Emma Kramer: Genius Hour HOw does meal prepping weekly affect my day-to-day life and physical fitness?

Blog Post #1: This year my Genius Hour project will cover the essential question "how does meal prepping weekly affect my day-to-day life and physical fitness?" This topic is important to me, because I want to know how meal prepping affects my life. This will help me learn new recipes, how to make correctly portioned meals, teach me how to make more conscientious eating decisions, and possibly boost my mood and athletic performance. My goals for this project are: 1. Learn self-discipline and time management skills by having to prepare all meals ahead of time. 2. Learn some new recipes and cooking techniques. 3. Learn how to balance health and taste (keeping everything healthy without being miserable). 4. If possible, lose some weight and/or decrease my body fat percentage. To measure my goals, I will record my mood throughout the day. I will also calculate my current body fat percentage and body weight, and see if it is changed by the end of the project. Also, I will write down any new recipes or techniques that I learn. Lastly, I will occasionally take photos of my meals and see if the change in meal type and complexity improves throughout the timeline.

Blog Post #2: After a week of meal prepping, I have learned how much different the amount I was actually eating is compared to what I thought I was eating. During the week I would get hungry more often than before I was meal prepping, but I would not be able to go eat whatever I wanted. This helped me realize how much worse my decisions are when I do not have a game plan already in place. Last week my meal plan consisted of two boiled eggs and toast for breakfast, protein bar as a snack, avocado turkey salad (which doesn’t sound great, but it was amazing) for lunch, fruit as a snack, and rice and chicken for dinner. The pros: last week everything tasted really good so I did not feel like I was missing out. The cons: I was eating a lot less often than before, so I would get fairly hungry towards the end of the day. Overall, however, I would consider week one a success. This week I used a website called NerdFitness to do some researching on the benefits of meal prepping, and it gave multiple strong arguments. These include saving money, holding yourself accountable, prevention of overeating, etc. Also, I read some recipes on Mallory King’s fitness blog to get some ideas for food in the future. This week, my meal plan will include the same breakfast, rice and roasted chicken and vegetables for lunch, same snacks, and some varying and unique salads for dinner. As the project continues, I am hoping to find meals that leave me feeling more satisfied during the day. Also, this week I plan to make some homemade protein bars by using recipes on Mallory King’s blog.

Blog Post #3: Over the past week I began to look into tracking my macros, which I did not originally plan to do. I learned a decent amount, especially considering that I had no idea what it was about or how to do it. When tracking macros, you count and manage the grams of carbohydrates, fats, and protein that you consume. This prevents you from having to count calories, since each macro has a set number of calories. This way, I’ll be able to plan my meals around the macros rather than calories. This week I learned that I am not the best cook. For the week’s lunch I made chicken, rice, and roasted vegetables. While this does not sound difficult, I managed to completely overcook the rice (and made way too much of it) and underestimate the amount of chicken and vegetables I needed. My mistakes made for a week of fairly unsatisfying meals, but I learned a bit about cooking through the experience. I used a few different sources this week. First I used multiple websites to read about tracking macros (what it is, the benefits, etc.) and then I used a couple of macro calculators to determine how many grams of carbs, protein, and fat I should be consuming. The results varied between the websites, so I averaged the two to get my numbers. From here, I plan to start basing my meals off of my macros instead of calories. Also, I am going to attempt some meal prep soups this week to keep everything interesting. Because the end of this week will mark the halfway point of my meal prepping journey, I plan to weigh myself and see if anything has changed throughout the process. Until then, I’m going to keep tracking and cooking.

Blog Post #4: Now that I am over halfway through my weeks of meal prepping, I think I am beginning to get the hang of things. Tracking macros has been a little tedious, but I have learned that it makes meal prepping seem like less of a “diet” and more of being able to eat the types of food that I want, since it is not about cutting out certain foods but about meeting certain amounts of macros. Last week I tried to branch out into learning to cook some different types of food. I found a macro-friendly chicken noodle soup recipe on an online blog and tried it out. It was a delicious success! The soup was pretty flavorful, low calorie, and fairly simple to cook. While I have had some cooking failures so far, this was definitely not one of them. Throughout the experience I have been learning that I am worse at time management than I thought (I am kind of an awful procrastinator). While meal prepping can make the week less hectic for some, it tends to make Sundays a little more painful than they would be if I were not meal prepping. It is convenient to have all of my lunches made already, but I have always been scrambling to make sure I have everything ready for Monday. This week I mainly used blogs to find recipes. I did some researching on tracking macros, but a lot of websites I have been finding have been trying to sell products or training, so I am not sure if they are completely reliable sources. From here, I am going to add as much variation in the last few weeks as possible (when it comes to the food I am eating). At the very least I want to try some different breakfast recipes, because throughout the entire process I have been creative with lunches and dinners, but I have been eating the same breakfast.

Blog Post #5: Even though I am almost finished with my five weeks of meal prepping, I am pretty sure I am only starting to get comfortable with it. I have enjoyed it all, but I am definitely still having issues with creativity of meals and prep time. Last week, however, I started to learn and get more used to tracking macros. In my opinion, this was a little less painful than just counting calories and cutting out certain foods. This way I could plan all of my carbohydrate, protein, and fat intake throughout the day, and alter the plan if I wanted to save macros for a specific food later in the day. Over all of the weeks, I have learned that I am not a person who likes to prep all of the week’s meals on one day. Most people meal prep on Sundays only, but I started to prepare half of my meals on Sunday and the other half on Wednesday. For me, this is much more convenient than having to do all of the cooking on one day. Also, I don’t have to worry about food going bad throughout the week. This week I used a couple of different websites for tips on meal prepping, cooking, tracking macros, and recipes. I also tried a few more macro calculators to see if any websites told me anything different than I had been tracking (everything was fairly similar, so I just stuck with the macro numbers I had been using). From here I am going to continue prepping twice a week. This week, I am going to have to leave extra room for carbohydrates and fats on Monday and Tuesday, because I have banquets those evenings and will need the spare macros. That will likely give me a little more of an idea of how tracking macros is beneficial, rather than just cutting out foods and meal prepping.

Low Quality Photo of Week 1's Lunch

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