So you’re trying to lose weight… Does meal prepping help to lose weight? What’s the best way to meal prep? What’s the easiest way to weekly meal prep? What are the best foods for meal prep?
Unlike wacky fads or some extreme diet plan, preparing healthy meals in advance can have real long-term benefits for your health. Meal prepping might be the best way to navigate through mealtimes – it can save time and keep you on track, giving you a better chance of success in your weight loss journey.
Food prep may be done in a variety of ways, based on your health goals, schedule, and meal preferences. Making larger nutritious meal amounts to freeze, whole meals to chill, and individual parts to assemble as desired are some possibilities for meal planning in advance.
What is Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping or meal planning is the act of gathering and preparing nutritious food ahead of time, usually about a whole week in advance. While it does take some coordination and a period of time to make everything all at once, preparing this healthy diet plan can save time when you’re hungry and tired.
Meal preparation can be a useful tool for people who are attempting to lose weight. You can make sure you serve yourself healthy foods and stay on top of portion control to help yourself stay on track.
At lunchtime or at the end of a long, busy day, it can be very helpful to know your next meal will be a delicious, healthy meal, so you’re not tempted to order takeout or hit the drive-through on the commute home.
You can employ a couple of different types of meal prepping to help you achieve your weight loss goals.
- Ready-to-Cook Ingredients: Preparing the components for certain meals ahead of time to reduce cooking time in the kitchen.
- Individually Portioned Meals: Preparing fresh meals and portioning them into individual grab-and-go servings to be refrigerated and enjoyed over the next few days. This is very useful for fast lunches. Meal prep containers for this purpose can be found at kitchen supply stores, supermarkets, and online retailers.
- Make-Ahead Meals: Make-ahead meals are fully prepared meals that can be refrigerated and reheated at mealtimes. This is especially useful for dinnertime food.
- Batch Cooking: Making big quantities of a certain dish, then dividing it into individual pieces to be frozen and consumed over the following few months is known as batch cooking. These are ideal for a warm lunch or dinner.
Tips for Meal Prepping for Weight Loss
- First thing to food prepping is organizing ahead of time. This preparation will pay dividends in the long run. You have to decide which meals you will prep ahead of time – breakfast, lunch, and dinner, perhaps. Or maybe just lunch and dinner? It’s up to you.
- Cooking your food ahead of time, especially in big amounts, may help you save meal prep time and lessen the stress levels of following a healthy eating plan.
- Knowing your next meal is taken care of will allow you to think less about food and be less tempted to eat calorie-dense options.
- Use a crock-pot or Instant Pot. Make large batches of one-pot recipes that will keep for several days. In a crockpot, make a nutritious chili, stew, or curry and serve over your favorite whole grains.
- Keep some foods separate by using compartment type storage containers. To ensure that the grains taste as fresh as possible, keep them separate before serving. Enchiladas, lasagna, casseroles, and pilafs are other excellent ways to extend the life of your dishes.
- Save time by buying pre-chopped ingredients. When possible, make it easier on you with pre-chopped or even pre-cooked such as rotisserie chicken.
- Start off small. Try prepping just one meal – like lunch or dinner – or pick only a few days a week to start. This way you can get used to the amount of effort it takes and what your likes and dislikes are.
- Count how many meals you’ll need for the entire week ahead and pick a few recipes, especially ones you already know, with lots of healthy vegetables, proteins, and whole grains.
- Try to use several different meal prep recipes, because if you eat the same thing all week, you’ll be bored and you won’t get all the nutrients you need.
- Burritos are a popular meal prep. Make nutritious breakfast or lunch burritos, cover in foil, and freeze for later. Then bake or microwave them for a quick and balanced next meal.
Most Important Part – Choose Foods You Know You’ll Eat
Don’t pick food that’s exotic or unknown to you. Pick things that are healthy – minimally processed foods (mostly whole foods) like fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains – but that you know you’ll eat.
- Marinate or season meats in a variety of ways.
Spices and seasonings can go a long way to making your nutritious food more enjoyable and distinct. It doesn’t have to be spicy, it can just be flavorful – use herbs and mild spices like garlic, basil, oregano, onion, and paprika. We promise you don’t have to eat plain chicken breast every meal!
