I strongly recommend cooking your own meals versus take-out and pre-packaged meals. This may not always be possible given various lifestyle issues. However, when you cook your own food you know what is in your food. If you can’t cook, check out your local bookstore and browse the cookbooks for something with pictures that are geared to the ‘new’ cook and offer simple, easy-to-follow recipes. You can also enrol in a cooking class at your local college.
When to Eat
Eat five to six smaller, balanced meals throughout the day. Be it meals or snacks, the key is balance — an adequate balance of protein, healthy fat and carbohydrate to fuel the body and maintain a healthy and steady level of insulin. If you are eating to lose body fat you may choose to eat your starchy carbohydrates over the first three meals of the day.
If you want to gain muscle you need to eat five to six meals per day. If you want a lot of muscle you need to eat every two to three hours, up to eight times per day.
The saying, ‘don’t snack between meals’, does not apply if you are trying to manage your weight. The best way to lose body fat or maintain your body weight is to eat many small healthy meals throughout the day. By making smarter choices about the types of foods you choose to eat, you will have a healthier body weight and better insulin control. Some healthy snack food examples are: fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, whole grains, nuts and seeds. These foods are filling and satisfying, making it easy to naturally control portion sizes. They are also perfect for providing a slow and sustained release of energy, thus keeping your insulin more stable.
Eating in this way elevates your metabolism (the energy cost of digestion), which results in burning more body fat and excess calories.
Meal Planning and Preparation
‘Life works best when you design it on paper first.’
Take a cooking class if you don’t know how to cook. If you work Monday to Friday, why not cook your Monday to Friday meals on Sunday? Use the whole stove, inside and the top-side to cook in bulk. Store your meals in the fridge and freezer for the week.
Do your grocery shopping in bulk to prepare for your ‘Sunday cook-off’. For example (for one person), cook 4-6 chicken breasts, two pounds of steak, and maybe another meat in the oven. Cook up 2-4 cups of whole grain brown rice, and throw four to six large sweet potatoes in the oven to cook everything at the same time. Chop up lots of veggies to eat raw during the week or steam the vegetables. Put everything in containers in the fridge and freezer. Depending on how proficient you are in the kitchen, if you keep to simple cooking you will be done in two to three hours tops!
The staple items listed in Tip #5 are so important since you will use these in the preparation of your bulk cooking or on the days you pack up your meals for work or to eat right then and there. Staples are useful because they help provide variety in flavour, while allowing you to bulk cook on one day and keep your preparation time to a minimum. Think of your bulk cooking as the ‘foundation’ to build upon.
For example, lets say you have four chicken breasts that were cooked in the oven. They may have been dry roasted, cooked in a cast iron pan with salt, pepper, spices and olive oil or in a tomato sauce. Here are three ways you can serve the chicken breasts:
• Sliced thin for a salad (field greens, spinach and tomato, etc.) with an oil and vinegar (or use lemon or lime juice) dressing;
• Reheat a breast along side a vegetable and a starch;
• Sliced up and reheated in a pan with a healthy sauce and served over a bed of rice or vegetables.
Cast iron pans, 18/10 quality stainless steel pots, roasting pan with drip grill, ceramic oven ware, spatulas (wooden and rubber), metal flipper, tongs, whisk, hand juicer, peeler, corkscrew, ‘potato masher’, grater, heavy wooden cutting boards (one small and one large).
When it comes to knives I suggest you invest in high quality knives: a 9-12” chef knife, a paring knife, a boning knife if you are going to do a lot of de-boning (I prefer to buy boneless meat) and a serrated bread knife. Cheap knives only make meal preparation frustrating.
Tupperware or similar fridge and freezer-safe containers of various sizes. Be sure not to use these containers in a microwave unless the containers have a ‘microwave-safe’ label.
If you don’t work from home, pack up 2-3 meals and snacks from what you have prepared above. Make a healthy sandwich to eat with some raw vegetables or fruit. Pack, or have at the office, healthy meal replacement bars and shakes as an alternative. Having meal replacement shakes and bars on hand at the office, in your car or carry bag, may be your saving grace instead of having to run out and buy junk food or an unhealthy snack.
© 2012 Darren Stehle. All Rights Reserved.