Meal Prep

I thought a good follow-up post to my last one about cutting weight would be to go through my meal preparation.  A meme came across my FB feed a few weeks back, something like "Athletes train and eat, they don't diet and exercise..."  Good Lord YES.  Healthy eating should be satisfying and delicious and fuel for the ride, not a drudgery of steamed boredom.

I have travelled through a few phases of meal prep styles, and I've boiled down my system to something that I know (nutritionally) works for me, is something I can afford, and is satisfying.

#1. The Nutrition.  I'm not gluten intolerant and I don't have food allergies, but I know I function best when I restrict my carbohydrate intake to what is absolutely necessary, and consume copious amounts of greens.  For example, if I eat a full serving of hash browns and toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and pasta for dinner, on a regular basis, I know (based on experience) I'll become bloated, gain weight fairly rapidly, and I'll be sluggish.

These days I choose 1-2 carbohydrate sources per week, and I portion them.  Last week and this week, it's homemade flour tortillas, consisting of white flour, oil, and salt (my grandmother's recipe) to supplement lunch/dinner, and some type of berry or banana for breakfast, mixed with walnuts.
Lunch/Dinner mainstays are always a wide variety of greens, plant-based protein, and a serving of animal protein.

Nutrition requirements are tricky.  We are all different.  My needs are wildly different from one of my co-workers. who consumes more protein that I ever could, but I know folks who swear by a vegetarian plan and are perfectly fine.

I put the "for me" in italics because this is not what I advocate for everyone as THE way to eat.   I want to stress the eating plan I follow is one I've worked out on my own, through trial and error, using my overall well-being as my measuring stick.  I've tried cutting out carbohydrates, and that resulted in low energy and an annoying craving for chips and pretzels. I've tried cutting animal protein, and that resulted in a loss of muscle mass.          

#2 What can you afford?  You lose the budget battle if you buy a lot of stuff that requires 6-8 hours of preparation,  but you don't actually DO the prep, is a busy place.  On the other hand, meal delivery can be legitimately extremely expensive.

My happy medium is prepared foods.  There is a large Chaldean population in El Cajon, here in San Diego County, thus a large variety of Mediterranean grocery stores.  I shop at Valley Foods and buy their prepared salads, then portion everything into glass containers (Amazon).  The overall cost is a little more than I would spend of I made everything from scratch, much less than delivery, a prep time that takes 1-3 hours.

#3 The Satisfaction.  Once again, you lose the budget battle if you decide to go hog wild on steamed broccoli and plain canned tuna on your prep day, but at lunch head for In N Out because you can't face that sad, flavorless vegetable.  It's possible to prepare meals that taste good and are satisfying.  Unless you're competing in a figure contest and need to trim every last bit of fat off your body, add some sauce to your food!  If you like to keep things basic with rice and chicken, portion out some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and paprika or salt.  You'll look forward to your meal, and like I stated at the beginning, this is fuel!  Eat up, be satisfied, and be ready to go forth and conquer.

My meal plan is roughly as follows:

1/4 cup of walnuts, crushed
2 teaspoons cacao nibs
1 large banana OR 1/2 cup of blackberries
1 package of Acai (unsweetened!)
Cinnamon to taste

1 cup Iraqi Salad (cucumber, tomato, onion)
1/2 cup Hummus
1 tortilla

1 cup Tabouli Salad (parsley, garlic, tomato)
1 cup Eggplant Salad (eggplant, peppers, olive oil)
1 serving of protein, this week it's chicken breast
1 tortilla

1/4 cup roasted-salted cashews.
I always keep two hard-boiled eggs on hand.

Some of my foods are dual purpose.  I use the crushed walnuts and cacao nibs as a replacement for granola.  I LOVE granola, but it's loaded with refined sugar.  The banana sweetens up breakfast just the right amount.  The walnuts also serve as a protein-fat source.  Hummus is a source of protein, carbohydrate, and technically it's a "dip," so the cucumber salad gets a boost of flavor.  Parsley is high in calcium, and is also an excellent source of greens.  Eggplant takes on the flavor of whatever you add, and the texture is hearty.  I cooked my chicken breast in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt, so it's going to be the perfect flavorful lean meat with those salads.

This is the finished product for this week:  The top box contained two flour tortillas and two hard-boiled eggs.  The right column contained Iraqi salad and hummus.  The left column contains Tabouli salad and Eggplant salad, and the small containers are my cashews for snacking.

The containers can be found at "Prep Naturals" on Amazon

Take care!  Happy training.


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