Monday, August 18, 2014

An adventure in Meal Prep: Part 1

"Do you eat a well-balanced diet?"

That's one of the first things I ask my clients when they start up.  Then after a quick review I usually come to find out that they have bad macro-nutrient ratios and poor dietary habits hindering their progress.  That's when I schedule them with a dietitian so they can stop handicapping themselves.

Setting yourself up for success is simple...  
When you want to succeed, do what the pros do.

"But I do not have the time to cook or the money to eat healthy, don't know what to eat, and don't know how to cook..."  

Create a weekly meal plan!
First, stop making excuses.  I've heard them all before and unless you are homeless you are lying to yourself. It is all about setting priorities and sticking to a plan.  

Second, No... I don't expect you to go out and hire a dietitian to plan everything for you, a chef to cook for you, and a trainer to burn all those calories out of you.  Yes, while all of those would be awesome they do cost money.  

Most people overspend as is.  They buy cruddy food at fast food restaurants thinking it's saving them time and money; however, at $5-$10 a pop multiple times a week and the time and gas to get the restaurants they end up spending just as much time and money (if not more) than they would have otherwise.

This week I went to Walmart for my groceries.  I bought nearly everything I needed for the week (excluding some spices and milk) and got it for just under $70.  I even splurged a little bit on some fancy cheese for one of my dishes... 

Now that is important because I usually eat around 3,500 calories each day to maintain and this shopping list reflects that.  Most of the people I train only need to eat around 1,600 - 2,500 calories a day for weight control (with the exception of the ones doing bodybuilding or endurance sports).  So, if I can go to Walmart and walk away with good whole foods for an entire week, if you shop smart (coupons, sales, buy-in-bulk...) you can easily come in cheaper.

The plan was simple.  I get a good breakfast (Eggs, Bacon, Cottage Cheese, and Fruit) followed by a Snack (usually a shake or more fruit with cottage cheese depending on my schedule).  Then I get a hearty lunch and dinner in the afternoon, with a snack to break them up.  While I don't really focus on exact numbers with my calories, most of my meals once I weighed them out came to 800 to 1,000 calories and snacks between 250 and 500.  

One of the most important things to note is that every meal I prepare has a good balance of Protien, Carbs, and Fats.  This keeps me fueled and satisfied through the day and enables me to handle long shifts on the gym floor and and multiple workouts each day.  

If you want a good sample meal plan or just want some healthy meal ideas, go here to Crossfit's Zone Diet primer

So...  What can you do to succeed?  Plan ahead.

Start by writing out a menu for your week and get together a shopping list.  Here is a free one just for that purpose.  Try to keep your meals simple and easy to make.  Also, plan on how you will store them and how well they can keep in the fridge.


5-days of Lunch & Dinner

I usually prep my meals 3 days at a time just so I know that the food wont spoil, but to prove a point I prepped an entire 5 days of food this time for this post.  Each MEAL is a main dish (Protein!), a side, with some Spinach and fruit to finish it off.  I kept my portions balanced by utilizing a Food Scale (Which are cheap and essential for portion control).

A valuable tool for your success.

Once you have your shopping list, food scale, and food containers set out and ready to go its time to do the heavy lifting...  SHOPPING!

The trip to the store was made easier by having and sticking to my list.  

I did have to fight off the usual cravings, but for the most part I was able to keep under control and not just get a bag of chips or some ice cream.

...and yes, that is processed food in my cart. I shopped where everyone else does so I am on even ground.  Normally I would get my meat from a local butcher and stay away from the pre-grated cheeses but food is food.  My only concern here is the sodium content in my food.  



Get your work space clean and ready ahead of time.  This will save a lot of time together.    

Also, try to plan the route you are taking with the dishes.  Do you need to preheat the oven? Are the dishes needing different cook temperatures?  Do you need multiple timers?
Do you need ice to cool certain foods?  Do you need to have certain meats marinading or have a dry rub?   Write down a quick and dirty plan of action so you don't get confused in the mess of things and end up overcooking or undercooking foods. 

So I decided to make 5 different main dishes I figured would hold up for a week in the fridge and reheating.  

1: Meatloaf
2: Tuna Cakes
3: Pork Tenderloin (Peppercorn & Garlic)
4: Pork Tenderloin (Garlic & Herb)
5: More Meatloaf (I like meatloaf)

The Side dishes were easy...

1: Mashed Sweet Potatoes
2: Mashed Potatoes
3: Herb& Butter Rice
4: Mac & Cheese (My favorite!)
5: Spiced Carrots

I also add spinach liberally to all my meals throughout the week... so there are my greens.  

As far as fruit goes, I personally like to nibble throughout the day on it.  So I Sliced and diced a pound of fruit for each day.  That most likely is far more than anyone else would need, but its yummy!

It's can be intimidating prepping a week ahead!

Once the food is cut up and ready to cook, that is when the race starts.  From Start to Finish I was in my kitchen for just shy of 4 hours for prep, cooking, and packaging.

Now, I know what you are gonna say...  "But, I don't have time to cook.."

Yes, you do... Do you watch TV?  Do you play on the internet?  Do you play with your kids? Guess what, You have time.

Move the TV to the kitchen while you teach your kids how to cook, make it fun...  trust me, it is worth it.  There's your solution... now, no more excuses.

Be sure to stick to your recipes and don't try to experiment here.  You don't want to waste any time having to go back and make more food.  Get that stuff cooked and in their packages.  

Once you have the stuff packaged, all that's left to do is stick to your plan. 

Do not deviate. Do not give in when your friends ask you to go get pizza or your kids want you to eat ice cream with them.  

If that is too much of a problem, then maybe then you should consult with a Personal Trainer and/or a Licensed Dietitian   They could help you keep on track and have accountability. 

~Your Trainer
    Richard Sterling Tarleton


  1. Am definitely going to have to get out of my own way and do this..... Gotta find a kitchen to use counter space is literally only 2x4 with a sink in the middle!

    1. Even with limited space and a small kitchen, this is possible. I used to do this in a 24' Travel trailer with basically a microvave, stovetop, and a sink. It isn't as pretty, but it gets the job done.