You have probably heard of ‘meal prepping’. Meal prepping is: preparing your food at one day for the whole week. It is best known to bodybuilders. Cups with rice, broccoli and chicken fillet. If you take a look at Pinterest you will come across the most beautiful pictures. Bowls of freshly cut vegetables and completely prepared for dinner. The avid meal prepper also prepares breakfast and lunch. As a result, he or she no longer has to cook all week.
I love leftovers
Have you ever eaten yesterday’s rice or reheated macaroni a day after it was prepared? That always tastes better! The same goes for a good piece of meat that is marinated. If you let the marinade soak in for 24 hours, you will notice that the meat tastes much better. Eating leftovers is therefore already a way of meal prepping but not yet in the right way.
Nowadays many people practice meal prepping. It saves a lot of time in a busy working week. I don’t cut my tomatoes and cucumbers a week ahead, but … I do buy everything in one go. Thinking ahead is a win-win.
Who is meal prepping for?
You don’t have to be a top athlete to meal prep. Mealprepping is suitable for everyone and applicable for everyone. The student who lives in a dorm generally does not eat very healthy. Meal prepping would be ideal for the student. It is also the ideal solution for people in the continuous shift who regularly order something unhealthy in the afternoon or they do not know what to eat during the night shift. But also the office worker who enters the canteen every day at noon and says to himself “no fat food today!” benefits from meal prepping.
Plans and budget
Do you recognize the question “what shall we eat today?”. That is why meal prepping is so easy. You make a schedule of the meals that you will eat the upcoming week. You write down what you need and what you want to eat on which day. This way you immediately know which groceries you need for the whole week and you can also work on budget management. You can also take into account the week discounts and regional and seasonal products.
Everyone can prep meals. You don’t have to get a diploma, but you do need to know how to prepare a meal. If you think it’s hard to plan a whole week in advance, you can start with 3 or 4 days. So the change is gradual and you do it step by step.
Pick a day
Saturday or Sunday is the best day for me to think ahead. We make a schedule with the family for Monday to Friday so we know in advance what we will eat. Then I go shopping and prepare the meals on Saturday or Sunday. We always provide enough variety and hardly ever eat the same thing.
The vegetables are easy to prepare. You can cut it and freeze it in portions. Peppers, zucchini and mushrooms can be frozen without blanching *. You have to cut them small and divide them into portions. Vegetables that you should blanch* before freezing are spinach, leek, carrots, peas, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, endive and pods. You should not freeze tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. This also applies to all ready-to-eat vegetables from the supermarket, such as “Thai wok vegetables”, “Nasi vegetables”, “Macaroni vegetables”, etc. These become wet and too soft during defrosting. That’s not good. You cannot meal prep potatoes and mashed potatoes in containers, but you can sous vide. (I will explain sous-vide later.)
When you need the vegetables, take the number of servings out of the freezer and put them frozen in boiling water. Depending on the type of vegetables, there is a cooking time of about 10 minutes.
You can also cut and freeze fruit in advance. When you need a portion for a smoothie every day, this is super ideal. In the morning you take a bag from the freezer and add the liquid. Just go through the blender and your fresh smoothie is ready. Would you rather eat a sandwich for breakfast or at lunch at work? Then you can also prep that meal. Slices of bread can be placed in the freezer per portion. A former colleague of mine did this for years and he liked it very much. Make sure you take your breakfast out of the freezer on time.
* Blanching: Put the vegetables briefly in boiling water and immediately rinse them with ice cold water. This interrupts the cooking process.
Sauces and soups
A bottle of tomato sauce or canned soup … well everyone has their own opinion, but is it really tasty? I don’t think so. Make your own pasta sauce with fresh ingredients such as garlic, zucchini, peeled tomatoes, mushrooms and tomato paste. Cool them and put them in a bag in the freezer. Depending on the amount you need, you can make several servings. How about a fresh broth from fresh chicken. When the stock is flavored, cut the chicken and put it in the stock or in a separate freezer bag. You can freeze the stock and if you want to eat fresh soup, take the stock out of the freezer. Add a bag of soup vegetables and the sliced chicken and your meal is ready.
Preparing only your vegetables provides extra time. But what happens when you prepare complete meals. For example, dishes of whole wheat pasta, oriental meals or pre-cooked meat. Chicken and beef are ideal for pre-cooking and cooking in minutes on the day itself. Always provide the basics so that your complete meal is really complete. If you want to add a sauce to the meal (for example satay sauce), it is wise to prepare it on the day itself. This is more flavourful and the chance of curdling sauce is higher when it comes out of the freezer.
You can also prep your snacks such as nuts, dried fruit or grains in containers. 7 cups with 30 grams of oatmeal for breakfast and 7 cups with 30 grams of nuts as a snack. You only have to weigh this once and you are ready for the whole week.
Vacuuming: a step further than warming up from a container.
If you have a vacuum machine, you can also vacuum the meals. Those machines only cost a few tens. When you vacuum food you have the option to prepare mashed potatoes, meat and fish dishes sous-vide (vacuum cooking). You only need to put these bags in warm water (not boiling) and your meal will be ready in 10-20 minutes. This way, nothing is lost in the taste and quality of the food. An additional advantage is that the bags can be placed flat in that freezer and thus take up less volume than a container.
What should I pay attention to?
Always prepare well-sealing, freezer-proof containers for meal prepping. Add a sticker on the container with the name of the dish and the date it was put in the freezer. If you prep for 2 or 3 days in advance, pay attention to which meals can be placed in the refrigerator and which must be placed in the freezer. Always blanched vegetables in the freezer. If you prepare your meals sous-vide, make sure that the bags are well vacuumed and tightly closed.
What does meal prepping pay off
• More time for your family
• Less stress on the day of what we should eat
• Time to exercise (even more)
• Budget management because I get the groceries at home only twice a week
• Less or no need to snack
• Overview of what we are going to eat and what someone can look forward to
Example of a 3-day meal prep
You can meal prep endless dishes. It is important that you make a schedule. If you, by exception, change your dish of the day, you must remember that you schedule the frozen meal the following week. Below an example for 3 days. In green: has been prepared.
1 bag of pre-cut fruit, 30 grams of oatmeal and 200 ml of low-fat yogurt
Sweet pointed pepper
4 slices of spelt bread vegetable butter with turkey fillet
30 grams of nuts
90 grams of uncooked brown rice, 100 grams of pods, 100 grams of carrots, 125 grams of chicken fillet, 1 handful of cassava
250 grams of low-fat cottage cheese with 1 banana
250 ml of milk with 30 grams of oatmeal, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 1 kiwi
250 ml chicken soup with soup vegetables and 2 slices of spelt bread with cottage cheese
300 grams of red cabbage, cucumber salad, sweet mashed potatoes (prepare sous-vide) meat substitute
30 grams of nuts
300 grams of low-fat cottage cheese with 30 grams of nuts and a trickle of regional honey
2 celery sticks
Stir-fried vegetables (bell pepper, mushrooms, aubergine and zucchini) with 2 blocks of pollock
Carrots and radishes (5 and 5 pieces)
Fresh pasta sauce with minced beef, tomato salad and spelt pasta (75 grams uncooked)
Homemade muesli bar and 200 grams of low-fat cottage cheese
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André Mostard is a sports nutrition coach and has been active in the sports world for more than 30 years. André regularly writes a blog for ODS with practical tips to make you feel good! Sportvoedingscoach André Mostard