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Meal Prep versus Food Prep: What’s Best for You?

Meal prep and food prep may sound like the same thing, but there are slight differences between them. Depending on your environment, the busy-ness of your schedule, or the type of personality you have, one may work better for you than the other!

What’s meal prep?

meal prepMeal prep is the act of literally planning and preparing all your complete meals for the week (or whatever pre-determined amount of time) ahead of time. With meal prep, you plan out 1-3 dishes (one per meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner), and ration it for the number of days you’re preparing for. For example, if I were preparing for a work week’s worth of lunches, I’d make enough chicken thighs, broccoli and sweet potato for 5 days. I’d cook it all, then divide it evenly for each meal. Tada: my lunch is prepped for the next 5 days!

Who’s it for?

For a lot of people, this is the type of preparedness that their lives require. The work week is busy, and it’s easier to have their food portioned ahead of time, so they can just grab it and go when they leave the house. One major factor to consider: You have to be okay with eating the same thing for lunch for all 5 days, without it causing boredom or the “urge to splurge.”

What’s food prep?

food prepIf you read the above description and find yourself thinking “I can’t eat the same thing for 5 days, or I’ll end up eating all the candy in the break room,” or “I could do that, but I need some variety in my life,” enter: food prep.

Food prep is where you decide on a handful of choices: 2-3 proteins, 3-5 sides (could be vegetables, whole grains/legumes, or both) and maybe even a healthy fat or two, if needed. Once you’ve decided what those are going to be, prep them all in bulk style and store them each individually. When it comes to meal time, you can mix and match from the different foods you’ve prepared to create your meal for the day. To add in an extra boost of flavor and variety, try making your own sauces (pico de gallo, guacamole, chimichurri, etc.) and mix-and-match those as well. Rinse and repeat each day!

Food prep will take a little bit more time, since you’ll have to “make” your meals every day, but that’ll become faster as you do this more and get more comfortable with what different serving sizes look like in your containers.

Who’s it for?

Food prep is a great option for those of us (myself included) who need the illusion of variety throughout the week. This helps keep cravings at bay and allows you to be more creative with your food!

As you’re deciding which option may be better for you, maybe try them both. You’ll find out quickly which one’s going to fit best with your lifestyle. Keep in mind, too, that your needs can change from week-to-week with how busy you are; this week, meal prep may be exactly what you need, and next week food prep might be where it’s at. Be flexible with what works for you but know that being prepared one way or another is the key to success!

Want more help with your food?

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How to Eat Lunch Out & Stay Healthy (Plus our favorite restaurants in Boulder!)

I eat lunch out a lot and from the survey, we learned that many of you do as well. In general, eating out is obviously not ideal from a health standpoint. You want to eat healthy but then find yourself with friends at The Rio eating Mexican food. Of course now you need some chips and salsa (like a whole basket of chips, maybe two because you’re starving) and then everyone else is having a margarita so shouldn’t you as well. So you’re kind of setting yourself up to either feel deprived or to make a suboptimal choice. However, if you put a little thought into choosing restaurants with some healthy options that you like, then it doesn’t have to be an unhealthy choice.

Here are some things to consider:

#1: Will they have something that I like that’s healthy? Yes you can probably get chicken with a steamed veggie at most places but do they have something healthy that you love to eat? Try to find things that you love so you don’t feel deprived and then steer you friends and family in the direction of those restaurants. You’ll be doing them and yourself a favor.

#2: Where do they source their ingredients? If most of their food is coming off of the Sysco truck, then it’s not going to be a very nutrient dense meal…even if it’s a salad with grilled chicken. The nutritional benefits you get from lettuce that you get from a local farm are very different than what you get from lettuce off an industrialized food distribution truck. We’re so lucky because I’ve never been to another city anywhere that has so many restaurants that are conscious of where their ingredients come from. Some restaurants that source local ingredients include: The Kitchen, Zeal, Fresh Thymes, Blooming Beets, Shine, Chautauqua Dining Hall, Oak, Black Cat and Salt.

#3: Do they cater to your specific needs such as: gluten free, dairy free, no crappy cooking oils, etc. If you know you feel terrible when you eat gluten or dairy or canola oil, then why not choose a restaurant that caters to those specific needs. If you go to a pancake house that doesn’t have good gluten free pancakes then aren’t you asking for a problem. For instance, Shine, Blooming Beets and Fresh Thymes are all amazing, and they have 100% gluten free menus. Zeal, Blooming Beets and Fresh Thymes only use high quality (and more expensive oils) like coconut oil for cooking and olive oil for dressings.

Here are some examples of healthy lunch and breakfast options around town:


Shine is 100% gluten free and has a great selection of amazing dishes that have very high quality sourced ingredients. This is the chicken with kale salad and it was delicious. Shine is located in the same mall as the gym now and they have a beautiful cookbook that you can check out at Sanitas. We also offer the option of calling in your order for you and you can pick it up to go after your workout.


This is a staple for me. It’s fast and relatively cheap and I can a well-balanced meal. I choose chicken or fish and add in 5 veggies. It’s located right by the gym over by Home Depot.


I love this place and the new location overlooking the Boulder Creek by Alfalfa’s is so nice. The owner here really cares about the quality of his ingredients and you can tell. This is the wild caught salmon with vegetable curry and rice.


You can’t go wrong here for lunch but I also wanted to point out that this is a great option for breakfast. It opens at 8a and it’s right by the gym. I get the sausage, kale scramble with no cheese and gluten free toast. It’s always good, fast and inexpensive and it’s saved me several times when I didn’t have time to go home and cook. Eating a balanced breakfast everyday has been key for me to lose excess body fat and you can read more about that here.


A few other options are Blooming Beets (they have an amazing salmon or chicken salad and always use the best ingredients), Fresh Thymes (fast and easy because they have counter service and they also source great ingredients), Arabesque (the chicken shawarma plate is to die for), and Tangerine for breakfast. Other fast food options are Wahoos (salmon salad), the Whole Foods prepared foods section (chicken curry with turmeric rice and add extra veggies), Yellowbelly (kale salad with roasted chicken), and Chipotle (bowl but skip the chips). If you have a favorite, let me know and I’ll add it to the list for next time.

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Counting Macros and Why You Should Try It!

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