Conquer Meal Prep With Our Handy Guide
You may have heard it before, but it’s much easier to eat healthy, properly portioned meals in the first place than it is to up your workout intensity to burn off extra calories. It takes just a few seconds to eat enough junk food to warrant over an hour of intense gym time! If you’re ready to enhance your fitness and physique, combining healthy eating with your CrossFit workouts is the way to go.
What’s the secret to eating tasty, good-for-you meals every day without living in your kitchen? Meal prep! Our Ultimate CrossFit Meal Prep Guide will be released over the next few months in three parts: Food, Cooking & Storage, and Recipes. Scroll down for Part 1: Food. We’ve got all the info you need to shop, chop, and chomp so you can WOD, WOD, WOD.
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STEP 1: THE SOURCE
Think local, sustainable, and kind
Before you head out to collect your glorious stockpile of meal prep goodies, you’ll want to pick your stores carefully. Aim for locally grown produce when possible. Even if it isn’t organic, small growers often produce cleaner fruits and veggies than large operations — they simply might not have the resources to gain organic certification. Consider the sustainability of the grains you buy, too.
When it comes to meat, dairy, eggs, and other animal products, do your best to find options that are humane. Grass-fed and pastured animals not only live a better life than their conventionally raised counterparts, they can also provide healthier, higher-quality food. Shopping in bulk is another way to make your meal prep more sustainable, and it’s often more affordable, too!
TIP: Don’t forget your reusable grocery bags and containers!
STEP 2: THE FOOD
Stock up on the essentials (and a few extras)
Protein: Meat, Beans, Seafood, Grains, Plant-Based Proteins, Some Dairy, And Supplements
As we mentioned above, the best animal products come from properly treated animals. While these items are typically more expensive than those from conventionally raised animals, you can increase your protein intake with non-animal sources, too. Protein is crucial for muscle building and plenty of other structural components, including bones, cartilage, skin, and blood. It also contributes to the production of hormones, enzymes, and other chemicals. Getting enough quality protein can help you feel full, stick to your healthy eating plan, and repair muscles after a workout. Your protein needs will vary based on size, age, activity level, and goals. This protein intake calculator is a great place to start.
Common major sources of protein include meat, beans and legumes, seafood, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and certain grains and dairy products. Protein supplements are also an option in the form of powdered whey, casein, collagen, and plant-based formulas, protein bars, and even protein water. Choose the source of your protein supplements with a keen eye to avoid buying products with high levels of heavy metals or undisclosed ingredients. A professional website with plenty of product information, disclosed sourcing, and active customer service is a good sign of a credible brand.
TIP: Try mixing animal and plant-based protein sources or incorporating 100% plant-based meals to save on grocery expenses and increase variety in your diet — in both flavor and nutrients!
Fats: Dairy, Eggs (Yolks), Nuts/Seeds, Oils
Fat gets a bad rap, but it’s absolutely essential to physical health and performance. A calorie surplus, not dietary fat intake alone, leads to the formation of body fat. So don’t fear the (dietary) fat! Consuming fat helps your body process and absorb key vitamins and minerals, leads to more satiating meals, and can be a healthy dietary component when it comes from real food, not junk food.
Fat sources include whole milk, plain yogurt, grass-fed butter, eggs (with the yolk), nuts, seeds, and oils. In addition, avocados are one of the few whole-food sources of fat in vegetables. Choose full-fat milk, yogurt, and other dairy products — low-fat versions are less satiating and require additional processing. Coconut milk (without fillers) is a great dairy-free alternative for a creamy ingredient, but do keep in mind the higher fat content. When it comes to oils, less is more. Oil is a processed food with little nutritional value in the form of vitamins and minerals, but we’re including it on our list because a little oil can mean the difference between a tasty, healthy meal plan you’ll stick with and an unappealing heap of food you’d gladly trade for takeout.
TIP: Make your own nut/seed butters with a food processor and… just nuts or seeds! Create combo butters like almond-peanut or hazelnut-cashew, or add in some mixins like cinnamon, honey, or cacao powder for a tasty toast topping.
