Nicole Modic, author of Love to Eat, shares meal prep tips that will encourage you to fuel in a healthier way.
Cooking your own food can be incredibly satisfying (never underestimate the sense of accomplishment when you’ve pulled together a compliment-worthy meal), not to mention more budget-friendly and healthier than eating out.
But when you’re juggling work, family responsibilities, and getting your workouts in, it’s a challenge not to turn to takeout after a long day. That’s why meal prep can be a gamechanger.
Lawyer-turned-food blogger and cookbook author Nicole Modic, a.k.a. Kalejunkie, swears by meal prepping. In her new cookbook, Love to Eat she shares tips and 75 recipes for prepping meals that are nutritious and made with whole foods, but taste like indulgences.
Why Meal Prep is Important
Modic’s food philosophy centers around intuitive eating, which is all about listening to your body’s cues. That means eating when you are hungry, choosing foods that give you energy, and avoiding foods that make you feel lethargic.
“When you restrict yourself from enjoying things like life’s pleasures, it can lead to binging, and it can lead to developing an unhealthy relationship with food,” she said.
Modic speaks from experience. She battled disordered eating herself and had to unlearn ideas about “good” and “bad” food, which had caused her to hide snacks, binge eat, and then feel shame.
“Food is food now,” she said. “We shouldn’t assign morality to it.”
Instead, she explained, her guiding principle is paying attention to how food choices make her feel. “I eat nutritious foods 85 to 90 percent of the time because I feel great, but I also leave room in my life for things that make me happy, even when there’s not a better substitute with more nutritious ingredients.”
But eating intuitively is easier said than done, especially if you aren’t meal prepping. Between the addictive nature of sugar and fast food ads designed to make you salivate, intuition can go out the window if you don’t have feel-good foods readily available.
“In my book, I have checklists for getting started on an intuitive eating journey and answer common questions about how to eat intuitively,” Modic explained. “Meal prep is an important part of the process.”
Meal Prep Tips
1. Write It Down
If you are trying to overhaul your diet and eat healthier, your first step is to understand how you react to food and what your body needs. Modic suggests keeping a food journal to document what you are currently eating, as well as how you feel afterwards. This might lead to some surprising revelations.
“When I started journaling, I actually realized I wasn’t eating enough food,” Modic said. “Especially when I started increasing my strength training with Tonal, I had to fuel differently, otherwise my body wouldn’t be able to build muscle like I wanted,” Modic said.
If you’re strength training, you want to make sure you’re getting the proper amount of fuel–particularly because strength training may make you feel hungrier. Once you know how much food you need and what food makes you feel energized rather than lethargic, you can start planning out what to buy and what to cook.
2. Make the Time
Set aside time to meal prep one or two days a week. “What I like to do is set aside one hour on Sundays and knock out my meal prepping. I cook two proteins, three carbohydrates, and three veggies. Then, I can mix and match all week and I’m not stuck eating the same meal every day,” Modic said.
3. Clean as You Go
This tip is applicable to any cooking project, but especially when you’re prepping multiple meals. Nothing will make you quit faster than a disastrous kitchen that you have to clean after all the work you already put in. “Cleaning while cooking is how I manage to get it all done in an hour,” Modic said.
4. Think Ahead
Plan for your meals (plus snacks) before heading to the grocery store. Think through what proteins, carbs, and veggies you want to prep, but also how you want to use them throughout the week. For example, if pork is one of the proteins you want to cook, tacos are a good option for later in the week. Think about that before you make your grocery list so when that taco craving hits mid-week, you have what you need to make a healthy homemade version.
5. Prep Produce ASAP
Make your fresh fruits and vegetables more appealing by cleaning and chopping them first.
“It’s really annoying but important. I come home from the farmers market or grocery store, wash everything right away, and leave it all on my counter to dry before putting it away,” Modic said. “It’s such a timesaver when I’m feeling lazy in the middle of the week and I want to grab a snack. My carrots are already cleaned and peeled, and my lettuce is already washed and dried.”
6. Invest in Storage
High-quality containers are key for meal prepping. Get a variety of glass or vacuum-sealable options in different sizes so that you can store meals, snacks, sauces, and anything else that you prep. Then when you’re ready, you simply grab and go or reheat and eat.
7. Double Up
For foods that freeze well, such as chili or hearty stews, double the recipe to make extra. Keep what you will eat over the next few days in the fridge and use vacuum-sealed containers to freeze the remainder in individual or family serving sizes. When you don’t feel like cooking (or even prepping), you have an instant meal that you just need to defrost.