It doesn’t matter what your training goal is. You need a solid nutrition plan to get results.
It is extremely important to have a sound diet, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat food that lacks flavor or tastes terrible!
Here are some of the best ways to prepare your meals so that you don’t have to choke down another stereotypical, bland, bodybuilding meal.
1. Crock Pot Cooking
I know, the last time that you ate a meal that was prepared with a crock-pot was at your grandma’s house, but don’t be so quick to dismiss your grandma’s methods! She is, after all, much wiser than you! Cooking with a crock pot is a great way to cook an awesome meal in bulk. You can literally cook a whole week’s worth of lunches for yourself in one shot with a crock pot! The best part is you throw your meat, veggies, starches, and seasonings all in the same pot and then you set it and forget it until it’s done at the end of the day.
Start with a couple pounds of meat like three or four chicken breasts, add in some type of liquid and seasonings, throw in a couple bags of your favorite frozen vegetables, cut up some potatoes or carrots, or even add some rice, then turn on the crock pot and walk away. It’s really that simple and tastes delicious!
2. Rice Cookers
Rice is a staple in any healthy diet, assuming that you are not adhering to the paleo diet. If you are a serious meal prep beast, cooking rice in bulk has probably become part of a time consuming routine. Don’t get tied down keeping a watchful eye on your rice to make sure that it doesn’t get over-cooked or the water doesn’t boil over while you are going about the rest of your prepping session. Get a rice cooker.
Rice cookers are a great way to cook rice in bulk and the best part is that, just like the crock-pot, all you have to do is set it and forget it and it will cook the rice perfectly every single time. As an added bonus, you can steam your veggies with most rice cookers!
If you are tired of the same old rice and are looking for ways to add new flavors to your rice for a minimal addition of calories, use chicken, beef, or vegetable stock instead of water in your rice cooker to cook your rice. When you add two cups of chicken broth, you are only adding 10 additional calories to your rice. That’s not much for a lot of flavor!
3. Fresh Herbs
You can take your meals from terrible to terrific by using fresh herbs. If you are tired of your food tasting bland or are sick of the same old hot sauce, you need to try using fresh herbs. Dried herbs will work in a pinch, but you will not get the same intensity of flavor that you get from the fresh kind.
There are not many meals that will not instantly improve from using fresh herbs; just be sure to add them at the correct time when you are cooking. If you are going to use fresh herbs, you need to know the difference between hard and soft herbs.
Hard herbs are the ones with thick, woody stems like rosemary, thyme, and oregano, and they should be added to your dishes early in the cooking process. Soft herbs like dill, tarragon, basil, cilantro, and parsley have soft stems and should be added later so the heat doesn’t consume the delicate flavors during cooking.
4. Speed Up Your Marinades
If you haven’t discovered that marinating your meat is a great way to make it taste awesome and keep it from drying out, now you know. Get on it! For those of you familiar with marinating, I am sure that at some point you have become frustrated during your meal prep because you have forgotten to marinate your food and it usually takes half a day all the way up to 48 hours.
Did you know you can cut the amount of time down drastically by vacuum sealing your meat? When you remove the air from the container or bag that you are marinating you meat in, you force more of the marinade into the meat instead of waiting for the meat to absorb it naturally. This trick is especially useful if you are short on time and have a lot of meat to cook.
You can create your own marinades by combining a vinegar, wine, pineapple juice, citrus juice, or papaya juice with olive oil and some herbs and spices, or you can buy pre-made marinades for under $5.
5. Roast and Grill Your Veggies
Grilling and roasting are not just for meat! If you get tired of steamed and raw vegetables, try tossing them on the grill! Use vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, squash, asparagus, and onions and toss them with olive oil and some salt, diced herbs, and pepper to help your vegetables take on new levels of flavor.
They key is making sure that your grill or oven is sufficiently heated to properly sear the flavor into your vegetables. Cut your vegetables into bite sized pieces, but keep them large enough so they don’t fall through the grates of the grill. If you are roasting your veggies in the oven, be sure to preheat your roasting pan in the oven set to 450-500 degrees while you are preparing your veggies.
A great way to add pop to any dish is to hit it with some fresh citrus juice. Citrus is a great way to add a ton of flavor to your meals without worrying about the water retention that you can get from heavily salting your foods. In addition to adding flavor, you are adding in the health benefits of citrus as well like vitamin C and other powerful nutrients that protect you from sickness.
The best places to use citrus are in salads as a great tart dressing, in marinades as part of the acid/enzyme component, and over freshly baked seafood. Don’t forget to take advantage of the zest from your citrus too! If you are not looking for the very pronounced flavor that you get from using the juice, you can add some of the zest to give you a hint of citrus in your food.
7. Get more Gains from your Protein Shake
If you have read any of my other nutrition based articles, you should know that I am a huge believer in getting your macro-nutrients primarily from real, whole foods first. Only then should your turn to supplements to fill any nutritional gaps. Protein shakes have come a long way from what they used to be, but they are still far from being culinary masterpieces.
In addition, a protein shake made with whey protein and milk is not nutritionally comparable to a whole food meal of a protein, carb source, vegetable, and healthy fat. However, you can upgrade your protein shakes into nutritional powerhouses that taste amazing and provide all the nutrition of a solid whole food meal.
When you're looking to upgrade your protein shake, start with your protein powder of choice. I like whey protein isolate because it digests easily. I stick to chocolate and vanilla for easy flavor combinations.
Next, consider mixing up your liquids. Some of my favorites include coconut water, cold chai tea, iced coffee, herbal teas, and dairy milk alternatives like almond milk, coconut milk, and hemp milk. These will greatly change the taste without adding many calories.
You can stop here if you are not searching for a meal replacement or if you don’t have a blender. If you are looking to make your protein shake more of a meal substitute, you can add in a couple of handfuls of berries or a banana, maybe some peanut butter/almond butter, and a handful of spinach which is almost tasteless once it has been mixed with everything else.
Your options are limitless with a blender and some imagination! My favorite shake is a pumpkin pie shake made with canned pumpkin pie filling, almond milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla protein powder, and coconut oil.
Better Food, Better Results
There are hundreds of possibilities out there for people who are trying to eat with their health in mind. It is not uncommon to fall into the routine of eating the same food over and over again or to think that eating healthy is boring and bland.
Break free from this thinking and start enjoying your food again and add some variety to your weekly meals! When you enjoy your meals, it's easier to stick to your plan. Comment below and let me know your favorite tips for creating healthy, lifter approved foods.