The clients are back to the grind, dealing with kids in school, cramming and work and struggling to keep up with it all. Now, we all know meal prep is one of the best ways to stay on the right path with nutrition, but how do you convince them to make the time to do it? Especially when the fast food joint around the corner is calling their name. Michelle Vodrazka is the author of “Meal Prep Lunches” and “The Bodybuilding Meal Prep Cookbook,” and she’ll tell you how right after this.
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This is Two-Brain Radio and I’m Tiffy Thompson. Meal prep is one of those things that seems doable by only the fittest and most organized among us. So how can we get our ordinary clients to start incorporating meal prep into their lives today? I’m joined by Michelle Vodrazka, a former fitness competitor, mother of five and author of the new book “Meal Prep Lunches.” It’s chock full of great tips and recipe ideas that you can use yourself or pass along to your clients. She’s going to share some of her secrets when it comes to meal prep, what’s worked for her and how you can make it work for you and your clients. Michelle, welcome.
Hi Tiffy, thanks for having me.
What prompted you to write your new book, “Meal Prep Lunches”?
Well, I had actually already published another book called the “The Bodybuilding Meal Prep Cookbook,” and my publisher actually reached out for me and they said, you know, they do a lot of research and they knew a lot of people had been struggling with just meal prepping their lunches in particular.
And they wanted to know if that’s something that we could apply to, I guess, kinda more of a general audience, whether it’s busy moms, dads, you know, students out there just leading busy lives, wanting to save some money, and just trying to figure out how to get, you know, a little bit healthier at the same time. And I thought it was a great idea because I’d had a lot of my clients come to me with the same thing, you know, like it’s not just the bodybuilding clients and not just the fitness competitor clients or people that have performance goals, but just, you know, like the busy mom with like the three kids and wanting to, you know, eat a little bit healthier, not going to the cafeteria at lunch or not going through the drive through. And how could they do that in a much more, you know, I guess accessible way, right?
In your book, you teach people step by step how to prep their lunches, like there’s shopping lists and like breakdowns of exactly what to buy for any given week. Where do you recommend people sort of begin when they start out with doing meal prep for the first time, like what needs to be in place.
- So really you don’t really need anything huge. And I think a lot of people, when they think of meal prep, you know, they come to it maybe having seen people on like Instagram or like bloggers who are just incredible at what they do. And they have these extensive spreads with like 50 different containers prepped perfectly for the week. Their fridge is a completely organized and stocked and you don’t really need that. And that’s one of the things that I really try to teach my clients and just, you know, and show people in general that it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Really all you need is to start is just the desire to begin. And then just a little bit of guidance, whether it’s from a coach or a book, or even just going online and doing a bit of research. So one of the first things that, you know, I say is just, you know, pick a prep day, that would be your first step. Do you want to prep twice a week, you want to prep once a week? Usually people will prep on Sundays because it’s a bit of a quieter today. They’re getting ready for their work week. It’s kind of a transition day anyways. They have time to go to the grocery store. So all their ingredients are really fresh. And then they have a little bit of time set aside to cook. Some people like to add in a second day, I’m one of those people myself actually, because I personally get a little bit bored of having, you know, all those meals sitting there and prep just on one day.
So I like to do something and get more variety on my second day of the week, which I do on Wednesday evenings. So it’s really just that like, just like, you know, take action. The first action is to pick a day and then the second one really is just to figure out what meals do you want to eat? You know, so basically you go out there and you’re just going to pick your recipes. And that could be, you know, something that your coach may be recommend. It could be going online. It could be recipes that are already in your kind of repertoire or your go-to recipes, whether they’re in like a cookbook or whether they’re just something you’ve been making for eons. And it’s just, you know, easy and simple. And just kind of starting to collect a couple of those recipes that you want to work on.
