Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Food Prep: The Key to Fitness Success

The key to successfully maintaining a clean diet is planning ahead. I know this is not everyone's strong point but it is vital to first - HAVE a plan, and second - FOLLOW your plan.

Plan.. then Prepare! Here we go, today we're discussing: Food Prep

Get ready to bust out the Tuperware, or see below - plastic baggies!
I use plastic baggies to store my food to save space. It also allows me
to prepare further ahead because I don't have to worry about buying
3 weeks worth of tuperware!

I have a the benefit of a personized food plan sent to me every month by my coach, Shannon Dey, because I am a Team Bombshell athlete. I would not be able to train hard, stay healthy, and make the necessary changes and improvements in my physique if I wasn't following a solid nutritional plan. Food is the fuel your body needs to build muscle, metabolize fat, think quickly, fight disease and repair injury, which is why it is vital that you're meeting your daily calorie, protein, carbohydrate and fat needs.

My food plan is likely more strict and repetative than others (At Team Bombshell, we repeat the same day's worth of meals for an entire month - unless changes are required to meet our goals) but there's no reason you can't apply the same techniques I use to prepare my food to your own plan!

If you dont already pay attention to your diet, I strongly encourage you to jump on the clean-eating band wagon. I PROMISE you the results will floor you and you'll be happier and healthier for life! Read my last post - Fit Lifestyle: What Should You Eat? for all the details.

Eat CLEAN. Train MEAN.

Remember: Abs are made in the kitchen!
If your diet is poor, your progress will be slow.

So, without further ado here's how I prepare all my food for 1-2 weeks in advance so all I have to do during the week is pop it in a microwave! (or eat it cold, which happens more often than not)

I do all my food prep on a single day, usually Sundays. There's a few things that're essential to this process working smoothly: 

1) Decide what you're making - what meals will you be eating? What foods you need to buy? Do you need cooking gear (pans, baggies, muffin pans, ect)?
2) Grocery shop ahead of time and always...
3) Bring a grocery list - don't leave home without it!
4) Set aside 3-5 hours to do all your cooking - this may sound like a lot of time, but until you've done it a couple times and are good at using your time efficiently it will take longer. I recommend just assuming it will take an afternoon, and go to work!
5) Enlist help if possible - I don't have this luxury, but if you have kids/hubby/roomates/friends you can snag to help you, do it! They can chop, pre-heat, watch the rice, flip the chicken, baggie, ect... make it a fun time to bond so they'll want to help again :)

Okay, so now that we're prepared, let's cook!

 - I always start with my proteins. I usually am eating chicken, tillapia, and flank steak in my meal plan. I usually cook all my meat on the stove top. I have tried baking my fish, or slow-cooking my chicken (which is delicious!) but I've found these methods to be more time consuming.

 - Preheat your pans while you cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Also, start boiling water if you'll need it (see next step). Preheat the oven too, usually 350 deg F, if you'll be using it to cook your sweet potatoes or other vegetables.

 - Next, it's carb time. I usually have brown rice, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat pasta. On the stove top, multi-task your 4 oven burners to cook your meats and the carb that will be in the same meal at the same time as that meat. Ie, Meal #2 is chicken with brown rice and green beans; so cook the chicken and the rice at the same time. This will insure you can COMPLETE a week's worth of that meal with all the "components" - protein, carb, vegetable/oil (if any). It's a huge waste of time and space to have too many meals uncompleted at the same.

Here's what it looks like - I have my proteins: chicken
 breast and shrimp cooking on 2 burners. And my
carbs: rice and whole wheat noodles cooking on the other
2 burners.

Just a note in case you were curious, this is the pasta I usually use. You can find it at Safeway. Any whole wheat pasta will do though! For rice, I just buy basic brown rice.

