Meal Planning or Meal Prep doesn't have to be overly complicated. The easiest way I have found to organize my personal meal planning is by finding things that I love and making them more simple.
My wife and I really like chicken fried rice. Usually we get a box from Walmart or a bag from Costco. However, if you read the ingredients there are way too many and half you can't even pronounce. I decided to make my own healthier version.
Basically, I broke it down into fewer ingredients:
Chicken Fried Rice
Sounds simple, right? Well here's what the package says that we used to get:
Ingredients: Cooked White Rice (Water, Enriched White Rice [Water, White Rice, Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid], White Rice), Char Broiled Chicken Breast Meat, Water, Corn Oil, Brown Sugar, Salt, Soy Sauce [Water, Wheat, Soybeans, Salt], Sodium Phosphate, Dried Chicken Stock [Chicken Stock, Salt], Carrageenan), Carrots, Peas, Soy Sauce (Water, Wheat Soybeans, Salt), Scrambled Egg Product (Whole Eggs, Non Fat Milk, Soybean Oil, Modified Cornstarch, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid), contains 2% or less of: Onions, Liquid Margarine (Soybean Oil, Water, Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Mono- & Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Benzoate, Natural and/or Artificial Flavor, Beta Carotene [color], Vitamin A Palmitate), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Salt, Modified Cornstarch, Dehydrated Garlic, Sesame Oil, Disodium Inosinate & Guanylate. Contains: Eggs, Milk, Soybean, Wheat.
Count those, over 22 different ingredients (not including the sub-ingredients listed within some like the soy sauce). Is all of that really necessary? No. Here's how the nutrition stacks up:
(250 cal version in parenthesis)
Calories: 473 (250)
Fat: 9.5g (5g)
Carbs: 40g (21g)
Protein: 60g (32g)
So without going into so much detail, you can see that the homemade version with the same amount of calories has about half the carbs and 3 times the protein with roughly similar amounts of fat. When you look a cost you'll pay approximately $2 per serving for the store version when you pay about $1.20-$1.70 depending on prices and your own custom flavors.
How easy is it to make?
- Cook brown rice in a rice cooker.
- Grill or bake chicken, chop when done.
- Chop carrots and saute in a pan.
- Add eggs to carrots and scramble.
- Add cooked rice and cooked chicken.
- Add flavor if desired, mix well. Enjoy.
General Principles I Use to Meal Prep
Make sure each meal contains 30-40g of protein. Great protein sources are fish, beef, pork, chicken, and other lean meats.
Each meal should have some fat, but not too much. I aim for about 15-20% of my daily fat intake. Sources include olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, etc.
Use complex carbs, around 30-50g. Sources included whole grains and pastas, vegetables, and fruits.
Pick a meal you love, and then calculate the calories. Adjust the ingredients in the meal until it matches your calorie and macro-nutrient needs.
Use a food scale to measure out ingredients. This will help understand really how much you're consuming rather than guessing.