Why Meal Prep (often) Fails | Expectations Versus Reality.
Prepping a week’s worth of food to perfectly meet your macros sounds appealing. The matching Tupperware lining your kitchen island, the measured and weighed food all portioned and ready to go, and the picture perfect Instagram post is alluring. Life looks so good when your fridge is filled with exactly what you need. All. Week. Long.
So why does meal prep often fail? Why do we get 3 days into the week and find ourselves tossing out old vegetables or calling Jimmy Johns at lunch?
Here are a few of the many reasons week-long meal prep (often) fails:
- It takes so much time. Putting an afternoon of work in on Sunday to save 4 hours during the week just isn’t enough of a payoff for most of us. Sundays are for family and downtime. Is it worth it to miss out on the fun with friends and family to spend all day in the kitchen? Oftentimes, the answer is no.
- Leftovers. By Friday, the same salmon and broccoli is not as appealing as it was on Monday, and quite frankly, it’s not safe either. Check this FDA link for how soon you should throw out leftovers. https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/ResourcesForYou/HealthEducators/UCM109315.pdf
- Life happens. Working late? Last minute business trip? Kids baseball team makes it to the finals? What about the pound of taco meat waiting for you at home? If your meal prep lacks flexibility you are likely to end up throwing out food at the end of the week. Our advice? Stay flexible for when life happens (more on this below).
- Over planning/expectations. When we plan every lunch and dinner for the week, leftovers go to waste. Set times to use up leftovers as part of your game plan.
- Unappealing food. Have you ever cut up a pepper on Monday and tried to eat it on Friday? How about a cucumber? Nobody wants a soggy, wrinkly, veggie with lunch. Keep it fresh, 2-3 days in the fridge once chopped.
- Mood change. Have you ever prepped a meal and then just flat out did not feel like the Canadian bacon egg bake when Thursday dinner rolled around? Enough said. We need a little wiggle room to enjoy foods instead of being forced into what sounded good on Sunday.
We know not everyone will agree with our stance on meal prep, but what we do know is that liningout rows of Tupperware for the week on Sunday is just not practical for the most people. If prepping it all on Sunday works for you, awesome, keep it up! (But for real read that link on food safety)
If you’re with us on this, and are frustrated by the meal prep expectations put on us by the fitness industry, try these 5 Power and Grace Nutrition Mini Prep Tips to help you meet your goals. Though we may not prep for the week, we agree that planning is key and prepping a few things in advance can really start the week off right!
- Planning is still important without the prep. Look at the calendar, which nights do you have time to cook, which days will you be better off with something quick? Plan meals accordingly.
- Cook once, eat twice as much as possible. Tacos on Sunday make great taco salads at lunch Monday and Tuesday. Look for ways to make and remake food throughout the week.
- Have a back-up. When life happens, have a plan B ready. Keep one easy dinner (eggs and whole grain pancakes anyone?) and one lunch (whole wheat bread, lean deli meat and lots of veggies) on hand for stress-free, healthy alternatives. No need to have every meal set in stone.
- Plan for the week, but prep for 2-3 days at a time. Making a plan and hitting the grocery store is the first step. Then try to “double up” on the prep work and chop veggies for a few days at a time, maybe cook an extra pound of beef to suit another meal or cook a double batch to have leftovers for lunch.
- Snacks! Write out several snack options that meet your macros, buy a variety of the items and rotate through them to avoid burning out on one item. Snack ideas: fruits, veggies, hummus, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, string cheese, nuts, nut butter, whole wheat toaster waffles, whole wheat crackers, beef jerky, and dried fruit.