They say abs are made in the kitchen, right? Well, I think the kitchen is responsible for a lot more than just making the core look good. Nutrition is what allows you to maximize ALL of your gains makes every rep count in the gym. If you feel like you’re working hard in the gym but aren’t seeing the results you want, there’s a good chance that you need to look at your diet. Let’s take a quick look at eight ways to make meal planning simple so that you are sure to maximize your effort in the gym.
- Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time
This first step is crucial, especially for people who live a busy, hectic lifestyle like most of seem to these days. When you’re in a rush, you’re much more likely to stop at a fast-food restaurant or pick up an unhealthy option to satisfy your hunger. But if you plan your meals ahead, you’re significantly more likely to have a healthy meal option available for all of your meals and snacks throughout the day.
To really elevate your meal prep game, try to think about where you’ll be eating your meals too. For example, you may not have access to a microwave during certain parts of the day like when you’re at school or work. For these times, you’ll definitely want to choose a meal that tastes good cold, right?
- Balance Variety with Simplicity
One of the biggest benefits of meal prepping is that you can make big batches of foods quickly. This can be great for the meals you absolutely love. But the downside is that eating the same meals day in and day out can get old very quick. There’s no easier way to lose motivation on eating well than hating the foods you eat. Don’t allow yourself to fall into a pattern of the “same old thing” for certain meals. Be sure to switch it up, and only repeat meals a couple times per week.
One easy way to switch up your meals is to focus on similar key ingredients, but multiple ways to eat it. For example, if your meal plan has a lot of meals that include chicken as a main ingredient, you can easily create a variety of meals like salads, tacos and burritos by using similar ingredients and preparing the meals at the same time.
- Keep It Simple in the Kitchen
Some recipes call for a lot of ingredients. If you don’t enjoy cooking, it’s probably best to avoid these types of recipes. Not only can they cause frustration and quickly reduce your motivation to perfect your nutrition, they can also put a big dent in your food budget.
As you become more comfortable and experienced with cooking and meal planning, you can begin to create your twists to recipes using the ingredients you really enjoy. Knowing what you like and keeping your favorite spices and rubs on hand will further allow you to lower your food costs.
- It’s Okay to Cheat (in Moderation)
Sometimes, indulging ourselves can keep us motivated. When you’re eating healthy, it’s okay to reward yourself with your favorite unhealthy foods – just be sure not to overdo it! Some people prefer to have a “cheat day” every week or two, where they essentially eat whatever they want. Others prefer to treat themselves to smaller treats throughout the week to satisfy their sweet tooths.
Personally, I find that I overdo it when I have one set cheat day. I prefer to have a few small cheat options every now and then, because it helps to keep me motivated. When it comes to cheating on a healthy diet, make sure to find the balance that’s right for you. That’s what will be the easiest to stick to.
- Shop with a Plan
Perhaps the easiest way to ruin healthy eating intentions (and your grocery budget) is to walk into a grocery store without a plan. Knowing what your buying (and where it’s located) will help you get in and get out of the grocery store without stopping to pick up the random, unhealthy options that catch your eye.
If you’re one of those people who can’t resist certain foods or pass a good deal, then you may want to consider avoiding going in the grocery store all together. Nowadays, it’s simple to order groceries online and have them brought to your vehicle.
- Stock the Fridge Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and veggies are a great snack option if you catch yourself needing an unexpected snack throughout the day. There are many options that are low in calories and high in nutrients like apples, melons, kiwi, berries, broccoli, and beets, just to name a few. Having a healthy option on hand that requires little or no effort to make, is always a good idea.
On the flip side, try not to surround yourself with unhealthy options like chips or candy. If those are within arm’s reach, you’re much more likely to grab them when hunger strikes.
- Know Where to Go
As much as we try to meal plan and eat healthy, know that it’s impossible to have a homemade meal with you 24/7. There will be times when you’re out and about and need to grab something to eat – that’s okay! Plan for these situations before the time comes that you need to make a quick decision.
Take note of the groceries stores and restaurants where you live and work. Who has quick, healthy meals available? Maybe there’s a grocery store with a great salad bar or a restaurant with quick grab and go meals available?
- Invest in Good Meal Prep Containers
There’s nothing worse than spending time preparing your weekly meals, knowing you’re going to eat healthy all week, and then realizing a few days later your effort was all for not. Not all Tupperware and meal prep containers are created equal. If you’re serious about meal planning, invest in good containers that are airtight and will keep your food fresh.