Carbs: Whole Grains, Pasta, Fruit, Beans, And Legumes
Carbohydrates, a.k.a. carbs, provide quick energy for your cells. Different protocols advise you to eat different amounts of carbs, so play around with different ratios until you find something you can stick to while still getting results. Fruit may best be consumed less frequently due to the sugar content. However, choosing fruit over another sweet treat will always be best. The key with fruit consumption is to keep everything whole, when possible. Smoothies are still acceptable, but make sure you’re throwing in some protein, fat, and fiber with your fruit. The more you separate a fruit’s juices from its fibrous components, the quicker your body will process the sugar (leading to blood sugar spikes). For grains and pasta, choosing whole grain options with original nutrients intact (not removed and replaced with enrichments) is recommended.
TIP: Eat dried fruit as a sweet treat or topping rather than as a regular snack, and avoid varieties with added sugar.
That’s right, we’re giving these guys their own category. Veggies are pretty much always a green-light food, but avoid quickly ramping up your consumption if you’re not used to including a large amount in your diet. When adding in more fruits and veggies, take it slow to ensure your body can handle everything. If you’re dropping your calories to lose weight or hit your goals, veggies can be a great way to add volume to your meals without skyrocketing the calorie count.
TIP: Experiment with seasonings to make your veggies delightful! Salt, pepper, and garlic and onion powders are a great place to start.
Keep things interesting with a variety of on-hand ingredients for added flavor and texture! A fully stocked spice cabinet is essential for creating endless options out of just a few main ingredients. If you feel like your meals are missing something, try looking up herb and spice combinations online. You’re sure to find a variety of mixes you can use to create flavors from around the world.
You can make use of a variety of pantry goods for baking and savory cooking. No-sugar-added applesauce, full-fat coconut milk, homemade nut butters, and pumpkin puree can be used to make tasty baked goods, curries, soups, and more. Canned tomato (diced, sauce, and paste), salsa, bouillon cubes, and stocks or broths can enhance plenty of dishes from chilli to crockpot meals. Pickled veggies, vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, and no-sugar ketchup can be just the boost your meals need to hit the flavor nail on the head.
TIP: Keep track of ratios when making your own spice mixes, sauces, and other flavorful combinations. If you want to recreate them later, you’ll know exactly what to do.
Sweeteners And Treats
Most people aren’t going to completely cut out sweets from their diet, and that’s okay. Making healthy swaps is a great alternative to junk food! Maple syrup, dates, dark chocolate (75%+ cocoa), banana, and honey are simple ways to add a little sweetness to your life. Dark chocolate does contain added sugar, but the low amount in our recommended cocoa content range means it’s ok with us. Cinnamon can add a subtle sweetness to tea, coffee, yogurts, and smoothies.
You can use these ingredients to make sweet treats, too! Think honey coconut milk ice cream, banana maple muffins, yogurt parfaits, and banana “ice cream” bowls made from frozen bananas, other fruit, and nut and seed toppings. While your body doesn’t physically need these sweet treats, they can make a huge difference in your motivation to stay on track with healthy eating.
TIP: Use the naturally sweet ingredients above to help you ditch added sugar in the long run – you’ll be surprised how you can change your “sugar tolerance” and decrease junk food cravings!
Water, tea, and coffee. That’s all.
Well, maybe not totally all. But really, your best bet is to avoid getting too many calories from beverages. Using the three options above, you can create plenty of enjoyable drinks: fruit-infused water, tea with honey and lemon, coffee with just a splash of milk, and more. Develop the habit of staying hydrated with these options, not gulping down empty calories that do more harm than good for your body. If you struggle to drink enough water, try adding flavor mix packets or dissolving tabs and gradually reduce the amount until you’re drinking plain or very lightly enhanced water.
TIP: Always carry a reusable water bottle, and try an insulated thermos to keep your drinks hot or cold for hours!
We Have All The Ingredients You Need For CrossFit Success
We hope you enjoyed part one of our Ultimate CrossFit Meal Prep Guide! The teams at CrossFit Outerbelt and CrossFit Grove City are excited to see what you create to fuel your next workout. When it’s time to hit the gym, choose us as your fitness destination for unlimited CrossFit classes, bootcamps, and 24-hour gym access. Claim your free two-class pass in Outerbelt or Grove City today to experience everything we have to offer. Stay tuned for the next installment of our meal prep series, Part 2: Cooking & Storage.