The key to any habit is being able to repeat the action consistently. Big wins come from small habits. As I have tried to create habits throughout my life, I have found that I have been most successful when I plan. Like actually sit down and write out a plan. Food habits are no different. I know that when I don’t sit down and write out a plan for my food for the week, I end up buying food that doesn’t always go together, or over estimate how many meals I’m actually going to cook, and end up eating out more and snacking on whatever is fast and not necessarily best. For many of us in Population Health at Promise, we have found that meal planning and staple prepping helps us be more successful in sticking with our health habit goals. So, buckle your seatbelts, here we go!
Why plan and staple prep?
Making a meal plan for the week helps save money on groceries, take the stress out of the nightly conundrum of what to eat, and help you stay on track with your food goals! Making a meal plan is planning for success! Staple prep means that you prepare staple foods that you can use in many different ways throughout the week.
What do I need to include in a meal plan?
Glad you asked. As fiber and protein are often the nutrients that end up lacking in our diets, I recommend that you plan around those nutrients. Both fiber and protein are processed by our bodies slowly, which helps keep our blood sugars more stable, and keep us feeling full for longer. Additionally, because our bodies have to work so hard to digest the protein and fiber, we burn more calories digesting them than we do when we eat simple carbohydrates or fats. When looking at the meals that you are planning, you don’t have to always sit and measure, but become aware of your protein and fiber sources. Women should be getting 25g of fiber daily, and men 35g daily. Protein intake is a little more dependent on your body type and activity level, a good rule of thumb is that you can calculate your protein intake with this equation – weight x 0.8 = protein g. So if you weigh 150 lbs, 150 x 0.8 = 120g of protein a day, which is more protein than you think it is.
But what does that mean realistically? If you take nothing else away from this, that means that you need somewhere between 4-9g fiber and approximately 20g of protein in every meal.
The highest fiber foods are fruits and vegetables, and nuts and whole grains. Meats, fish, eggs, cheese, nuts, legumes, greek yogurt and cottage cheese are all high protein sources.
That’s great an all, but how do I staple prep?
When you’re planning your meals for the week, I suggest prepping 1-2 fiber sources and 1-2 protein sources for the week. Plan for those staples to use them throughout the week. Then you don’t have food waste! Planning for the week will allow you to build a grocery list and stick to it. Once I have a plan in place, I shop online for my groceries, helping me get only what I need.
After the plan and the shopping, it’s all about the prep and the storage. The secret of successful meal prep is to do what works for you and store your healthy foods properly to keep them fresh and flavorful.
Once the food is home, make sure to give yourself some time to prep. I find that prepping 2 fiber and 2 protein options takes me about 2 hours to do, including washing my dishes when I’m done. Sometimes I can get more accomplished in this time, depending on what I’m prepping for the week.
Commit this week to prepping one or two items. Make it a habit and stick with it. After a few weeks, add a new habit. Six months down the road you will be proud and amazed at the habits you have woven into your life! Have a happy and healthy 2021!