Diet: Practice – Food Preparation

It almost seems like a cruel joke that when you start on a weight-loss plan, you’ll be eating less food but thinking about food for almost the entire day.  Part of that will be the phantom hunger pangs (e.g. – your brain make you feel hungry when your body isn’t) and the mix of sugary/salty/awesome foody withdrawals; but it’s also because you no longer have the luxury of eating on the fly.  The moment you get serious about your diet you will have to plan every single meal.

“6 am – Hit The Snooze Button and Continue Dreaming about Bacon. 7 am – Chew on Pillow While Asleep. 8 am – Eat half an apple. 8:05 am – Cry.”

Now if you’re one of those people who uses Jenny Craig or Slimfast or one of the many other services that makes all of your meals for you, then I ain’t talking to you.  It’s not that they don’t work, but apart from my inherent distrust of all such services, I see the “Pre-Packaged, Pre-Made Meal” like drinking liquor to wean yourself off of heroin – technically it’s better, but it’s still not really fixing the problem.  Getting a handle on your diet means understanding and controlling everything you put into your body, and the pre-made meal only gives you the illusion of that control.  Seriously, they could be putting anything in there.

Yum.

Cooking your own food gives you complete control, and you’d be amazed at how much dieting can teach you about the culinary arts.  I think it has something to do with making sure your salad tastes better than the row of bushes on the side of your house.  Excuse the hippy, new-age phrasing, but preparing your own meals really “gets you in touch” with your food.

That’s not what I meant, and you know it.

But cooking takes time and if you’re cooking your food for the entire week, there are things you will want to keep in mind.

SCHEDULE

I hate it when I write myself into a corner and the only way out is to repeat something I just fucking said.  Cooking takes time.  Not only are you going to have to plan all of your meals to a pretty set schedule, but you’ll also have to dedicate a block of your time to making those meals.  By not doing so, you leave room open for either a) not having enough food every single day, and/or b) overeating or eating something unhealthy out of desperation.  Because there will be many obstacles on your journey, you need to make things as easy and convenient as possible and having your next meal all ready before you need to eat it is a prime example.

  • Daily Meal Prep.  Every morning before you start your day, you can make your meals and put it into a meal box.  The joy of this option is that you have more room to design a meal for that particular day.  I am a special breed of person who can literally eat the same thing, day in and day out, and never mind too much.  All of the big changes I have made in my life have come through developing a routine and then sticking to that routine come hell or high water.  But if you’re one of the normal people who don’t have OCD and would go bonkers facing an entire month of the same goddamned salad with the same small amount of shitty vinaigrette, then prepping your food everyday will allow you more room to customize.  Wanna have a sandwich?  Go for it!  Wanna switch that apple out for an orange?  Be my guest!  Wanna trade in that protein shake for punching your passive-aggressive boss in the face?  It’s all you, although you’ll still be hungry afterwards.

“But I’m burning calories!”

The downside of it is if you find yourself in a rush a particular morning and don’t have time to make the meal.  You could make your meal before you go to sleep, but if you happen to get in late you’ll be faced with the same problem.

  • Weekly Meal Prep.  Instead of making your meal every single day, you can condense the time and take care of it on the weekend.  This means you won’t have to worry about preparing anything during the week; all you have to do is put everything into a lunch pail and off you go.  The con to this option is that you will lose part of you customizing abilities, and it will eat away at your free time on the weekend.

“Look, you wouldn’t understand. I can’t go to the movies because I’m making a sandwich for next Thursday. See, I told ya you wouldn’t understand!”

But this isn’t an either/or sort of choice.  I myself prepare things like my dinners, meats and soups for the week, and then leave room for myself to change up my snacks on a daily basis.

COST

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but food costs money, and you will find yourself returning to the grocery store in a given week more than you have before.  That’s because you’re going to eat a lot more fresh produce, and that kind of stuff doesn’t have a long shelf life.  Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself with a growing food bill along with a sort of panic that sets in when you realize you’ve spent your entire paycheck on apples.  Sooner or later, you will need to find ways to cut corners with how you stock your fridge.

  • Frozen Produce.  While you will want to get things like apples, oranges and fruits that act as snacks, as well as salads, straight from the fresh section of the store, buying frozen produce is a great way to save on money and time.  A bag of frozen berries used for protein shakes/smoothies can last a few weeks rather than the few days you get with the fresh stuff.  It can also save you some prep time as frozen produce is usually cut for you.  Broccoli, strawberries, peaches, carrots, peas; all of these are great frozen.  Just stay away from canned produce as they have a bunch of salt and sugar added to prolong shelf life.
  • Bulk Items.  This country is already in a bulk-buying craze, so I shouldn’t have to explain why getting a big bag of whatever for a discount price is a smart buy.  A huge bag of potatoes will last a life time, as will popcorn kernels for snacking, and a big bag of meat like chicken or fish will cost a hell of a lot less than normal.  Just make sure you don’t buy things that’ll go bad before you are able to finish them.  Throwing away an entire bag of spoiled spring mix salad will make you feel lighter, but only in the wallet.
  • Do I Seriously Not Have a Third Tip?  Hmmm, I guess I don’t.

STORAGE

The only thing more depressing than throwing out spoiled food you didn’t finish is throwing away spoiled food that you spent time preparing.  I have thrown out countless amounts of veggies, rice and chicken that I spent hours preparing all because I wasn’t able to store them properly.  It’s more than just buying good Tupperware (buy good Tupperware, by the way), it’s also about storing things in the right part of your fridge.

No.

Other than salad and the fruit I use as snacks, all of my food goes into my freezer.  It’s not just because frozen foods can be cheaper, but frozen foods also lasts longer.  I don’t have many tips for this one, but –

  • Cook your food, THEN freeze it.  Frankly, this changed my life.  Instead of cooking a bunch of chicken and then quickly eating it before it spoiled, or cooking one frozen raw piece every single day, I cooked the meat then froze it.  All I had to do it pop it in the microwave and with a ZIP ZAP, my meal was ready.  It also works with batches of soup, milk and bread.
  • Stick Some Paper Towels in With Your Salad.  Part of what makes salad god bad quickly is that moisture builds up inside of the bag and causes the greens to wilt, and wilting is one step away from rotting.  A wad of paper towels will suck in whatever extra water is floating around in the bag, prolonging the life of your salad.  Just make sure to change the paper towels at least once a week.  I know this one has nothing to do with freezing, I just feel stupid only having one bullet for the category.

Preparing your food ahead of time can take the pressure away from choosing what you are going to eat, and by cooking your food at a time when you’re not hungry you can ensure that when you are hungry you are eating right.

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