Meal prep may be sabotaging your diet.
There is a point when well-meaning 'healthy habits' are taken to the extreme and become incredibly unhealthy.
Obsessive meal planning and meal prep is the latest health trend to do just that - and I'm not a fan.
The concept is simple: Batch cook all your food ahead of a busy week, and you'll have plenty of healthy options prepped and ready to go. This part, I like!
However, what ends up happening (and what you see on social media) is a week or month worth of identical, same-same clone food. This type of meal planning and meal prep leaves no room for flexibility or eating what your body feels like that day in order to feel nourished.
The other major flaw? A massive lack of diversity.
New research shows that people who eat the most diversity of plants in a week have the healthiest gut microbiota, crucial for immunity, healthy hormones and balanced moods.
Even if what you're eating is really healthy, if you eat the same thing every single day, it's not ideal for your health. It may help you lose weight but it's not nearly as healthy for you gut microbiota (and health in general) as a diet loaded with diversity.
Truthfully though? I think the thing that gets to me the most is how painfully boring this way of eating is.
Very quickly, healthy eating will begin to feel like a chore and feel too hard. So instead of developing a healthy relationship with food and feeling better and better, you suffer from the all-or-nothing mentality and may give up completely.
You set yourself up for out-of-control overeating when your motivation dwindles...and let me tell you, the motivation always dwindles!
Diets don't work. And unfortunately, this 'healthy habit' is simply a diet in disguise.
Let me keep it real.
Even if you do lose weight, do you really want to obsessively meal prep and eat the same repetitious meals every day for the rest of your life? Because to maintain any weight you lose, this is EXACTLY what you'd need to do.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a fan of meal prep. It's something I do. Boy oh boy, it can save you a load of time and help you eat healthily even with life is crazy.
But there's way to meal prep with balance and flexibility. It's something I teach in the Keep it Real Program in detail but here are some general ways to keep meal prep and meal planning truly healthy and enjoyable.
Get balanced: How to meal prep healthily
Set aside a couple of hours a week to do some basic, easy meal prep. Put on some music, make it fun.
Fall in love with your freezer. Make soup (I love this lentil quinoa recipe) in bulk and then freeze the rest in portion-sized containers. You'll always have a quick, healthy meal on hand but won't have to eat the same meal day in and day out.
If you must, meal prep one meal (e.g. breakfast, lunch) for a week but then be flexible with all your other meals.
Make quick and easy meal options like this one-tray teriyaki salmon. Make enough for lunch the next day but not so much that it's all you're eating. Build up a repertoire so keep things varied.
Bang 2-3 trays of mixed vegetables into the oven to bake like cauliflower, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, capsicum, zucchini and eggplant. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and herb mix and bake at 180c until tender and brown. Keep vegetables in rows (instead of mixing) for more variety throughout the week. Here's a baked sweet potato recipe.
Toast seeds and nuts in bulk and keep in jars. Use different nuts and seeds depending on what you feel like. Add to salads, yoghurt, cereal and baked veggies.
Buy up big on seasonal fruit and enjoy different types as a snack each day.
Get a mix of different leafy greens, each day, mix up your leafy base.
Each week, buy one new vegetable you don't cook with often, then play around in the kitchen.
Chop up a big variety of fruit and vegetables so they’re ready to be eaten. If I miss this step, I tend to reach for quick options like bread and cereal, then struggle to get my serves of fruit and veg for the day.
Smoothie prep like a pro. Meal prep your smoothies by placing the ingredients into a freezer bag. Have different combinations ready to go in the fridge and alternate with the seasons. Tip: Freeze milk in ice-cube trays for thicker smoothies.
You're far better off starting small and building up healthy habits. It's far more sustainable than going from takeaway to full-blown meal prep.