My name is Dave Brummert and I’ve been a personal trainer for over 12 years. I’ve helped thousands of people build more muscle, burn fat, and lose weight all across the US. I currently work at the National Training Center in Florida, alongside dozens of professional athletes and Olympic Gold Medalists.
One thing all my clients have had in common is a need for help with their nutrition. A few years ago I decided to get my Master’s Degree in Exercise and Nutrition Science so I could better help them, and since then, I have continued reading and researching daily – trying to cut through the fat of what works and what doesn’t for athletes and regular folks alike.
Everyone has a different body, different goals, and different needs nutritionally. There’s almost nothing I can say that EVERYONE should do. But when it comes to meal prep, I make an exception.
This is one weekly habit that will change your life.
Information Isn’t the Issue
Summer is just around the corner. People are thinking about what they can do to look good in a bathing suit, or shirtless. Fortunately, there is an infinite amount of information available on the internet. Unfortunately, information is not the problem.
Everyone knows that a Snickers bar is worse for you than a bowl of broccoli. Just like everyone knows that kale salads are better for you than Taco Bell. And yet, people still eat plenty of bad food. So, the issue isn’t the information - it’s the implementation that gets most everyone. We live exceedingly busy and stressful lives and it’s not always easy to cook a healthy meal at home or to make a good choice when we go to lunch with coworkers.
The truth is, most people are simply victims of their habits. They do the same thing they’ve always done because it’s what they’ve always known. And even though people know the axiom “if you want something you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done” – few people put it into practice.
Listen, I get that trying to plan meals and possibly track foods, and maybe learning about portion sizes isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. But, as I tell my clients, you’re going to be eating pretty much every day for the rest of your life. It’s pretty reasonable to take a week or a month of that life to learn about your food, and maybe start a habit that will change your life. At worst, you’ve spent a month trying something new and you can say you didn’t like it. And at best, you start a healthy habit that begins to transform your health, your sleep, your body, and your mind. It seems like a worthwhile return on investment to me.
Think of it this way: Your health is like a savings account. Each time you get to a meal, you have to make a decision to either eat healthy (deposit a little bit of money into your savings account), or you decide not to eat healthy (withdraw money from the account, with worse foods = a bigger withdrawal from the account). One meal, or even one week isn’t going to really shake things up that much. But over the course of 5 years, 10 years, even 20 or 30 years – those small daily decisions to deposit into or withdraw from that account have massive implications on your health and quality of life.
If you figure you eat an average of about 4 times per day, that’s roughly 28 times per week you have to choose what to eat. If you have to consciously decide to choose something healthy over something not so healthy 28 times per week, the odds are not good that you’ll be successful all 28 times. With meal prep, you make that choice ONE time, usually on a Saturday or Sunday when you’re in a good mood, relaxed, and motivated to be healthy. And that decision lasts for the rest of the week once you’ve meal prepped. So, no matter how stressed or busy you get, that one choice continues to pay dividends.
Meal Prep Myths
There are many people that think meal prep isn’t right for them. Either it’s too expensive, they don’t have the time, or they don’t like eating the same thing over and over. The truth is though, most people that say those things have never tried meal prep. If you ask anyone who does meal prep regularly, one thing is pretty constant: they all absolutely love it. Don't take my word for it, though. Here’s what a few of my clients, coworkers, and friends had to say about meal prep:
Jason K, “I can say it has simplified my life, helped me stay healthy and strong as an athlete, and avoid over indulgence.”
Eliza S, “Before meal prepping, I was hungry more and spent more money on impulse food. Now I don’t have to worry or spend time figuring out what to eat. I bring what I like and more often than not, I can just focus on my work and food is there to nourish me – but it’s still yummy, because it’s customized to what I like!”
Chris S, “Meal prep has stopped impulse eating, and helped me control my body composition at 43....I’m usually two weeks strict diet from a six pack.”
There are some legitimate challenges to folks wanting to get started with meal prep – certain meals need to be refrigerated, and you don’t always have access to a microwave to heat up your food. Or maybe your spouse or kids refuse to eat the same things and you are forced to cook four meals a night. But as I explain to my clients, you don’t need to be perfect today or tomorrow. You just need to be a little better each week.
The Truth About Meal Prep
Here’s the reality of meal prep: it saves you a lot of time cooking during the week so you can spend more quality time with the family.
Most of the people I interviewed for this article get everything done (including shopping and clean-up) in 2-3 hours. Some, like Kyndall get it done even faster. She says, “I really only meal prep lunches and make eggs the day before. I don’t food prep dinner because I actually enjoy the act of cooking dinner when I get home. But lunches I make 9 containers and it takes me 1-2 hours.”
Meal prepping also saves a LOT of money so you can spend it on other things instead, like that family vacation everyone wants to take. Kyndall spends about $30 a week on the lunches she preps. Others, like Amber and Nicki spend $85-100 to cover all their meals. I personally spend $100 per week and that covers all of my breakfasts, lunches, dinners, AND snacks.
According to data gathered by VISA, the average lunch eaten out costs around $11. By comparison, my lunches (consisting of frozen vegetables, quinoa, and fish) average about $5 per meal – and that’s for high-quality, fresh-caught salmon, ahi tuna, or swordfish. If I used chicken breast it would average about $2.50 per lunch.
While you might spend a few extra dollars getting stocked up on spices and staples like quinoa, rice, vegetables, and meats – the upside is you get 4-6 meals out of one batch. Take pork tenderloin for example: You might pay $25 for 2lbs. (I’ve seen it MUCH cheaper, by the way) and a few dollars for all the spices. When you average out the cost of the 6 servings you get, it breaks down to less than $5 per meal.
Another truth about meal prep is that you get to choose the foods you like and incorporate as much variety as you want. You can even prep foods that don’t require refrigeration or microwaving and still be healthy, and you can prep multiple meals at a time for kids or spouses with particular eating habits.
Sharon, for example, still gets her meal prep done in 2 hours, for under $125 a week for her and her Diabetic husband: “With my husband being diabetic, I have to be conscious of that. He usually gets a weight control oatmeal with blueberries for breakfast as well as a Fair Life Protein shake, a half of a sandwich on rye bread with avocado mayo or mustard and lettuce, cut up vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes, Kalamata olives and a little balsamic dressing and sometimes I throw a little feta cheese in with the veggies. For snacks, he gets an apple or a pear and some almonds.”
The Final Word
There are a lot of things in life we can’t control and that can become overwhelming. But your food is something you CAN, and that’s really important because it has such a HUGE bearing on your overall health, well-being, and happiness.
While some people may think meal prep is for health nuts and doesn’t fit into their hectic schedule, their budget, or their dietary preferences, the truth is that it simplifies and enhances your life. It’s much healthier, you spend less money on food, less time cooking, and can devote more of each to yourself and your family.
As you lay the foundations for healthy habits with eating, you begin to see the process for improving your other habits, too. With each new success, you begin to realize that you DO have control over your life, your habits, and your health. That’s when it will happen – your coworkers or your family or friends will say, “You look so good! What have you been doing?!? How do I get my life to be like that?!” And you can smile and feel like the badass that you are. Then you can play the role of teacher and help someone you care about get their life in order a little bit, too.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks to learn how to get started with your own meal prep, including TONS of tips and tricks that long-time meal preppers like myself have learned along the way.
And remember: use your powers for good!