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When someone says ‘meal prep’, what comes to mind? Chicken and broccoli? Body builders? Grocery trips more painful than the first 5 minutes of cardio after Christmas? Sure. But what about saving for a holiday? Or reducing your contribution to landfill? Or protecting yourself from nutritional deficiencies?

There are plenty of reasons you should consider preparing more of your meals at home and it’s easier than you think. Move over doomsdayers, there’s a new team of preppers in town. And we have Tupperware.

BENEFITS

WHY YOU SHOULD: PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS…

The argument that take-away food is cheaper than buying groceries is (sorry folks!) just plain wrong. Spending around$10-$15 on take-away food once or twice a day, 3-4 days a week quickly adds up to more than a weekly grocery shop. If you swapped just three of your weekly takeaway meals for food that you prepared from home, you could save around $30/week. That’s over $1,500 a year. Hello European Contiki Tour 2019!

WHY YOU SHOULD: MAKE YOUR MARK (BY REDUCING YOUR FOOTPRINT)

When you order a takeaway meal, you end up with so much more than you bargained for:

  • Plastic or Styrofoam containers (non-recyclable) 
  • Napkins (non-recyclable) 
  • Plastic cutlery (non-recyclable) 
  • 1 plastic bag (non-recyclable) 
  • 1 can/glass/plastic bottle (recyclable… sometimes) 

Every year, it’s estimated that between 4.8 and 12.7 tonnes of plastic waste reaches the ocean worldwide1. Most plastic is not biodegradable and most takeaway packaging is not recyclable (either due to food contamination or the quality of the plastic).

By reducing your take-away consumption, you reduce your contribution to landfill and oceanic pollution.

MEET YOUR NEEDS (NUTRITIONAL OF COURSE)

Instead of thinking of a food as good or bad, try considering the food in a functional way: ‘What is this apple going to do for me?’ Heaps. It’s full of vitamins, minerals, fibre, carbohydrates – all components of a food that help to protect us from chronic disease and aid normal growth, development, maintenance and activity. Compare this to ‘What is this sausage roll going to do for me?’ ‘… Well, it’s going to taste good, and…’. Yep, that’s about it.

Takeaway foods rarely help you meet your recommended number of servings from each of the five food groups. Instead, they often most strongly represent the discretionary food group e.g. saturated fats, sugary foods, salty foods, processed foods. A multigrain sandwich with chicken, cheese and salad will tick off servings of grains, protein, vegetables and dairy. Not bad for a humble sambo!

TIPS & TRICKS

HOW YOU CAN… COOK WHAT YOU LOVE: Brainstorm meals that you like to eat, then list the ingredients (Google can help with recipes if cooking isn’t your thing!). This becomes the basis of your shopping list. If the meals aren’t as healthy as you want them to be, jump online and add the word ‘healthy’ to your search for ideas on simple substitutes. Remember, food should be enjoyable. If you don’t like what you’re eating, you’re less likely to stick with your new food prep habits.

HOW YOU CAN…  BE PREPARED: Go grocery shopping regularly, choosing a wide variety of foods from the five food groups. To avoid food going off before you’ve had a chance to eat it, consider how you store and cook it. Why eat out when there’s a fridge full of fresh food waiting for you at home?

HOW YOU CAN… COOK IN BULK: One of the biggest challenges of meal prepping is the time and energy it takes from your day. Utilise your time more efficiently by preparing larger quantities of the same meal. If you don’t like eating the same meal day in day out, try planning variations of the same ingredients, e.g. a roast chicken can go into sandwiches, salads, wraps and stir-fries.

STORAGE IS KEY: If you’re serious about meal prepping and time management, you can’t go past a good set of reusable, microwavable, dishwasher-friendly containers. Make sure you get the BPA-free ones (glass containers are the best!) Pack your lunches, dinners and snacks on a Sunday, and you’ll be ready to slide out the door every morning.

These guidelines vary depending on health, age, gender, pregnancy and activity level. Find the right numbers for you at eatforhealth.gov.au or speak to an Accredited Practicing Dietician for detailed nutritional and dietetic advice. As we move into 2018, I challenge you to make a small change to the way you eat, if not for your own health, then for the health of the environment (oh, and the health of your holiday fund!) Every meal you prep is a win. Go forth and conquer preppers! Rachel Finch is a Student Dietitian, Les Mills Group Fitness Instructor and blogger at Resolve with Rachel.

Website: resolvewithrachel.wixsite.com/resolve
Instagram: @resolvewithrachel

References:

1 Jambeck, J.R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T.R., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., Narayan, R. and Law, K.L., 2015. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347(6223), pp.768-771.

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