It costs too much. Takes too much time. I don’t eat that poorly. Blah blah blah.
Over the years, I’ve heard these tired excuses over and over again from athletes and non-athletes alike when it comes to getting their nutrition under control. There’s this persistent attitude and belief that our food choices are out of our control, and that we must be resigned to them and the subsequent ill effects (bad skin, poor health outcomes, added medical costs, etc.) that happen as a result.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
It’s possible to eat much, much better while also saving money and time. Not only all that, but you can finally take control of your nutrition once and for all.
How is this possible?
With the unbelievable power of doing meal prep.
Here are just a few of the things that happen when you start planning and preparing your meals:
You grow confident in your ability to eat well.
The thing you will feel the most won’t necessarily be the cost savings, or the weight loss (or gain, depending on your goals in the kitchen). It will be that burst of pride that comes from eating well, consistently.
Meal prep will show you that you can master your nutrition habits.
Planning and prepping gives us a sense of optimism and a feeling of control that is lacking when we subject our nutritional intake according to our cravings and how we are feeling at the moment that hunger strikes.
Being freed from the constant need to be on alert to eat well is exhausting, and is one of the reasons that we falter when it comes to making good food choices.
Meal prep makes things simpler and gives you the confidence in knowing that you have more power and control over your urges and diet than you ever thought possible.
You start eating better.
Planning your meals means that you are purposely eating.
Your meals are designed and prepared with a goal in mind, and not just to satiate a ravenous and sometimes ill-tempered hunger. Your meals aren’t prepared according to your cravings, or how you feel, or what kind of day you are having, but in consideration of what you want to achieve with your diet.
After all, when planning your meals you are rational and objective, unlike in the moments where we are starving and we are having a crappy day.
What happens next will show itself in a myriad of ways. For athletes who want to clean up their diet, this means faster recovery and better workouts (and is why it’s one of my top nutrition tips for athletes). For the rest of us, it means having more energy and maintaining a healthier weight.
Whatever our goals are, when we plan to eat well we are much more likely to succeed.
You save money.
As someone who is guilty of ordering pizza or sushi after a big workout, this was especially noticeable. The savings account grew by a stunning and slightly embarrassing amount of money over the course of my first couple weeks of meal prepping.
Yeah, the first time you go to Costco to buy all the supplies you will need in bulk will be a kick to the wallet, but when you factor in all of the fast food, going out for meals, and last minute trips to the grocery stores the cost savings multiply quickly.
Don’t believe me? Start writing out how much you are spending each day in your workout log and contrast it when you are in full-blown meal prep mode. The difference will stun you.
You save time.
In addition to saving some of that sweet, sweet moola, you will also reap a savings in time. Not only in meal preparation, but from going out for food, and repeated trips to the grocery store.
Yes, there is an upfront time investment. The big trip to the grocery store, and then a couple of hours to bang out a week’s worth of meals.
But the return comes in fast and heavy from there on out. Consider that if you make yourself 21 meals on a Sunday afternoon, you are cutting the meal prep time from every single one of those individual meals. Not only the prep time, but also the standing before the fridge and the texts between you and your partner (“What should we do for dinner?”).
As an added bonus, if you pick up everything you need on your list once a week you’ll save yourself additional trips to the grocery store over the week. Standing in grocery store line-ups is no one’s idea of a good time, so let’s chalk this up as a big win.
You are less stressed out.
Eating shouldn’t be stressful, and the act itself isn’t necessarily—but deciding what to eat often is. We are regularly pitted in a battle of what we want to eat (Pizza! Burgers!) versus what we should be eating (Salad! Fish!).
Even though it seems like a trivial thing, these types of decisions deplete our willpower levels over the course of the day. It’s why, at the end of the day, when we stumble in after a long day at work and a hard workout that we are so susceptible to making poor food decisions.
Meal prepping removes willpower from the equation altogether, freeing you up to wield it against other the other pressing matters of the day (Should I go to bed early? Should I go workout?).
As a kid, I swam competitively, and for me this meant two-a-day swim practices bracketing a full day of school. I learned the power of meal prep in those moments out of necessity—if I didn’t pack myself a bunch of meals for the day, I wouldn’t be eating.
Little did I know that this experience would help encourage better nutrition habits later in life.
This Sunday, try planning and preparing a few meals for your week. You certainly don’t need to start out by cooking a week’s worth of meals if you’ve never tried it before, but you should at the very least try cooking for a couple days worth of food.
Your time, your wallet, and your health thank you in advance.