on August 15, 2019
No matter what goal you’re working towards, be it in your lifestyle, physical fitness or career, it will be hard to achieve without planning. Planning helps you map out the actions you’re going to take day by day that will move you closer to your objective. Nowhere is planning more important than on the keto diet.
Meal prep is a form of nutritional planning that will set you up for keto success. In this post, we’ll show you how to make keto meal prep part of your weekly routine even if you’ve never done it before.
Life is busy. When we’re under stress, we tend to look for any opportunity to lighten the load. If you’re not prepared, that could mean your diet goes out the window when things get hectic.
Think about it: if you’re faced with completing a project for a looming deadline at work or cooking a nutritious keto lunch, which will you choose? You’ll most likely choose the deadline, because your job depends on it. Meal prep eliminates such conundrums, ensuring that you have handy keto meals you can reach for at any time, even when life gets in the way of cooking.
Meal prep alleviates decision fatigue. What’s decision fatigue? It’s a concept backed by research that shows we get worse at making sound decisions the more decisions we’re forced to make. Meal prep takes the decision of ‘what to eat?’ out of the equation because you’ve already planned out a smart, keto-friendly meal ahead of time.
Finally, meal planning may help you eat healthier and ward off obesity. In a French study, researchers found that people who planned their meals were more likely to eat nutritiously, eat a greater variety of foods and were less likely to be overweight than their non-meal-planning counterparts.
If you’re new to meal prepping, no problem. Follow these tips for planning, shopping, prepping and storing your meals, and start small. It takes a few weeks of practice to get into a routine, but with some commitment, you’ll begin to see how much easier it is to stay on track with the keto diet when you plan your meals ahead of time.
The first step in keto meal prep is to plan what you’re going to eat for the week. For each day, account for how many people in your household will be eating each meal so you know how many servings you’ll need.
Doing meal prep for a week doesn’t mean you need to plan seven breakfasts, seven lunches and seven dinners (unless you really like variety, of course).
To make it easier on yourself, use a little trick we call the 3-4-5 method. Plan three breakfasts, four lunches, and five dinners. The idea is that you’ll make enough portions ahead of time that you can repeat certain meals (these quick keto breakfasts are a great candidate) and have leftovers to fill in the gaps.
Don’t worry if this seems confusing at first. With practice, you’ll get better at gauging which meals work best for larger batches and at coming up with recipes that use similar ingredients to simplify shopping.
Speaking of simplifying shopping, start stocking your kitchen with keto basics that will make meal prep a breeze.
Instead of buying a single meal’s worth of chicken breast, buy a family-sized pack and freeze it until you need it. Buy dry ingredients in bulk and use airtight containers to store nuts, seeds, flours and spices in your pantry. You can even freeze leftover produce to be used in soups, stocks and smoothies.
While you can get pretty creative with keto recipes, there are a couple dozen ingredients that will pop up in keto recipes again and again. Meal prep will be a lot easier if you get in the habit of keeping these things on hand. For a good place to start, check out our comprehensive keto shopping list.
On the keto diet, it’s best to avoid packaged and processed foods (read: those that aren’t in their natural state) as much as possible. That’s because processed foods are more likely to contain hidden, unwanted ingredients like sugars and saturated fats.
Since you’ve already dedicated the time to meal prepping, consider making some of the items you might ordinarily buy in packaged form, like salad dressings, condiments, and nut butters. Many of these are easily whipped up with ingredients you’ll be using in other meals for the week.
In the salad dressing department, we recommend this creamy and delicious ranch dressing recipe, which uses heavy cream and sour cream in place of the typical buttermilk. If you have a food processor, you must try this recipe for homemade almond butter. It’s nicknamed ‘Dream Butter’ and you’ll quickly see why--it’s so yummy you can eat it by the spoonful.
If you don’t schedule it, it won’t get done. Block off time on your calendar for meal prep and treat it like you would any other appointment. For best results, we recommend doing meal prep on the same day every week so it becomes a regular part of your schedule.
Also important: making the most of your meal prep time. Who wants to waste hours in the kitchen on a beautiful weekend day? To save time, look over your recipes for the week and do similar tasks in batches. Chopping veggies and seasoning meats, for example, can all be done at once.
Eyeball your recipes for the tasks that take the most time and start those first. If you need to bake chicken breast, for example, pop it in the oven first and chop your veggies while it cooks. The Daily Burn has some great free meal prep planning worksheets that will help you map all of this out on paper!
If your household has multiple members, meal prep should be a group activity.
If you have kids, it’s a great opportunity to teach them about nutrition and cooking. Enlist young children to wash produce, stir batter, sprinkle seasonings and portion food into containers. Older kids can help unload groceries, chop fruits and vegetables and put dishes into the oven. These low-carb tuna patties are a great recipe for kids to help with.
If you have a partner, it’s all the more important to work together on keto meal prep. Research has shown that couples wishing to adopt healthier habits have greater success when both partners take an active role in the change. Experts say that’s because whether positive or negative, romantic partners influence one another’s behavior.
While you don’t have to go out and outfit yourself with an entirely new kitchen, meal prep will be a whole lot easier if you have a few quality tools. Some of the best kitchen gear includes: a food processor, spiralizer, slow cooker and quality set of chef’s knives.
Perhaps even more important than your tools, though, is sufficient storageware. Nothing will make you want to scream faster than a cascade of mismatched plastic containers and lids tumbling out of an upper cabinet.
Consider investing in a set of matching storageware in a range of sizes. Glass is a great option because it’s typically safe to put in the microwave, oven, and dishwasher. We love this 18-piece set from Amazon, which is highly affordable.
If you really want to step up your meal prep game, look for Bento box containers with several smaller compartments that are great for portioning separate ingredients, like for salads and snacks.
Nothing’s worse than seeing your hard meal prep work go to waste because something sat in the fridge too long to eat. Use dry-erase markers to label the container of each meal you make with the day it’s meant to be eaten.
For a searchable guide of how long foods last in the pantry, fridge, and freezer, bookmark EatByDate.com. It tells you what the experts say on when food should be thrown out and provides helpful tips for extending the shelf life of your favorite foods (vacuum-sealed freezer bags are a godsend!).
Here’s an overview of how long some of the most common keto foods will keep:
We’ll leave you with one more word of advice on meal prep: don’t give up. The first time you do it will be overwhelming, and hardly anyone gets it perfect on the first try. With a little practice, though, it will become second nature, just like riding a bike or driving a car. You’ve got this!
Don’t forget to check out our ultimate keto shopping list for a quick-reference breakdown of keto MVPs.
Left Coast Performance is your all-in-one resource to fuel your ketogenic lifestyle. You’ll find recipes and meal planning tips on our blog and a range of high-quality keto products like collagen, MCT oil and bone broth in our online store to help you achieve keto diet success.
All Left Coast Performance products are made with premium ingredients and never contain artificial flavors, colors or fillers. Shop with confidence with our 100% no-risk money-back guarantee and free shipping! Learn more about Left Coast Performance and shop now at www.leftcoastperformance.com.