Meal Prep and Intuitive Eating
Can you do meal prep and intuitive eating? Yes! The key is taking a flexible approach, and making meals nourishing and satisfying.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
The phrase meal prep is often associated with diet culture. Pictures of tidy containers of chicken and broccoli come to mind. But you can in fact meal prep and eat intuitively. The key is to plan meals that are both nourishing and satisfying, but not focused on portion control or calories. Remember that you are not following a rigid meal plan, but rather a flexible menu that can be adjusted as needed.
A benefit of meal prep is that you always have a meal ready to go, making it easy to honor your body when hunger hits. This can help prevent you from getting over-hungry, which can lead to everything from crankiness to lack of energy, to overeating later in the day.
Ready to get started? Here are some basics when it comes to meal prep for intuitive eating.
To help set yourself up for success with meal planning and intuitive eating, be sure to plan ahead.
Consider blocking off 1-3 hours one day a week to prep your meals. In addition, make sure you have airtight storage containers that are roomy enough to hold enough food. (No portion-controlled containers here please!) Glass containers are nice because they can go directly into the microwave if needed. In addition, they are easy to clean and BPA-free.
Here is a step-by-step overview of the meal prep process:
- Plan out the meals you will make
- Make sure you have storage containers
- Check to see what you already have on hand, and then make a grocery list of needed ingredients
- Shop for ingredients
- Divide food into containers (let hot foods cool a bit first)
- Store (Most foods can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for 2-3 months or sometimes longer). (1)
If you are new to meal prep, start with a small goal, such as prepping 1-2 meals per week. You could even make it extra easy by planning to make a soup or stew for the weekend and prepping extra to have on hand for the upcoming week. (Cooking extra food whenever you cook and then freezing is a huge time saver).
Meal Components – Satisfaction is Key
Satisfaction is a key component of intuitive eating. And balance and variety are important for satisfying and nourishing eating.
For both satisfying and nourishing meals, aim to include the following most of the time*:
*”most of the time” or “for the most part” is the mentality of intuitive eating; intuitive eating should always feel flexible and be able to meet you where you are at
Dietitians often recommend filling half your plate with veggies (and/or fruit), a quarter with protein, and a quarter with grains or starches. This Canadian Food Guide provides a nice visual.
Use this as a general, gentle guideline or starting point, but not a rigid, must-follow one. Remember that intuitive eating is flexible and should always allow for your craving, what’s available, and what you have the time or energy for. In addition, always make sure you are making enough food for each meal. Athletes and growing kids generally need more food and a higher ratio of grains/starches and protein.
Vary the Preparation
Mixing up how you cook your ingredients will keep meals interesting and help promote satisfaction. For example, you can grill chicken one week and add chicken to a soup the next week. If you are trying to increase your vegetarian protein sources, such as beans and legumes, consider recipes that use them in different ways, such as soups, Burrito bowls, and veggie burgers. And remember that most vegetables can be prepared in a variety of ways, e.g., grilled, roasted, steamed, or eaten raw.
Consider Sauce or Dressing
You can throw together various ingredients to create a delicious salad or grain bowl, the key to satisfaction is often the dressing or sauce that ties it together!
Here are a few of my favorite sauces to buy or keep on hand. Try making a different one each week or every other week.
- Basil sauce
- Lemon miso dressing
- Maple & apple cider vinaigrette
- Tahini sauce
- Teriyaki sauce
- Sriracha sauce
If you love a sweet treat at the end of a meal, you are not alone. Whether it’s dark chocolate, a cookie, or fresh berries, if you know you love a little something sweet, be sure to plan for it. Allowing yourself to enjoy the foods you crave and love will help promote intuitive eating. It will also make your meal that much more satisfying and complete.
Short on time? Skip the elaborate meal prepping and choose from these foods that are already all cooked and just need to be heated:
- Vegetables: frozen peas, pre-washed salad mixes, pre-chopped veggies
- Protein: pre-grilled chicken or meat, Rotisserie chicken, sliced roasted turkey, sliced ham, smoked salmon, frozen veggie burgers, cooked edamame, hard-boiled eggs
- Grains: frozen cooked rice, frozen cooked quinoa, frozen cooked potatoes, bread, tortillas, pitas
- Sauces and dressings: shop for your favorite condiments and keep them on hand
Meal Prep Rotation
Consider trying different recipes and combinations as you get started. When you find a few meals that work for you, plan to keep them in your rotation while you also continue to try new ideas.
Here are some ideas for meals to prep:
Week 1: Turkey meatballs, Veggie Chili
Week 2: Veggie Loaded Turkey Bolognese, Farro Lunch Salad
Creating New Habits Takes Time
Remember that creating any new habits takes time. So if you would like to make meal prep a new habit, do your best to set yourself up for success by planning ahead. But remember that meal prep for intuitive eating should not feel rigid or like a must-do. So if you miss a week or several, don’t let it deter you. Just keep trying and adjust your goals to make sure they are realistic and achievable if needed.
Finally, remember that in addition to flexibility, an important component of sticking with any habit is to make sure it’s enjoyable! Have fun with your new meal prep venture. Consider cooking with a friend, listening to music, and even treating yourself to a new cookbook or cookware.
Disclosure: Some of the below links may be affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate; I earn from qualifying purchases.
Intuitive Eating, A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach. 4th Edition. by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. 2020
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