And keeping them really like super simple, you know, so the ones that have few ingredients, foods like that are really common in the grocery store and that are again accessible, not super expensive, and that don’t require a lot of cooking techniques, like just keep it basic to start with. And then from there you would make your shopping list, and, you know, then go to the grocery store and pick everything up again, ideally right before you’re prepping. So everything’s really, really fresh. And then you can get home, you can, you know, get ready to start prepping and making sure you have an organized kitchen is really important. So if you have, you know, dishes there that have accumulated for the last three days, you might want to do your dishes first, you know, maybe go into like your pantry and just like pull out things that you’re going to need. Put on some music, that’s really important or like your favorite TV show. Maybe you want to get your family involved, you know, and again, making sure that you communicate that you are going to set aside like, you know, an hour or two to do a little bit of meal prep and get yourself organized for the week. And if you make it fun, usually people will buy into it and you know, you’ll get them helping you out, which makes things go faster as well. So then the next thing you would do is you’d pull out all those ingredients. You, that’s where you wash, you peel, you chop everything, you do it for all your recipes upf ront, so you don’t do one recipe and then the next, you just get everything ready. It’s kind of called like Nissan plus, you know, in culinary terms, they know what that is.
And we’re basically, you’re preparing everything, you’re chopping it up, you’re putting it into the portions that you need it, like a cup of chopped celery or whatever. And then it’s all sitting there ready. So all you have to do is add it into the pan or into the pot, or just to get it prepared. Then you’re going to do all of your cooking and your baking, all at the same time. So it’s a little bit of multitasking and that part is a little bit of an art, and the best way to learn that is just by doing. And you know, you can learn from your mistakes and, you know, you’ll become, you’ll slowly become an expert over time, over repetition, and you can also copy from others, you know, go look at the people that are great at this, who have already written this up, you know, whether it’s in books or blogs and just follow what they tell you to do, and then make little changes and personalize it and make it your own based on what works for you.
Right. So that keeps it pretty simple. And I know I’m a kinesthetic learner myself, so I actually have to do it to learn it, or it won’t sink into my brain. So I don’t know if a lot of your fitness coaches are like that as well. But for me, that’s really key is to learn by doing right. And then you just package everything into your containers and you know, label it if you need to, if you don’t know, you know, if you have a lot of stuff where you’re freezing it as well, and you’re good to go, like it could start with, you know, two recipes a week and that’s really all you need to start with.
Wow. I guess people have this idea in their head that it’s going to take a lot of time, but when you think of how much time you spend trying to figure out what to make every day, it just eats up way more time.
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Oh yeah, for sure. And not just that, but you know, you’ll end up with, you know, a lot of food spoilage because there’s stuff you forgot about, or didn’t use, you know, where you’re running out for last minute ingredients or you’re spending more money. Cause you didn’t, you know, shop at the stores where you knew you would get the best prices for certain things. You’re scrambling last minute while the kids are like running around and like throwing things. And you’re tripping over the dog and we’ve all been there. So yeah, just chaos. And you know, when you’re at your busiest, that’s the last moment that you want to be prepping. So that’s why the Sunday kind of prep day is good because usually we have less going on and we can kind of focus and make it fun and make it kind of a self care routine rather than a, you know, last minute or whatever we have give up order pizza kind of moment.
Right. Awesome. What can coaches specifically do to help their clients meal prep, like what’s worked for you in working with clients?
So I’m a big believer in keeping things simple. And that’s one of the things in my book “Meal Prep Lunches,” it only contains two recipes each week because this is again trying to make it accessible just to get to get people started. So it includes one, you know, meat based recipe and one vegetarian recipe, just two a week. And then you alternate those Monday to Friday. And, it doesn’t overwhelm that way. Right. Because there’s a saying, that I learned from one of my mentors that says, if they’re confused, you lose. So don’t give them too much. Don’t overcomplicate it, keep it simple. And one of the best ways I find to do that is just to give them some, you know, really handy tools.
Whether that is like, you know, Hey, we’re gonna just start with prepping on Sundays and you’re just going to prep a couple elements to start with. We’re not even gonna start with a recipe, just every Sunday. Tell me what things you like to eat. And you’re kind of working with your client and they’re going to say maybe, Oh, I really like eggs. All right. So we’re going to prep, like we’re going to hard-boil 12 eggs or bake 12 eggs in the oven, and then what else do you like? And they might say, Oh, I really like, I don’t know. I really like chicken, but it’s like, I hate cooking it. OK. So you’re going to go to the grocery store and you’re going to buy a rotisserie chicken and that you’re going to cut that up and have that ready to go for the week and portion it out ahead of time.