Eating Right Whole Grain Penne pasta

 - Your oven should be ready to cook your sweet potatoes or other vegetables, so put those in so they can get started, and continue to cut up any other meats  and vegetables you'll be using. For example, I cut up my steak while my shrimp and chicken were cooking because I knew the shrimp would cook fast and I'd have a free burner soon. Keep an eye on it though! I've burned many a chicken breast :p

I bake my asparagus at 375 def F until they're still crunchy
but softened a bit. Remember, you'll most likely be microwaving
your food after this before you eat it.

  - Keep rotating your proteins, and set aside finished meat on cookie sheets to cool before bagging. This frees up your pan for the next protein.

Get everything laid out BEFORE you start bagging. I use: Ziploc baggies,
sandwich or snack size (depending on the meal size) and a basic food scale

 - The rest of my vegetables, besides asparagus and sweet potatoes - like green beans, peas, or zucchini, I don't cook before I bag my meals. I find they get cooked enough when I microwave the meal before I eat it OR I just eat it raw if I eat my food cold.

 - As all the "components" of say, Meal 2, get done: protein, carb, vegetable/oil (if any) you can begin to bag. Don't wait till EVERYTHING is done to start bagging. Things will still be in the oven, on the stove top, ect, but this definitely has to be a multi-tasking process to be efficient. As you can see in the picture below, I still have meat cooking on the stove as I baggie Meal #2:

Multi-tasking inproves food prep efficiency by utilizing the down time of
waiting for your other food to finish cooking.
 - If you weigh your meat, do that first and put that it the baggie FIRST. This way you don't have to "tare" or "zero" your scale between each individual bag like you would if it already had vegetables or something in it. Weigh out ALL of the specific type of protein, even if you have say 8 days worth of chicken, but only 6 days worth of rice to go with it... you can freeze the extra chicken and it'll already be weighed and ready for the next time you prep your food.

 - Then, add the carb. If it's rice, measure out a "serving". Usually 1/2 cup but varies by dietary needs. Last veggies, add a "serving"  of those- usually 1/2 cup too. Last, add any olive oil or vinegar, salsa, ect to complete the meal.

 - Wash your hands and close all your baggies at once. This may seem like it doesn't matter but it saves time if your brain only has to focus on "zip the top, zip the top, zip the top" at one time instead of: "open bag, add meat, adjust top... open bag, add meat..." Wash your hands so you don't get food on the outside of the bag or in the zip top. 

 - Write the meal number on the outside of the Ziploc with a Sharpie pen.
Like so:

- Repeat this process: bag protein, add carb, add veggies, add oils/misc, close bags, label - as all the "components" of your other meals finish cooking. Ie: the fish and noodles finish cooking... bag meal 3 - fish, pasta and 1/2 cup peas. And so on.

 - Stow finished meals in the fridge to keep them food-safe and keep them out of your way as you finish. Finally, when ALL meals are done you're ready to assemble each day's worth of food.

 - I use a gallon size Ziploc bag for each day, I place one baggie of meals 1-6 in the Ziploc bag and freeze them. I leave 2 days worth unfrozen in the fridge and replenish the fridge from the freezer as the week progresses. Here's what my freezer looks like right now:

Warning: your roommates may not appreciate you hogging the freezer space :p

A note on carbs - It's often hard to gauge how much rice/pasta or how many sweet potatoes you'll need, so if you have too much rice or noodles it's okay to put them in a Tupperware and freeze them until you need them next week. Just be sure to plan ahead and thaw them out before you need them!

Whew! I feel like I just prepped for the week by writing that! Oh wait, I already did that :) I'm set for the next 8 days and I don't have to cook a thing!! Okay, I DO cook my breakfast fresh every morning. This is because it's usually egg whites and oatmeal so it's easy to whip up. If I'm traveling I'll make breakfast ahead of time too by making a protein pancake out of the egg whites and oatmeal in a bowl in the microwave a baggie-ing it like everything else.

Good luck preppin'! Let me know by commenting below or contacting me via Facebook if you have any questions on my methods :)

~ Ruthie

''It's not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.'' 
 - Paul Bryant

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