Meal prepping is all the rage lately. You will find people who love it and others who swear against it. Its popularity has skyrocketed thanks to social media posts of neatly laid-out food stored in individual containers. Some love the process of preparation, while others groove on its potential health benefits.
The fact is this trend is here to stay. In this article we are going to look at:
- The basic premise of meal prepping,
- whether or not it actually works,
- and how to reap some of its potential benefits.
The purpose of meal prepping
At first glance, meal prepping is perfect for people with busy lifestyles or larger families. It’s easy to grab a meal-prepped lunch and then head out the door in the morning.
The idea behind meal prepping is that you will prepare a meal or snack and then divide it into individual portions that you store for later. This means you will always have delicious, home-cooked meals on hand.
This is called “batch cooking” and it’s the most common kind of meal prepping. However, it’s not the only form of meal prepping.
You could also prepare individual ingredients, like cutting up vegetables and preparing marinades, with the intention of cooking all these ingredients in a dish at a later time. The intent is still to save time, as the tedious parts of the cook are already out of the way.
Does meal prepping actually work?
Meal prepping works without a doubt. It can help improve your eating habits in a variety of ways.
Prepping meals the night before or on the weekends allow for more time throughout the week and in the morning. One may choose to sleep in later or attend to their children instead of worrying about preparing and packing up a lunch.
It also dramatically reduces the time it takes to cook a meal. Because you are in affect just heating the ingredients. This works especially well for those who genuinely love to cook, but maybe get home late with low energy. It’s much easier to make a dish with meal-prepped ingredients.
Meal prepping also helps with portion control. If you are the kind of person who is prone to overeating, you may find it’s much easier to watch what you eat if you portion all your meals ahead of time.
Finally, meal prepping helps save money and cut down on food waste. Because you would have correctly rationed weekly meals.
Challenges meal preppers face
Meal prepping can do a lot when it comes to improving day to day routine, but it’s not without its challenges. Although one can simply amend their meal prepping routine to overcome these challenges when they arise, persistence will ultimately determine whether meal prepping works for them or not. The most common challenges meal preppers will need to workaround are:
Too small of a portion
A common complaint with meal prepping is that you simply didn’t prepare enough food. This is probably the easiest meal prepping issue to solve, as you’ll just have to make more food.
Extra care will need to be taken if you’re following a diet and use meal prepping for portion control. You want to ensure you’re benefiting from the smaller serving sizes.
Some foods don’t stay fresh
The purpose of meal prepping is to always have a quality meal on hand or that takes little time to prepare. But some foods just don’t keep well, especially as whole meals.
One example of this is while prepping a salad. You will want to keep the dressing separate. If you dress the salad and put it in the refrigerator overnight, the dressing will often make the greens soggy and unappetizing.
Food containers take up too much room
In some houses, refrigerator space is limited. Multiple containers of meal-prepped food can quickly overcrowd a refrigerator. This is especially true for families or those who live with roommates.
If you find yourself running out of room in the fridge, cut back on prepping individual ingredients and only prepare full meals that you intend to reheat.
Plastic containers contain BPAs
BPA is short for bisphenol A, a chemical commonly used in the production of plastic. BPA is harmful if ingested, and plastic containers can leach this chemical onto meal-prepped food. Reheating a dish in a plastic container increases the risk of BPA.
However, this can easily be avoided by investing in glass containers to store meal-prepped food. Glass can be heated safely without worrying about contaminants.
Skills needed to succeed at meal prepping
Meal prepping is simple in theory, but practicing it requires one to hone some individual skills. To succeed at meal prepping, you might have to learn something new and step outside your comfort zone. Below are a few of the necessary skills needed in order for meal prepping to work.
Meal prepping rewards those with impeccable organizational skills. You will have to purchase, prepare and preserve food in the most effective way possible. A task that requires a well-executed action plan.
Stored food should be marked with prepped dates. You’ll also need to keep the fridge, pantry, and cookware storage tidy. The good thing about this is that once you have a working system in place, you can begin to reap the benefits while the otherwise arduous tasks sort themselves out.
When beginning meal prepping, meal preppers have to plan out the meals they want to eat. Usually, you’ll do this before grocery shopping. This plan is developed overtime as you try and test different recipes. However, that can be a tough lifestyle adjustment for someone who is used to picking up whatever take-out they happen to be craving.
You also might find that poor planning causes you to wind up eating the same meals over and over.
It can take time to get used to planning meals. But in the long run you will get better at anticipating your desires and varying your choices so that you avoid becoming fatigued by eating your favorite foods.
Meal prepping revolves around sticking to a long-preset regimen. Something many struggle with. This means resisting the urge to pick up fast food or passing on your coworker’s invitation to lunch.
Those who really understand food preparation and flavor profiles will have more success with meal prepping than those who don’t.
Some recipes look amazing on paper, but you might find the technical ability to execute them is lacking. Fortunately, you can easily build your cooking skills and increase your comfort level in the kitchen with practice and some trial-and-error.
Benefits of meal prepping
There are numerous benefits to meal prepping. That is perhaps why it has become such a popular way to prepare food. It is said that one will not truly see the benefits until they start. But here are some of the most notable benefits:
It saves time
Meal prepping is a huge timesaver. Whether you prepare lunches for the week so you can grab them and head out the door in the morning or prepare ingredients to cook with when you get home, there’s no doubt that meal prepping allows you to spend less time in the kitchen and less time worrying about what to eat.
It saves money
Eating out at restaurants or picking up food gets expensive quickly. Especially if you’re doing so for almost every meal you eat. That’s just the cost of convenience. You’ll save money by rationing your own food.
Individual portions curb overeating and reduce waste
Because you control the portion size, you may find it easier to stick to a diet plan. It won’t take long to figure out exactly how big individual portions need to be. With that we are less likely to throw away food that we are not going to eat.
Builds a new skill
Meal prepping’s popularity has inspired many to get into the kitchen and learn how to cook proper meals. Cooking is an invaluable skill that is both practical and soothing.