- To balance out the dish, choose lean proteins such as chicken, fish, grass-fed beef, or tofu.
To keep the number of calories in line, avoid breaded and fried varieties. Eating extra protein will keep you full and will help you maintain lean muscle mass, which is vital for weight management.
- Choose your favorite veggies so you’ll eat them.
If green bell peppers make you gag, for goodness’ sake, don’t put them in your lunches for the next week. Of course, you should try to choose the healthiest options, like more leafy greens than root vegetables.
It’s a balancing act! Veggies should make up ⅓ to ½ of your meals, so it’s crucial that you choose wisely to get those nutrients and not feel hungry.
Pre-calculate Meals for Macros to Avoid Surprises
Calories and macros go together, which is why meal planning on a macro diet may help you keep your portion control and calorie management in line. Especially since calculating macros means you know how much of each type of food (carbs, fats and proteins) you should be consuming on your diet plan – really your new lifestyle plan because I don’t believe in short-term diets.
- Consider purchasing a food scale or using meal monitoring software.
This can help you to be as accurate as possible and understand the exact portion proportions that meet your unique needs. It doesn’t take long but it is 100% worth it! Otherwise, you would likely be overeating or even under eating.
Ideas for Foods that do well in Meal Prepping (Not Inclusive)
- Whole grains such as quinoa, couscous, brown rice, and whole-grain pasta.
- Beans, lentils, peas, corn, and potatoes
- Green beans, kale, spinach
- Squash, zucchini, onions
Don’t forget to count the seemingly small ingredients
- Cook using healthy fats like olive oil and avocado oil in low amounts, or top with whole fats like olives, almonds, and avocados.
- Reduce the number of extra components such as salt, cheese, heavy sauces, high sugar dressings, and so on.
- Top with calorie-free seasonings like lemon, fresh herbs, garlic, paprika, or chili flakes and other dry seasonings to provide flavor and diversity. Alternatives could include salsa, kimchi, nutritional yeast, and sugar-free sauces.
Ways to Stay On Track
- Make food in bulk.
- On the same day every week if possible.
Many people who do meal prepping use Sunday as the day of the week to prep their meals, but you can choose whichever day you have time, based on your schedule.
- Divide into meal prep containers exercising portion control – measure and weigh for accurate tracking.
You can use measuring cups or portioned individual containers to get the amounts of each kind of food you need. There are many kinds of plastic containers you can use for this purpose. You can also use mason jars, especially for fruit or salads!
Grocery Store Tips
- Create a grocery list to stay on track in the grocery store. Knowing what’s on your list and sticking to it can help lower your stress levels in the busy store.
Stick to your grocery shopping list as much as possible, and go around the perimeter of the grocery store – produce, meats, dairy, and the like – to avoid the lure of highly processed snack foods and frozen foods.
- Combine components to get the most bang for your cash. Look for items that may be used in several recipes when you create your menu.
- Look for sales and stock up on non-perishables like dried beans and grains, as well as canned and frozen foods.
- Replace pricey foods with less expensive but comparable alternatives, such as cranberries for goji berries or brown rice for quinoa.
- To reduce waste, buy portion sizes that make sense. A 5-pound package of apples, for example, is probably too much for one person unless you plan on utilizing them in many meals and snacking on them.
Finally: Don’t Forget Snacks!
You need to plan for those in-between-meals times when you start to feel a bit peckish or groggy. Just make sure to track the snacks as well as the meals!
- Keeping healthy snacks on hand can help you avoid the empty calories of most of the items in the vending machine at your office.
Some healthy snacks include:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- No-sugar-added jerky
- A piece of fruit and low-fat string cheese
- Nuts and dried fruit
- Whole-grain crackers or fruit and nut butter
- Tuna or chicken salad with whole-grain crackers
- Hummus with veggies and grilled chicken strips to dip
- Greek yogurt with fruit
Much of meal prepping’s workload is done ahead of time, so while it may feel like a ton of work on the prep day, it will be a breeze to heat up or thaw your meals when it’s time to eat.
Keeping healthy meals and snacks on hand is the best way to keep you full of the foods that will nourish you. It will help you avoid the temptation of fast food or calorie-dense snacks to stay on track.
With these tips, you will be on your way to achieving weight loss success!