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Setting healthy eating goals is easy. But every so often a busy lifestyle gets in the way and prevents you from actually following through. One minute, you’re embarking on the Whole30—and the next, you’re eating donuts from a gas station because you didn’t have time to prepare a healthy breakfast.
Time always seems to be the make-or-break factor when it comes to making good diet choices, which is why weekly meal prep can be such a lifesaver. And while the idea of taking two to three hours out of your Sunday to fix bulk meals for the week may at first seem like a bit of a bummer, it ends up saving you double that—or more—from the time and hassle of preparing separate meals every day. What’s more, it helps you eat clean and save money.
Leads to fewer snap decisions
The best of intentions can completely disintegrate with the first hunger pang or stomach growl. At that point, your eating choices are based on convenience and cravings rather than what’s best for your body or your wallet. By preparing a whole week’s worth of meals in one day and having healthy foods on hand every time you get hungry, you’re turning something instinctual into something cerebral. People always say to never grocery shop when you’re hungry, and meal prep follows the same principle when it comes to self control: choose your meals before your body chooses them for you.
Routine stress can compromise your immune system and cause digestive issues, insomnia and headaches. Not to mention, it makes enjoying life harder, even without the physical toll it takes. Stress crops up so easily because we’re all just busy these days. And while healthy eating should be at the top of everyone’s list, it often falls to the bottom, mostly because other to-dos are surrounded by deadlines and outside expectations. When you come home from work every day, the last thing you want to do is spend an hour working in the kitchen. If you meal prep, however, the oven is already on, the cutting board’s already out, and you can knock out a week’s worth of kitchen drudgery in just a couple hours without having to think about it any other day. And not having to think about it means not stressing about it, which can be truly freeing.
Helps teach portion control
Self control isn’t just about what we eat, but how much. And while there’s certainly charm to family-style dinners, packing meals in tupperware containers and eating only the allotted portion means getting insight into the portions that work for you and your body. Whether you’re wanting to gain muscle, lose a little weight or just get all the nutrients your body needs, keeping track of your portions is vital.
Meal prepping teaches balance. You can still make delicious things and have a treat here and there, but the amount that you eat has been decided by the wiser version of you from a few days ago—who wasn’t hungry or in a hurry.
A couple years ago, you may have heard about a fad diet called “mono-ing” that involved eating a single healthy food for a whole day and nothing else. It seemed appealing because it was easy; straightforward, with no choices or preparation involved. But as much as bananas or broccoli may be packed with healthy nutrients, your body needs a variety of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients in order to flourish. If you put forethought into making your meals, you’re much more likely to choose essential items from several food groups and get the variety that you need to fuel your body and cover all your bases.
Bryn Huntpalmer is a mother of two young children living in Austin, Texas where she currently works as an editor for Modernize. In addition to regularly contributing to home remodeling and design websites around the web, her writing can be found on Lifehacker and About.com.