are a parent. As the day goes by, tiredness sets in and the quality of our choices tends to decline. This phenomenon is called decision fatigue: the inability to make decisions and control behaviour as a consequence of repeated acts.

What does decision fatigue look like when it comes to cooking? Think about the 4 pm dinner rush, or as I like to call it, “the second shift”. The children are back from school or activities, everyone is hungry and everyone is tired, including yourself. You know what is about to happen next…someone is going to go ahead and ask “What’s for dinner?” Another decision to make, at the most stressful time.

What will the answer be? It will depend on many factors: on how well you slept the night before, on how busy your day was and if you had the time to stop by the grocery store, on how tired or energized you feel for cooking, on how easy or difficult the kids have been, on what you have seen on social media as a good dinner idea…it will all depend, and this is where the struggle lies.

There is a lack of a system, or a consistent plan to help you thrive when these variables are not in your favour. The problem with this situation relies on the reactiveness of your behaviour, which can add up to levels that can truly harm your health. If you are always in this reactive mode, poor eating and cooking decisions are going to be made, often. We want to break the cycle and get out of that loop.

Life is busy, kids are demanding and the expectations for parents are high. By the way, if you are a single parent, you are a superhero. The idea is to go from a reactive mode to a proactive one, and the number one tool I believe can help you with this transition is meal prep.
Types of Meal Prep: Which suits you and your family best?

The Beginner: Think of it as an introduction to the process, allowing you to take small steps that still give you big results. In this stage we focus on meal prep that does not require any cooking, just think of washing and chopping your veggies and herbs and storing them in the fridge.

The Intermediate: In this type of meal prepping, we introduce heat or utilize an appliance to help us achieve our meal. In this stage we focus on ingredient prep such as making a salad dressing, roasting some vegetables, or cooking a protein in the oven or with the help of a slow cooker, instant pot or air fryer, for example.

The Advanced: In this stage besides focusing on meal prep, we are also adding an extra layer of preparation as we plan for future meals as a whole. Examples of this can be batch cooking, cooking and freezing, and even meal planning.

As you can see, there are different types of meal prepping, with different time expectations. The key to success in making meal prep a sustainable lifestyle habit is to realistically match a meal prep type with your lifestyle and time limitations for that day or period of time. Most importantly, leave behind social media’s unrealistic expectations.

Meal Prep Do’s & Don’ts

  • DO decide what type of meal prep is right for you. Take into consideration your and your family’s lifestyle and time restrictions.
  • DO purchase food storage containers. Silicone bags, glass containers, glass jars and food grade BPA-free plastic containers are great.
  • DO scan your fridge and get rid of old condiments and foods. If you can, clean and rearrange items too.
  • DON’T expect your fridge and kitchen to look organized immediately. This process takes time.
  • DON’T let your environment limit the process. Start with what you have.
  • DON’T think this is an all or nothing endeavour. Every little action counts!

Home cooking is a revolutionary act in a world where processed foods, genetically modified foods and chemically engineered flavours are taking over our aisles and our tables. No matter what your cooking skills are, a simple homecooked meal can have a great impact on your health and longevity. 

Laura Spencer is one of Nature’s Fare Markets’ vitamin specialists and a passionate foodie. She believes we can be as happy, healthier, and fulfilled as we allow ourselves to be. As a certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant, she works with people to help them achieve a healthy lifestyle by focusing on modifying behaviours and eating habits that are not working.
Learn more: | IG: @bonfirenutrition

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