Fitness Starts In The Kitchen: Healthy Ingredients 101

Fitness Starts In The Kitchen: Healthy Ingredients 101

Getting into your best shape means starting with healthy, nutrient dense foods. Lots of people are intimidated with meal prepping, but it's actually pretty easy, and it's cheaper than take-out! Learn how to meal prep with ingredients that support your health and fitness goals, and try new recipes that help you build muscle and burn fat.
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Nutrient dense whole foods are the foundation of good health, which includes building muscle and burning fat. We’re going to walk through how to choose healthy ingredients for your meals and how to do meal prep for the week. Healthy meal prep is a critical part of your fitness journey because it eliminates the need to make food decisions when you’re hungry. Meal prepping has a lot of advantages, from getting more nutrients, to saving money, to trying out new recipes!

You might choose to meal prep for a variety of reasons, including weight loss, muscle building, and simply having more time throughout the week. One of the greatest advantages of meal planning is ensuring healthy eating and meeting daily nutrition objectives. It's easy to let your diet fall by the wayside while you're busy and stressed out. After all, you can get anything delivered, but delivery is rarely as healthy as what you can make at home. Always having a healthy meal ready to grab from the freezer or fridge is one of the best ways to get into your best shape (and it’s beneficial for your mental health, too).

Meal prepping does not automatically guarantee that you’re eating healthy: technically you could call leftover pizza your meal prep for the week. In this guide, you’ll learn how to pick healthy ingredients that fit with your way of eating so you can build muscle, burn fat, and feel your best every day!


1. Know Your Macros & Calories

The term "healthy" can mean something different to everyone, and what is healthy for someone else may not be good for you. One thing we can all agree on is that eating more calories than you need will add excess body fat, and eating fewer calories than you burn will lead to weight loss.

Calories are a unit of energy generated by the body after digestion of food. The greater the caloric content of a food, the more energy it may offer for the body. When you consume more calories than your body needs, the excess calories are stored as fat.

If you want to lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you burn. If you want to grow muscle, you must consume more calories than you burn. If you want to maintain your weight, you must consume the maintenance amount of calories. Utilizing a calorie calculator that takes into account your present weight, age, height, and desired weight is the best approach to determine how many calories you require daily.

Before you start tracking your calories, read below about macronutrients, because the source of your calories matters as well.

Macronutrients are abbreviated as macros. Protein, carbohydrates, and fats are the three macronutrient categories that provide the majority of your energy. Both fat and carbohydrates are sources of fuel, so these are where you primarily get energy from. Protein breaks down into amino acids, and that’s what all the “stuff” of your body is made of. All of your tissues are made of protein, and if you want to build stronger muscles, you’ll want to get extra protein every day. There is a lot of evidence suggesting a higher protein diet can help with weight loss too, so plan your meals around your protein source.

By calculating your macros, you’ll make it easier to plan your calorie intake. Calculating macros is a method for ensuring that you consume the proper proportion of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to reach your goals.

With a few simple pieces of information, you can calculate your ideal macros and calorie intake HERE.


2. Try Healthier Recipes

Once you have calculated your calories and macros, you can begin searching for nutrient dense dishes that you want to prepare for the week. You can choose healthier versions of old favorites, or try something new. Luckily, there are thousands of delicious and healthy recipes available online, and through themed cookbooks that can get you started. Try searching for Mediterranean meal prep, since there is increasing evidence that a Mediterranean style way of eating has numerous benefits along  your fitness journey.

Look for recipes that you can prepare in bulk and keep in the fridge or the freezer. When you’re hungry, it’s much easier to pull a prepared meal out of the fridge and warm it up than it is to spend h alf an hour cooking from scratch. Plus, cooking most of your food only once or twice a week means fewer dishes to worry about on weeknights that are already too busy.


3. Opt for Whole Foods

When it comes to selecting nutritious components for successful meal preparing, whole foods are the best place to begin. Fresh, unprocessed meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and refrigerated dairy are examples of whole, unprocessed foods. By picking whole foods 80 percent of the time, you will be well on your way to healthy meal preparation.

Processed foods like pastries and packaged meals often have a lot of extra ingredients like excess sodium, fats, and sugars that can derail your fitness plan. Making meals from whole, unprocessed ingredients ensures that you’re getting the most nutrient bang for your buck, without all the added ingredients that can increase your calorie intake without even realizing it.


4. Understand the Nutrition Facts Label

If you must purchase processed goods, which is sometimes necessary, it is essential that you understand how to read nutrition labels. All produced foods in the United States must be labelled with nutrition and safety information. Nutrition labels are highly useful pieces of information that can help you have a deeper understanding of what you're consuming.

You’ll be looking for the Nutrition Facts on the back or side of your food item. This will tell you the protein content, carbs, fats, and important vitamins and minerals. Beware of added sugars and excess fat, and maximize the protein you get in each food. Look at the serving size as well. The serving size is often much smaller than what people typically eat as a serving, and this is one of the biggest ways excess calories can sneak into your diet.

Below or next to the Nutrition Facts, take a look at the Ingredient list. It’s in small print so you’ll have to look closely, but it’s important to get an idea of exactly what is in the processed food that you’re eating. Aim for foods that have smaller ingredient lists of things you recognize. If you don’t know what an ingredient is, do a quick internet search to check it out!


5. Evaluate Your Eating Habits and Diet

Diet and lifestyle can have a role in the selection of nutritious ingredients for meal preparation. Are you on a ketogenic diet? Do you enjoy intermittent fasting? Do you have gluten or dairy allergies? When picking out healthy ingredients for your way of eating, account for how well you digest certain foods and how you feel when you eat a certain way.

Some individuals feel and look their best when they consume a diet rich in healthy fats, while others do better eating fewer fats and more healthy carbohydrate sources. It all depends on your specific body and nutritional requirements, as well as your overall activity level. As long as you focus on protein first, the remainder of your diet can change based on your individual tastes.


How to Choose Healthy Meal Prep Recipes

While the internet is a great resource for obtaining healthy meal prep recipes and plans, you need to know how to choose healthy meal prep recipes if you want to create your own weekly plan (and how to turn not-so healthy recipes into a healthier version). Here are our top recommendations for locating healthy meal prep recipes.

Start basic: Select meals that are simple to prepare and contain few ingredients.

Cook by color: In addition to giving your body with all the necessary micronutrients, a variety of colors and textures from plants will help to keep things interesting as you improve your health.

Make sure the recipes you choose focus on protein and micronutrients, and that there is a fuel source. So, start with a protein, such as eggs, add veggies or fruits for micronutrients, such as sauteed dark leafy greens, and your fuel source could be the fat you cook them in, such as butter.

You can always find healthy substitutions for ingredients in even the most unhealthy recipe! You can make pizza crust from shredded chicken instead of dough, and overnight oats with unsweetened apple sauce instead of full-fat milk. Whenever you’re craving junk food, you can use the same tactic. Try a hot cocoa or a shake with Keto Cocoa for an indulgent treat that won’t add inches to your waistline.

How Meal Preparation Promotes Healthy Eating

Preparing meals in advance is one of the most effective strategies to improve overall health and wellness, and is the key to achieving your fitness goals. When you plan your meals in advance, you're able to know exactly what you're putting into your body.

Not to mention, having a supper waiting in the refrigerator after a long day of work will reduce the temptation to buy takeout.

Meal planning is also a fantastic way to switch things up and try new foods, as opposed to sticking to the same diet, which may be monotonous and lead to poor decisions. Have a culinary adventure from the comfort of your own kitchen, and get fit while you do it.