Updated with new information Dec 17 2020
Having a healthy balanced diet is the most important lifestyle choice you can focus on – even more so than exercising. No amount of exercise will help you lose weight for example, if you’re consuming even more calories through pizza. What diet and food choices to pick can be confusing, though. There are a plethora of vegan documentaries telling us about the hormone levels in milk, and an equal amount of rebuttals from meat-eaters.
At this point, these choices are somewhat personal preference still. What we can agree on, is that highly processed foods leads to cancer and early death. No amount of vitamin tablets and hours accumulated on the elliptical is going to offset buying pre-made, highly processed food. Getting enough fruit and vegetables and a wide variety of them, along with enough protein (be it nuts or non-battery farmed chicken) and healthy fats is perhaps the simplest way to look at things.
How do we achieve this at college though? It is so much effort to cook everyday. Its not just the cooking either, but to eat fresh means to buy perishable foods. These go out of date within a few days, and you’re back down the shops again.
As a result, college students often turn to pre-made meals from the shops. They’re easy to make, and are often actually cheaper than cooking yourself. The allure is real. It’s just unfortunate that they’re highly processed, and are the number 1 type of food that needs to be avoided.
The solution to this, and fast becoming a trend realised by students all the way to large families, is to meal prep. Combing the healthiness of fresh cooking with the laziness of pre-prepared meals is the genius of meal prepping.
Reasons to meal prep
Easy on the wallet
The money we can save by meal prepping can be compared to how a large manufacturer saves money by expanding their output – bulk buying ingredients in larger quantities will lead to cheaper prices per lb/kg. Just hope you have enough freezer space.
We are very often told not to be persuaded by the “3 for $5” pseudo sales but the reality is, it is cheaper per unit than buying just 1. These allure you to buying more than you need, but with meal prepping, the more the merrier. Ultimately, we can make better use of the sales through meal prepping. We also waste less on impulse buys, because meal prepping forces us to plan better, so we tend to stick to it and buy less snacks. Not only this, but sticking to the shopping list and cooking with more attention on the ingredients will result in less waste, which is better for both the environment and the current account.
Time and effort
Through deferred gratification, meal prepping means we spend some extra time now so we can reap future benefits.
Very often we find ourselves on Sundays with lots of free time and energy, but none of that on weekdays after work. Meal prepping is a great way to exploit that, giving us a ritual activity to do on the weekend (and it still may only take 2 hours or less), and be able to lazily stumble home from work and chuck our planned hard work in the microwave for 3 minutes. It’s very rewarding!
Additionally, if large cooking sessions isn’t ideal, then merely doubling up on portions when cooking a regular meal is a great way to feed you for tomorrow, with no real extra time spent (triple it?).
No more carcinogenic, high sugar, salty, processed insoluble ready meals!
Meal kit companies
There’s a relatively new solution to prepared healthy food which doesn’t require as much time, effort and energy to compile. Introducing MEAL KITS which are essentially personal easy-to-cook subscriptions that you get daily, bi-weekly or weekly to your doorstep with all the ingredients and preparation instructions included. The meal kits are tailored to your flavor based on what you have indicated on the app. That seems to be an-ever growing trend, those food boxes or meal kits. The thing is that they are not cheap, especially for college students and whatnot!
I liked the way Kyle from MealKitsCanada described it in his article about the global leader in meal kits, HelloFresh. Meal kits are more of an alternative to eating out, especially during COVID conditions, than a replacement to buying groceries. It’s more expensive but potentially worth it. Here is the article “is HelloFresh worth it”?
It literally applies to all of us, that when we cook ourselves, our meals become more healthy than when we purchase pre-packaged meals. Even if it was the same meal with the same ingredients, buying the meat from the butchers and the vegetables from a market is a far more sustainably healthy way of making the same meal. It will undoubtedly taste better, too.
I’ve found that even if meal prep or delivery grocery food is a touch more expensive than regular grocery – by having your ingredients sent to you, you don’t overpurchase. By being physically in a store, it seems I often will end up just buying more food because in the moment I’m feeling hungry.