High Intensity Interval Cooking
Let me introduce you to my new favorite meal prep mentality.
Some context. What makes HIIT (high intensity interval training) style workouts so popular? They’re short. They’re dirty. And they’re effective.
For many people, the thought of a 60-90minute workout sounds terrible. Why take up over an hour of your day when you can jack up your heartrate and get the same benefit in under 30 minutes?
Well my friends, allow me to introduce you to HIIC, High Intensity Interval Cooking.
If you want to simplify the idea of cooking, reframe how you think about meal prep, and get solid, healthy meals that don’t all taste like cardboard, this is for you.
If I had to summarize how I cook and how I think about healthy meal prep, this would be it. I like to move fast in all areas of my life. I like fast, convenient, and healthy. And sure, I enjoy the act of cooking more than most, but I am not out here cooking elaborate, time consuming dinners for myself and Jerbear every night ya know?
Nearly all of my meals are done in less than 30 minutes. Easy. Sometimes shorter.
So, Em, how does one commit to HIIC? Well. One must be prepared. And I promise you it’s simple.
I am able to cook on the fly and throw together healthy meals in a pinch because I always have my two big items – protein and carbs – meal prepped and ready to go.
I believe in less recipes and more food. Meaning stop stressing about finding some big recipes to create and instead, think of the components that make up a recipe, typically a protein source, a starch or grain, and something green (or any vegetables). I’ve had clients and friends/family members who stress out over the thought of meticulous healthy meal prep and tiny containers of pre-portioned meals. They flinch at the thought of preparing a recipe with 20+ ingredients and steer clear of that kind of commitment.
I get it.
Think simply, dear friends. Cooking can be very simple if you break it down into those necessary components. Protein, healthy carb, and something green. You could also add healthy fat to that list but I always cook in olive oil or ghee and often add things like avocados or Primal Kitchen sauces to my food.
A while back I wrote about component cooking, and how my version of meal prep is to cook up bulk ‘components‘ to have on hand to use for my dinners throughout the week. I primarily prep carbs and protein that are ready to go and be added to different meals. This normally involves a crockpot of pulled chicken, seasoned simply with salt and pepper so when I use it throughout the week I can add in different sauces and other spices to church it up. And the other component would be roasted vegetables or baked sweet potatoes. Most of the time, it’s a few sweet potatoes and butternut squash. I personally find things like leftover potatoes, carrots, and butternut squash taste even better as leftovers but if that’s not your thing, then maybe that’s the one “component” that you end up cooking fresh that night and then the only thing you have to wait on after work is about 45mins for your vegetables to roast.
Now, if you are someone who has a very specific body composition goal or are diligently tracking macros and the thought of even throwing components together is too much work, then finding the right pre packed meal service would be your best bet. Take the guessing out of it and get your little pre-portioned and pre packed containers. You could also do it yourself if you want to take the time on Sunday to do it. It’s not fun for most, but goals are goals and if you want to do anything worthwhile in life, then sometimes that means doing things we don’t want to do.
Now back to HIIC. Having these components on hand assures me of a few things:
- The most important element (in my opinion) – protein – is cooked and ready to go.
- Getting my veggies in will be easier. For me, combining cooked with fresh or cooked with frozen is a great way to get more vegetables in, get in more variety to your meals depending on what you have, and using a mix takes your sad little frozen broccoli or kind of gross fresh kale and makes it suck less.
- I won’t let it go to waste. It’s already cooked. I can’t let it sit there. One of my biggest pet peeves in life is wasting food. If I took the time to prepare components, or have leftover anything in the fridge, I’m eating it, knowing that the weekend is when I can take the time to go out and get something different or cook up something fancier that night.
Here’s my process:
Gets home from work.
Assesses the component situation. I find a container of pulled chicken. And another container of roasted sweet potato wedges.
Looks in the fresh drawers. I have half a bag of random mixed greens, part of an onion, and some peppers. Oh look a jar of salsa. Maybe an avocado.
Starts slicing onion and peppers. Preheats pan.
Gently starts cooking up onion and peppers in some olive oil. Adds in some salt and pepper. Let’s that get happy happy together (Emeril used to say that, can we get that show back please?)
Tosses in some more spices because why not. Perhaps some taco seasoning. Or break it up and add in cumin, red pepper flakes, perhaps some garlic powder.
It’s getting good color I’m going to add in the already cooked pulled chicken to heat it through. Let’s dump on some salsa and let it all get bubbly together. Looks like Mexican is happening.
Once the fresh veg and chicken area cooked and warmed through together (10 mins at this point perhaps), I’ll turn off the heat.
Let’s make a big ol’ Mexican bowl. I’m going to add the greens to a bowl, top with more salsa, pour over the mix from the stove top, add sweet potatoes, and finish off with avocado or whatever other dressing or finishes you have. Cheese? Cool, throw that in. Sour cream/Greek yogurt/ primal kitchen ranch or chipotle lime? Done. Add it.
See what happened here? Because I had the key, and the most satiating, components already cooked – the protein and the healthy carb – I was able to take the random things I had on hand and turn it into its own meal.
HIIT workouts are all about making the most out of a short time frame to give you and your body the biggest bang for your buck. Consider the time you took to scroll and find the class you wanted to take, book or pay for the class, change and show up, and then follow the workout template or coach instructions as the time needed to prep the components over the weekend for healthy meals, grab a selection of fresh or frozen vegetables that you have on hand, and cook it up with different spices and sauces.
HIIC is all about showing you how simple it can be to reframe your thoughts around cooking dinner. HIIC takes the pressure off cooking everything from scratch and makes it possible to get a fast and healthy dinner done for yourself and others in no time.
Just ask Jerry. When Em gets home and probably after she takes another power walk, it’s sweats on, dinner done, and Food Network playing all in less than 30 minutes.