If you know you need to make food changes in your life, whether it be switching from take out to home cooked, or making from scratch vs from a box, one of the most challenging things that might be holding you back is food prep and/or cooking itself. Right?
Although the meals themselves might not feel overwhelming, getting out the door in the morning, with kids, or even JUST YOU can be a challenge. Then to be sure you have a great lunch, and you are ready to cook a meal when you arrive home. THIS is where the issues start for people making a transition to a real food lifestyle.
The number one thing EVERY SINGLE CLIENT I see says is that they are too busy to meal prep, and will literally try to then spend HOURS searching for MORE packaged and boxed goods they might be able to consume. However, it doesn’t take that many hours to just make the meals or prep the food – sadly. The time spent surfing the web for packaged items could be spent making healthy muffins for your kids snacks for the week instead.
One thing is also true for EVERY SINGLE CLIENT – everyone is working (often multiple jobs) with multiple children at home (or one child that has extremely high needs). I have yet to meet a client that is free of a job with unlimited time, and unlimited resources and no children. I suppose these people exist, but not in my work.
Why does this happen?
We have been conditioned today for CONVENIENCE. The idea of cooking is overwhelming because we have been told that we don’t need to. We can simply dump a bag or a box and “eat.” HOWEVER, every single major health crisis we have today (even COVID-19) is related to poor nutrition and lifestyle. That is right – EVERY SINGLE ONE. With that said – perhaps what we have been told by companies about convenience and “food” isn’t accurate?
The great news is it really doesn’t take more time to cook a meal than it does to warm things from boxes and bags, and it’s delish! Sure COULD you spend more time on meals and prep – SURE THING! But do you NEED to in order to eat real foods and have a nutrient-dense diet? NO!
How do we overcome these issues then?
1- Make food prep and meals a priority (YOU DO have the time if it’s IMPORTANT to get the result you want).
Let go of the fact that you do NOT WANT to cook, that you now NEED to cook. Know that the reason you are seeking these changes is because you or your child’s health DEPENDS on this. If you have decided that the only way to control the symptoms that brought you and your family down this road is through food, THAT means this is now the NUMBER ONE priority in your life.
Not Facebook, not Netflix, not scrolling other social media, not scrolling news. Remember food prep can be as little as 30 minutes to a few hours depending on how you schedule it (see number 3). Think about how much time you spend watching television daily, how much time you spend using the Internet or computer daily. What is MORE important? Helping you or your child feel better and resolve their health issues, or watching that next episode.
The reality is that most people just DO NOT WANT to meal prep – so they don’t and it leads to the really poor symptoms that created a health issue. It’s all about changing your mindset and making it a priority knowing the health of you or your child will NOT be the same without it. Know that the more times you cut corners with pre packed foods, and processed foods the more likely you or your child is to suffer in their health and wellness.
Do we all want to take a night off and get take out from time to time – SURE DO!
If you don’t mind medications, or you don’t mind having to deal with the illnesses or time off, and you don’t mind dealing with feeling lousy daily then food prep and real food doesn’t matter.
HOWEVER, my clients come to me to quickly end imbalances in their nutrition so they can get back to having normal daily lives without a lot of disruption – and THAT MEANS you MUST take the time to food prep. There is never room for panic or emergency. The real problem is when you skip food prep. Knowing unforeseen schedule changes will happen, is even MORE reason to have a plan for food prep so you have something ready in ANY daily circumstance. Sure do we end up in a pinch sometimes and run out of something – sure of course. However, our daily routine shouldn’t be stocking our fridge, pantry and freezer with processed foods planning to not have real food on hand.
2- Meal plan – without a plan you cannot effectively prep.
If you know each meal you know what you need to have done ahead and what you have time to cook in person. You need to consider your work schedule, your child’s schedule, your child’s environment and location, and how many meals or snacks they will need in each environment and location. It’s about knowing that you need to have packed yourself a morning snack, an open snack time, and a lunch daily. If you KNOW you will have to run home and then back out for something for your kids, then you need to have a crockpot meal ready when the night is done, or ready when you stop home to pop it in a container to take it with you. It’s about knowing that maybe even you ALREADY cooked that dinner the night before when it was a slower night, and you packaged it up and you plan to just rewarm it that night, or maybe it’s a cold meal you eat while you are out.
Let me give you an example. I work on Thursday all day long. I am literally not home. Often during the summer, we like to make a local beach night on Thursdays. It starts IMMEDIATELY upon my arrival home. That means I have to have a dinner already packaged and completed, or in a crockpot to package up to run right out the door. I KNOW this so I plan to start something that morning before work, but usually I do it the NIGHT before. If all the nights in your house sound like this – that means that you need to choose a slow day of the week (and yes I know you know exactly what day that is but will deny it while reading this because the thought of relaxing and doing nothing is more appealing – I KNOW THIS FEELING). You need to look at the number of meals that will be busy or on the run and prep and cook them all that day. I have done a whole week ahead before for travel. Once you know how many proteins you need, how many veggies etc, you can just do them all in one pan swoop!
Use a calendar and write out each item each day, and look at the schedule and coordinate that. Without doing this you will NEVER be able to do a real food diet if you are not home nightly to make dinner and prep the next day’s lunch. It’s a priority – so make it one. If it were your JOB to do this you would make it happen. So as a parent – this is NOW YOUR JOB!
3- Make a schedule/set time each week to prep for the upcoming week.
This scenario will look different for everyone. It may look like that night you do the next day, or it might look like Sunday afternoon you spend 2 hours doing prep. Might be grouping proteins together nightly for the next day, or making snacks then for the next day.
Here is my schedule… I make all of the lunch proteins on the weekend for everyone. I package them all up for use and nightly we remake the lunches for the next day. If I know I have a busy night and I might feel overwhelmed when I CHECK MY SCHEDULE, then I may make a few lunches at a time. The same day I prep those proteins, I check the muffin and bread load in the freezer. Getting low? I cook them at the same time. If not – I wait and I will choose to make them in the evening with dinner on slower days if need be. Most of the time I chose to make them together with the meal prep time. If something starts running low unexpectedly (like your child starts growing and literally eats EVERYTHING for the week in one night- true story), that night when I am cooking that meal I make the next few days of proteins or snacks right then. COMBINE cooking times. There is no need to cook all day and all night. Work smarter not LONGER or harder.
Truly though – the real challenge here is NUMBER ONE on this list. It’s the motivation and priority – once you give in to the fact that this MUST happen for the health of your family – your life will get better. You will find that your schedule has that time, you will find that you can figure out when to fit in this bit of meal prep and actually you will learn to love making this food that will change your family’s life! Change your mindset and it gets easier!