When I used to envision meal-prepping, I honestly thought it was reserved for hardcore body-builders, fitness competitors, and professional athletes. Plus, who wants to use their precious free time to cook an insane amount of healthy food that you're not even sure you're going to want to eat by the end of the week? See, the trick is to learn
how to meal prep quickly, without having to devote literally an entire Sunday to the task. Believe me, it actually is possible, and once you learn, it's a total freaking game-changer.
Now, trust me, meal-prepping is definitely still a commitment of sorts, and it can be a pretty big lifestyle change for some. But that doesn't mean it has to be intimidating, nor does it mean it's impossible for the average person to pull off.
Elite Daily spoke with
Katie Dunlop — fitness guru, creator of Love Sweat Fitness, and meal-prep extraordinaire — who had some awesome tips for how to realistically fit meal-planning into an already packed schedule. From how to season your food properly, to cost-effective ways to shop at the grocery store, and everything in between, Dunlop does not disappoint. In fact, she's so good at meal-prepping, she can literally teach you how to get the job done in less than an hour.
Here are five ways to flawlessly meal-prep in the fastest, most efficient way possible, because you and I both know that microwaveable ramen just isn't cutting it anymore.
Meal-prepping can be intimidating AF, especially for people who don't know how to cook or are used to eating out most of the time.
Dunlop swears by the "ABCs of meal prepping" to make the process as simple as possible for even the busiest person out there.
Her first tip? Always start with your least favorite meal:
If you hate making dinner at the end of a long day or always pick up lunch because you don't know what to do, that's the meal you should prep.
Secondly, beware of basic meals:
If you don't like what you're prepping, you won't stick with it. If you have staples that you tend to go for when eating out, make simple swaps to your order (like sauce on the side, or grilling the chicken) to make it a bit healthier.
And third, cooking doesn’t have to be complicated:
If you can block out about an hour, you can easily meal-prep for the week.
Dunlop suggests cooking your protein, carbs, and veggies all at once, but she also recommends seasoning them in different ways to provide your palate with a little variety and ensure you won't get bored of your options.
With life being as busy and as hectic as it is, the main goal in successful meal-prepping is to save as much time as possible.
Dunlop tells Elite Daily that she likes to begin by prepping the foods that take the most time to cook, so that they'll already be good to go, and you won't have to spend a ton of time cooking them throughout the week.
Some of her personal favorite foods to prep include chicken breast and ground turkey for protein, brown rice and quinoa for grains, and
loads of veggies: On one pan, I'll do asparagus, broccoli, onion, zucchini peppers (these are the softer veggies). In another pan, I'll roast sweet potatoes, butternut squash and any other harder veggies.
For breakfast, Dunlop's go-to meals include egg muffins and overnight oats:
[When I stick to these staples], I can easily grab what I want, throw it in a bowl or Tupperware, heat it up, and it’s ready to go!
Sure, #HealthyLiving is great and all, but sometimes your wallet gets pissed when you're hitting up Whole Foods on the reg.
Dunlop provides a few great ways to keep your budget without sacrificing your meal-prep skills:
Buying in bulk [is a major money-saver]. While you pay a little more upfront, this is a great way to save in the long run.
She also suggests shopping for seasonal foods to avoid breaking the bank. Fruits and veggies that are in season will always be priced better than those that may be available, but aren’t in season where you live.
For summer, think juicy tomatoes and crisp radishes. In the winter, on the other hand, opt for cabbage and earthy beets.
Take It All Step By Step
Dunlop's simple step-by-step prepping process ensures that you'll never spend more than an hour on making your meals for the week.
But before you start anything, make sure you know what your schedule looks like ahead of time, so you can decide what prep makes the most sense for your agenda.
Once you've got that down, here's the process the fitness guru swears by: First, you pick your protein, mix up your seasonings, and bake that all together at once. Next, cook your grains (like brown rice or quinoa) in large batches (about two cups each). Then roast your veggies, whatever they may be. According to Dunlop, "roasting gives veggies the best flavor, and you don't have to deal with stirring a pan or watching water boil." Moreover, she explains, "healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado are a great way to add flavor [to your veggies], along with
all the seasonings.
Dunlop tells Elite Daily,
If you don’t want to think about it later, simply take a single portion of protein, some grains and veggies, and load up several to-go Tupperwares so they are ready to grab and go every day. 05
Stay Motivated And Enjoy The Process
I know what you're thinking: Meal prep and "fun" just do
not go together.
But according to Dunlop, choosing meals you love and delicious recipes you enjoy tackling might not be as cringeworthy as you think.
To make the whole thing a little more fun, the fitness guru suggests,
Turn on some jams! Honestly, music makes prepping way more fun. Also, don’t be afraid to get creative. There's no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to prepping.
So, even though it might take a couple tries before you perfect your own meal-prepping process, remind yourself that it's totally worth your time to figure out what strategies work best for you. Dunlop tells Elite Daily,
If you want to eat clean, healthy meals, save time, and stay on track, you have to find what works for you. Once you do, you’ll realize how much better you feel inside and out. [In the end, it'll] lead to a healthier, happier you, which in turn becomes motivation to keep doing it.
To the kitchen!