Coach Mark’s Magical Meal Planning Tips30 May 2016
This article forms part of our 2016 Winter Nutrition Challenge and was created to help participants improve their eating habits. We also offer in depth nutrition coaching if you feel like you'd need an extra helping hand. Hey folks, This week I’ll be sharing how I plan for the week and eat in a way that keeps me lean, makes me feel good and fuels my performance during workouts. After reading this I hope you’ll have some tips or strategies you can use to make your meal planning a simple process! At a quick glance - these are the tips I mention in the article. Scroll down to each to read more about them!
Tip #1: Find your motivation. Tip #2: Keep meat in the fridge for easy prep during the week. Tip #3: Cook in bulk on the weekend. Tip #4: Finish the prep part in advance to save time in the week. Tip #5: Add protein to your breakfast. Tip #6: Use green blocks for extra veg. Tip #7: Cook for your next meal. Tip #8: Get comfortable with being boring.
Please keep in mind that I’m type 1 diabetic (16 years now) and am extra motivated (I have to be!) to eat well to manage my blood sugars. This is kind of an unfair advantage, but is still a choice I had to make a few years ago. I look, feel and perform better when my blood sugars are better.
It takes effort to shop for, cook food, and clean up the kitchen everyday. It takes effort to prepare meals and store/pack it for upcoming meal times. If you’re not motivated and willing to do this because you want to – you’ve got no chance. So find your motivation, find your why and be clear on why you choose this lifestyle. Take care of your body, it’s the only one you’ve got! Take care of your body it's the only one you have to live. When drafting this article I thought I’d share what I actually did during the past week. Most weeks follow a similar thread so keep in mind that all the veg, carbs, meat and fats can be substituted for others that you like, but I’ll make reference to those where applicable. I’m also currently doing Intermittent Fasting (IF) in an experiment to get better control of my sugars. This is a new thing for me (2 weeks in), although I did it extensively about 3 years ago. The trick is finding the right balance of carbs for my body to maintain good control and still perform in morning or evening workouts. I can’t go into all the nitty gritty of IF in this post and don’t recommend it for everybody, but I’m happy to share anything about my experience if you’re interested over good coffee or if you bump into me at the gym. But let’s get started.
Saturday or Sunday is typically my grocery shopping day, just like Tash mentioned in the first post she wrote. In all honesty I don’t really plan a lot for the week’s meals, but rather plan around the protein/meats I have in my freezer or buy at the supermarket. I also have a bunch of simple recipes on a Trello board [link] that I like to use. So on Saturdays I’ll take a look into my deep freeze and take out a big piece of meat, either whole chicken, game/pork shoulder, lamb roast that I’ve bought at the market, the Whole Food Pantry or from the supermarket on Sundays. If I don’t have in the freezer, I’ll buy on Saturday/Sunday. I also make sure I have about 1kg of chicken breast cut into strips. I like buying those big trays at Pick 'n Pay and preparing 4 week’s of chicken at a time. I cut 1kg for this week, and cut 1 kg each for the other weeks, spice them and freeze them in separate bags for each week. I’ll also check what I can make during the week and move that to the fridge or keep it at the top of the freezer to move on Tue/Wed.
Keeping protein in the fridge makes it easier to cook on an evening when you’re trying to decide what to eat, rather than thinking of something and realising you have to spend 30 min defrosting it. Simple ideas for this are mince meat (recipe), chicken breasts/pieces/livers (recipe), chops and steak. At the shops I’ll buy a variety of vegetables and some fruit. The veggies that look good, are cheapest and in season in that order will work for me. Typically onions, lots of greens (broccoli, spinach and kale), carrots, cabbage, peppers and of course - sweet potatoes. On Sundays I cook, and here’s what I did last Sunday...
- Sliced and spiced 1 kg chicken breasts. I kept it simple by using a Cajun spice I like from Atlas Trading.
- Slow cooked a springbok shoulder I received from my mum with this recipe.
