I recently met up with a company here in Austin that provides a healthy meal delivery service (www.mealpros.com) for busy people who want to eat healthy on the go. I’m going to use MealPros in this blogpost but there are probably other companies in your town that are based on the concept of delivering portion-controlled meals that are nutritious, high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats for people who don’t have time to cook, don’t like to cook, travel too much to cook, etc.
The meals are all sensible portions, tasty, and made of fresh ingredients, the kind of things that you will find in the periphery of your grocery store. I actually did try several of the meals from MealPros and was very satisfied with the taste. Typically with these sorts of meal delivery places, you pay per meal, so the more meals you need, the more you can expect to pay.
So, a female on a 1,500 calorie per day contest diet will pay less than a female or a male on a larger (i.e., more calories) meal plan.
And let’s say you just wanted a few meals (lunch or dinner) covered by the chefs at Meal Pros. (Note: I’ll use MealPros here, but remember that there are probably other healthy meal delivery places in your city/State). Or, you might have the budget to afford a smaller meal plan (like a 1,200 calorie/day plan) but want to boost calories to suit your activity level.
There are several low-cost, easy ways to do that so let’s get right to it.
1. If you can only afford 3 meals delivered a day, absolutely make sure that you have found a powdered protein source that you enjoy. Whey protein, rice/pea protein, casein, vegan, egg, soy, whatever; it doesn’t matter. Get a brand you like, read the label and add that to your total calorie intake that you’re shooting for. Whey protein tends to be the cheapest, and with the most variety in flavor and cost. All you have to do is add water or milk, shake with ice and enjoy. Bodybuilding.com is where I buy mine, but there are many other retailers.
2. Add volume to your meals. The easiest way to boost the size of your meal is to add veggies. Not only is it a terrific way to add fiber, vitamins, and minerals but it will also bulk up the overall volume of the meal, causing you to eat slower. You’ll get fuller sooner (eat slowly!) and stay fuller between meals.
This can be easily accomplished by adding chopped/raw veggies or salad, or my absolute favorite, easy steamable veggies like the one shown here. Brand isn’t important here, just go look at the frozen veggies section in your grocery store and find something that suits your taste/budget.
3. Add easy, healthy fats. My personal favorite is peanut butter but everyone has their nut of choice. Almond/Cashew/whatever butter, coconut oil, whole nuts, avocados, cheese, etc. Peanut butter is generally the lowest priced option here. You’ll need to be really diligent about portion sizes here if you’re trying to shed fat. A level tablespoon of peanut butter is a whole lot less (speaking of calories, not volume) than a heaping tablespoon, which could have over half the calories of that in a level tablespoon.
Same thing goes with whole nuts. You’d need a kitchen scale to measure ounces. A shot glass full of almonds/peanuts is about a 1 oz serving, but a kitchen scale is your best bet for accuracy. Kitchen scales aren’t expensive and are a great tool for understanding portions anyhow, so you want one, if you don’t own one already. You can check out what I have to say about kitchen scales here.
4. Cheap, easy carbs. Carbs are usually the cheapest macronutrient to add to your plan and also a super easy way to boost calories, particularly before and after training sessions. If you find your energy lagging on your portion controlled meals, you could easily supplement your meals by adding carbohydrates on days you train heavy.
Oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits, dry cereal, rice, bread, tortillas are inexpensive and store well and for a long time. Fruits are easy carbs too. Bananas and nectarines are awesome but don’t last as long (depending on ripeness when picked), but apples, oranges, grapes will have good fridge shelf life. With most whole fruits (grapefruit, bananas, apples, etc) it’s instant portion control.
The best thing about the microwavable rice shown here is that it’s also portion controlled, which takes one part of the guesswork out of the equation for you. Otherwise, you’d still need to measure out carbs according to your fat loss goals. Portions matter if you’re trying to shed weight; that’s why your MealPros meals fit into that nice, tidy container.
5. And finally, non-powdered protein. In between meals, you might want to supplement with an additional protein source (like mentioned in 1.) that’s low fat and easy to prep. Why low fat? Because on contest meal prep for fat loss or otherwise, the calories add up and do matter. Fat is approx. 9 calories/gram vs 4 calories/gram for protein, which is why higher protein will help you on fat loss plan (more food, more satiety, etc).
Assuming you’re getting sufficient fat from fun, tasty sources (peanut butter, mmmm) you’ll want to make sure your protein sources are relatively lean. Canned or pouched tuna is relatively cheap and budget friendly (compared to fresh tuna), and so is canned salmon and chicken breast. Eggs, egg whites, or liquid egg whites are another easy way to boost protein. Our local grocery store has pre-seasoned chicken breasts that are super tasty, and all you need to do is pop them in the oven to bake. Or, vegetarians could do veggie burgers or tofu.
Good luck with your meal prep, and make the most out of your MealPros Meals!