Or maybe they really like, you know, salads, but they find that they get soggy. So then, you know, giving them like really simple tips. So we’re just going to cut up all your leafy greens and your lettuce. And we’re going to put that in one container. Then in another container, we’re going to cut up all our fresh vegetables that we’re gonna let them mix together. We’re going to keep out things like cucumbers or tomatoes. So we’ll just do like onions and carrots and celeries, whatever else you like in there, peppers, and we’re going to present another container. And so now we’ve already got, you know, like the basics for salads. We’ve got, you know, the basics, we’ve got protein in terms of chicken and hard boiled eggs. And then maybe we’ll run some beans and put those in a separate container. And then you can kind of like prep last minute in the mornings, all you have to do is put a bunch of stuff together and now you’ve got either a salad or if you boil some rices while you’ve got a bowl and you can really mix and match really, really simply just by having them prep, you know, eggs, buy rotisserie chicken and cut up some vegetables and drain some beans, and you’re pretty much set for the week, right.
With a lot of different variety and a lot of different meals. You know, so kind of just breaking it down for them and making it really simple. And it’s like, you’re almost creating this like standard operating procedure and you’re breaking it down super simple. And you’re guiding them and then maybe you give them, Hey here, I’ve got this great, you know, blank meal planning template and all you it’s just like a calendar Monday to Friday where they write in what meals they’re gonna have and what days, or maybe you give them a blank grocery list that divides it up by different sections, like, you know, your fresh produce and then you have your dairy or maybe you provide them, you know, like just really simple things like that. Like maybe you send them email reminders every Sunday that say, don’t forget the prep today.
You know, just little things like that because, you know, giving them a whole prescribed meal plan, unless they’re someone who’s really advanced, and ready for that probably won’t work out that great.
So what do you have any specific tips that you use when it comes to meal prep that’s been helpful?
Yeah, so like some of the things I already mentioned, like I do a lot of, you know, prepping just the elements each week because I really like to, kind of mix and match. And I like to, you know, prep those elements at a time. I’ll do certain recipes, like, you know, egg muffins or turkey meatballs, things like that. I’ll do, and I do like making recipes as well, but some of the easiest, like if you’re really in a pinch and you’re like moving between houses and your gym just reopened, like this is my personal situation, you know, like you have nothing like you have a fridge, but nothing else, like how do you keep it super, super, super basic, right.
And you can cheat, you know, you can get hard-boiled eggs at the grocery store that are already peeled. You can go buy your rotisserie chicken, you can go buy precut vegetables, you buy precut fruit. You know, so there’s so many options that you can kind of like go to that maybe aren’t perfect, but they’re pretty darn good. And they’re going to make your life so much easier. So those are some of the things that I do. And I also really like to keep a binder. I come on kind of old school that way. Now people probably use Google docs or like, you know, websites somewhere to store this. But I use a binder to put my favorite recipes in. So whenever I find something that I really like or my kids really like, I’ll like print it off.
I feel so 1990s, I print it off and I put it into one of my little plastic sheets in my, you know, three ring binder. And I only keep my very favorite ones in there. And if something, you know, I make it again another couple of times and I don’t really like it. I’ll take it out. And when I want something or I’m pretty my meal plan for myself or my family, that’s where I go. I just leaf through that. And I know, you know, got my top 30 because people really don’t generally go through more than 30 different recipes or 30 different foods per week. They have 30 or less that they like. And so that’s really all you need. So that’s one of the tips that I use for myself.
Do you also do all the meal prep for your kids as well? When you’re doing the meal prep like, is it just for your own lunches or is it so that your whole family?
So we have a mixed family. So my kids kinda, they they’re with me half the time and with their dad half the time. So it depends if I’m alone or not, but when they’re here, I prep them the same way I prep me. Like I don’t really believe in cafeteria style. You know, you know, let’s give everybody what they want. We’re at the restaurant individually. So they get what they get and if they don’t like it, you know, then they can make themselves something else. That’s how I kind of work. Of course it doesn’t work for everyone depending how old your kids are, but mine have been eating this way for a really, really long time. So their pallets are pretty good. They still don’t like mushrooms though, but I mean, for the most part, they’ll eat avocado and quinoa you know, whenever I throw at them 99% of the time, so they do complain, but they’ll eat it.
