How To Create A Meal Plan You’ll Actually Stick To, As Told By A Prep-Expert
“Our energy is better spent on our passions, not weighing our food and counting macros to be the smallest versions of ourselves.”
Raise your hand if you’ve ever viewed meal prepping as at least one of the following:
- Time-consuming and overall exhausting
- Boring to do and bland to eat
- Limited to fitness gurus and fitness influencers
- A means of losing weight, restrictive and overall part of “diet culture” only
If any of the above applies to you, the good news is, you’re not alone in thinking this. The better news is, you’re completely wrong. Luckily, this is one of those rare times when being wrong is actually a good thing.
Recently we spoke to the founder and CEO of WorkWeekLunch, Talia Koren, on the perks and overall peace that comes with prepping meals and eating intuitively. WorkWeekLunch, or WWL for short, is a subscription service and interactive blog that helps thousands of busy people save time, money and stress over preparing food for the week, whether via ordering or following Koren’s many online tips.
In light of our upcoming TFD Career Day, Koren, who is also a featured guest at our event, spoke with us to discuss everything from the benefits of *not* restricting your food intake to debunking various myths that come with meal-prepping and holistic, healthy eating.
1. One of the standout things about ‘Workweek Lunch’ that makes it different from most meal prep companies is its focus on “intuitive eating.” Could you elaborate more on:
- A) what this is and
- B) how much of a role intuition plays in our dietary habits and lifestyle.
Intuitive Eating is a holistic approach to food developed in the ’90s by two dietitians as a way to heal one’s relationship with food after years of dieting. Its 10 principles guide folks to make food decisions based on internal cues while considering nutrition, rather than external food rules while making peace with food and disconnecting health from weight and body size.
The issue with dieting and food restriction (unrelated to food allergies and diagnosed medical conditions) is that it causes a general fear and distrust in food and ourselves when making food decisions. Food becomes a source of guilt, fear and anxiety rather than just being a normal, neutral part of our lives. Why add all of this stress to our already stressful lives? Our bodies can generally give us cues around hunger, satiety, fullness and cravings of certain ingredients!
Trusting our bodies when it comes to food is powerful. When we let go of the constant struggle to be the smallest versions of ourselves, we can enjoy more time, energy and brain space to do other incredible things. Our energy is better spent on our passions, not weighing our food and counting macros to be the smallest versions of ourselves.
2. What I love about your social pages and posts is the constant debunking of fad diet myths and how you call out toxic cliches that often go hand in hand with diet-culture (like here). With that said, what are your thoughts on the age-old saying “You don’t live to eat, you eat to live,” and do you feel healthy and appetizing foods can co-exist? (so many people feel you have to sacrifice taste for health).
I actually somewhat agree with that specific saying! Not every meal is going to be a mind-blowing, memorable experience (especially not what we’re stuffing our faces with between meetings at work). And that’s ok. Eating is an amazing part of life, but it’s not the most important part.
Healthy and delicious can absolutely exist on the same plate if we can open our minds to what “healthy” really is. I think so many people picture “health food” as just a pile of roasted vegetables with tahini drizzled on top… when really healthy eating is about variety. If you eat a wide variety of different ingredients, you’ll automatically get a delicious mix of flavors AND nutrients. I believe in coming from a place of addition, not restriction.You can take any of your favorite recipes and add more vegetables to them or customize them to fit your health needs instead of avoiding highly palatable foods altogether.
3. What is one of the biggest meal-prep and/or diet myths that you’d wish more people would completely get rid of? And like, asap!
The biggest diet myth I’d love to get rid of is that restriction is the answer. Restriction always leads to binge eating. Always. The answer to stopping binge eating is to incorporate the foods you crave daily or weekly (not on a “cheat day”… that’s a planned guilt-inducing binge!) to make peace with them and feel neutral around them. Trust me, you can get to a point where you forget about the ice cream in the freezer or the chips in your pantry for weeks.
As for meal prep, the biggest myth I’d love to get rid of is that food tastes bad when reheated or after it’s been in the fridge. If your food tastes bad as leftovers, that means it’s either the wrong recipe (not all recipes work for meal prep) or you may need to keep practicing your cooking skills. We have over 400 meal prep-friendly recipes in our Meal Prep Program, so we have busted that myth over and over.
4. “Work-Life balance” is a mantra that this generation is leaning more into, these days. With that said, how much does having an intuitive and “balanced diet” play into other areas of our life, as it pertains to overall lifestyle and health (for example, our career, our mental health, etc.)
Great question! I believe intuitive eating creates more flow in our social lives, work-life and mental health. Like I said earlier, when trying to “eat clean” or eating to lose weight, food decisions are always tricky. You easily fall into the trap of being “good” or “bad.” There is no in-between. It’s harder to be in the moment when with friends, at work or enjoying your weekend when you’re also worried about what you’re eating or if you’ll have time to work out. Intuitive eating takes the pressure off. You’re focused on eating what makes sense, what’s accessible, what will make you feel satisfied and that’s about it!
5. I love how you have different meal approaches based on everything from versatility to straight up convenience (e.g. meal preps that take minimal clean-up). With that said, sticking to the theme of our upcoming Career Day, what are 3-5 cardinal rules when it comes to any level meal prepper, for curating a work-from-home menu
Rule #1: Just prep the meal you struggle with most. Are you always at a loss at breakfast and end up skipping the meal entirely, only to be hangry by lunch? Start testing out some breakfasts.
Rule #2: Choose recipes to prep based on foods you’d normally order for takeout at lunchtime. It’s the best way to look forward to what you’ve prepared in advance!
Rule #3: Don’t prep every single meal during the week. Leave room for spontaneity so you don’t feel locked in! This helps reduce food waste too.
6. While we talk about “staple” foods to always keep on hand when meal-prepping, I feel we often ignore “staple tools.” Name 3 (or more) kitchen items you feel are absolutely necessary to making meal-prepping that much more convenient.
A quality, sharp knife is a must. Not having a sharp knife will absolutely slow you down while cooking. Mixing bowls and extra plates for cooking and prepping are a lifesaver. And I’d be nowhere without my meat thermometer. You don’t have to guess when to take the chicken off the pan! Of course you need good containers too. If you’re serious about meal prep, I highly recommend investing in glass containers.
7. What is one no-cost action or tip that can help someone jumpstart their meal-prepping journey today, right from where they are, with what they already have?
Take inventory of everything you have in your fridge, pantry and freezer. Then pretend you’re on a cooking show like Top Chef and come up with 5-10 meal ideas you could make! And I guarantee if you Google any two or three ingredients together, someone has come up with a recipe for it. Shopping your pantry, freezer and fridge is the best way to save money and reduce waste in meal prep.
Header image via Unsplash + all other images via WorkWeekLunch