- Made a vegetable soup with all my leftover veg and sweet potatoes. [recipe]
- Julienne chopped some veg I had bought on Sunday to help me for lunches and dinner veg that I’d need to prepare quickly this week.
- Prepared ingredients for 6 shakes/smoothies and put them in the freezer. I have a set recipe I like at the mo and it helps me count carbs for my insulin, so I choose to stick to that. But there are plenty of ideas under the “shakes” on my recipe board [link] and check out the anytime shakes and post workout shake recipes.
- I prepared a oat/glucose/protein mix for post AM training on Monday morning. Although I’m doing IF, I’m eating a small snack post workout when I train in the morning. This week I was covering for Justin so that is the plan.
Right so from what happened on Sunday, I guess I can share a few tips.
Just think about this – you need a quick meal and there’s no time to cook. Take out a pre-prepped smoothie, add to blender with some water/tea and blend. Add whey protein and boom - meal done. Simply decant into a bottle and take it with you. Same for veggies. Need to add veg to your meal? Simply grab a handful of pre-chopped veg from the fridge and sauté it in some preheated coconut or olive oil or fat of choice. Five minutes, max. Take the schlep out of the prep and you’ll make it easier to eat healthy more consistently.
When I tell people about how I eat they typically cringe at the thought of eating chicken at breakfast. Haha. The problem is you’re likely not eating enough protein right now and protein is important for recovery, satiety and building lean muscle. More lean muscle = less body fat. And breakfast is a perfect time to add more protein to your day. Sure, eggs count, but 3 eggs make up 1 portion of protein so for guys especially you’ll need to eat 3+ eggs!
The rest of my week looked like this:
Saturday & Sunday
This is where it falls apart for most people. They eat so well during the week but on the weekends they don’t have any routine and eat whatever they want and that’s why they can’t lose weight. At least, that’s what they say.
As you can see, I really do eat well during the week and put a lot of effort into eating real food and training hard. On Saturdays, I choose to take a break. I try and eat enough protein, but am not too worried if I don't. I eat wherever we eat the weekend, and I’ll often have foods or dessert I normally don’t have during the week. I don’t gorge, but I don’t hold back either.
Then when Sundays come I normally eat a lot less. Kind of like a longer fasting day. I skip breakfast and eat a small lunch and small dinner if any. This is to offset the food I have eaten during the week and excess calories on Saturdays, for a chill day in my gut on Sundays.
So now that you know how my typical week of meal prep goes, here are some final tips.
I typically eat veg 2x per day, plus I have a veg supplement like this. But hidden in the mix is actually another 1-2 veg portions that I add to my smoothies! Every few weeks I buy a bunch of spinach, blend it till smooth with some water and freeze them to add to my smoothies. Super convenient and easy! Add 1 - 2 blocks of these to your smoothies for extra vegetables.
When I sauté veg in the evenings, I’ll make extra for lunch the next day. If I’m baking potatoes, I bake more for more meals. Other than saving time, doing this makes it SO MUCH easier to decide what to eat.
Of course nobody wants to be boring, but when it comes to food and living healthy most people say they either don’t have time or have enough money, or in some cases both! But if you still want to eat well and improve the way you look, feel and perform – you’re going to have to get comfortable with eating similar foods over and over again.
I eat pretty much the same food week in and week out. My meals are made up of an animal protein, fresh veggies, starchy veggies and some healthy fats. The way I add variety is with spices, different cooking methods (roast vs sauté), adding eggs (omelette, frittata, hard boiled, etc) and adding fresh herbs.
Alternatively you can turn to The Whole Food Pantry, where Caroline Webber (a fellow CrossFitter) makes it possible to buy farm fresh produce and choose from a variety of healthy ready made meals every week. You may have noticed her fridge at the box so you can have your foods delivered and collect after your training.
And that’s it. If you read this far I hope you got some value out of the way I approach the week. I’ve experimented with plenty of nutrition plans and these tips are universal. If you have questions please email me direct, leave a comment (if enabled) or ask me when you see me at the box!