We’re kind of going through a stressful and uncertain period in the world. People might be feeling, run down and depleted. Like, how do you motivate people to create new positive habits when they’re already kind of in a slump? Like what motivates you? And like, how do you pass that motivation along to your clients?
So that can be a tough one, and especially, it depends on what your kind of coping mechanisms are that you’ve developed over your life. Right? So I’ve had a lot of positive influences around me growing up. So usually my coping mechanisms tend to be more positive. I’ve gone through my bad kind of periods for sure where it’s like, Oh my God, like I just polished off that bottle of wine. Why did I do that? And like, you know, or I’ve binged watch Netflix for like, you know, two weeks when things have been really, you know, not going that well in my life.
But for the most part, my coping mechanisms naturally were things like, you know, going out for a workout because I know that my mind will just shut off. And that’s a really stress reducing activity for me. I’m walking my dog. That’s a really big one. Eating healthy because I know even if I’m feeling crappy in every other aspect of my life doing those things will make me feel better. But it is, it is just kind of a habit. And if you’ve had some of those bad ones that you’re going back to, and I’ve been there too, I think it’s important to kind of take a look around you and ask yourself, like, you know, who are the people that are in your inner circle at that moment. And are these people, you know, are your core values aligned with theirs and what they’re bringing into your life?
And again, one of my mentors did a lot of work on this with me and it really hit home for me, you know, when they asked me a bunch of questions, they said, you know, do you feel like they’re energizing and encouraging you, or do you feel demotivated and discouraged around them? You know, or after you see them, because misery does love company and it’s threatening for you to change and make positive habits and bring those into your life. And when you’re around these people, what are you doing? How are you behaving? And some of those people, you can’t change, right? Sometimes they’re like your spouse or maybe your kids or your parents, but you can bring in more positive people in and bring them into that inner circle. Because what I was taught was that, you know, the five people that you’re closest to you, that’s essentially who you become, right?
Like you’re on the average of those five people. And there were times in my life where I find myself being around people that didn’t support that where my habits were becoming worse, where I was drinking, for example, more and where I would come home. And I would just kind of like sit in the couch and or if I, you know, went and was around them, I wasn’t making the best food choices and things like that. And it took me a long time to kind of realize what was happening and to realize why I wasn’t feeling good about myself. And when I did, I took a look around and said, OK, who are the people that are here that are really good for me, you know, that are really positive and helpful that aren’t judgemental, but they have a lot of the good habits in there that I maybe want to be more like, and that was hugely helpful for me.
That’s not saying that it’s easy, but that helped in my life a lot. So I dunno if that’s what they answered your question or not.
What would you say is the main takeaway of your book?
So I would say the main takeaway is that, you know, meal prep doesn’t have to be intimidating. It can be really simple. It’s for everybody, it’s really a way of just, you know, helping make your life easier. Helping you reach your goals in a more efficient way, whether it’s, you know, just eating a whole foods and just, you know, feeling better about yourself, whether it’s calorie or portion control, whether it’s fat loss or muscle gain, whether it’s just getting your kids healthy meals, rather than, you know, going out to order take out all the time, meal prep can do all that for you. And you can do it in a really simple way, just by starting out with a couple of recipes each week, and you know, build from there and just don’t be intimidated by it. And, you know, just make it your own, just get creative and have some fun with it.
Where can we get a copy?
So you can get a copy on Amazon both in Amazon Canada and amazon.com. And, you know, if you’re looking for a book that is a little bit more fitness oriented, that’s where the bodybuilding meal prep comes in, because it does address your macronutrient and your category calorie calculations for fat loss, muscle gain and for maintenance in three different sections. So you can look at that one as well, which is also available on Amazon. A lot of great information there.
Thanks for coming on the show with us today.
Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for having me. That was really fun. And I hope we can do it again.
This is Two-Brain Radio, I’m Tiffy Thompson, and we’ve been talking all things meal prep with Michelle Vodrazka. Want more actionable advice based on data? Check out Gym Owners United group on Facebook. You’ll find daily tactics from Chris Cooper, as well as the support of a host of business owners from all over the world. That group is Gym Owners United on Facebook, join today. Thanks for tuning in to Two-Brain Radio. Please subscribe for more episodes wherever you get your podcasts.