Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission from the vendor at no extra cost to you. These business relationships allow us to keep bringing you great EatMoveHack content. All opinions remain our own.
How to Meal Prep for Weight Loss
We all know how hard it is to stay focused on healthy eating when losing weight. Between busy work days and an active home life, it’s almost too easy to get duped into eating food that’s bad for you. Thus, resulting in guilt and extra calories. So, how do you stop the cycle? With healthy meal prep!
Meal prepping is a great way to get out ahead of these rushed choices. In addition to having complete control over your diet, you’ll be able to customize your portions, incorporate healthy food, and have more time. In fact, people who use meal prep for weight loss are more likely to lose weight and keep it off than those who don’t.
Before we dive in, remember that meal prepping is the means you will use to accomplish the ends. The ends will be your weight loss goals. Having a clear understanding of your goals is of utmost important. If you do not have a clear plan for your diet regiment then the best meal prepping will not be able to correct that imbalance.
So, before you start meal prepping, take some time and energy to figure out what foods you are going to be eating and why. From there, you can begin to build your meal prep menu and start running directly towards your goals.
Don’t worry– meal prepping may sound intimidating at first, but it’s much easier than you could ever imagine. We will guide you through some tips for getting started. This guide will show you how to customize healthy meal plans to suit your lifestyle and suggest some super easy meal prep ideas. Before you know it, you’ll be looking like a true home chef and you will be looking forward to meal prep day every week!
The Anatomy of a Good Meal Prep Recipe
Good meal prep recipes should meet the following criteria: ease, convenience, shelf life, and customization. Let’s face it– if it isn’t easy or delicious, meal prepping won’t help you stick with your goals. Instead, it quickly turn into a burden rather than a benefit. Meal prepping is designed to give you precious time back. With this in mind, try to avoid highly complex and sensitive recipes.
Try to use recipes with ingredients that you can buy both inexpensively and in bulk, if necessary.
Get accustomed to shopping the perimeter of the grocery store. Why? Well, most whole and unprocessed foods are found around the perimeter. That is where you will find your produce, meat and dairy. All with reasonable expiration dates – as opposed to those processed foods that linger in the middle aisles which can last, seemingly, forever in their packaging.
Variety is the spice of life but consistency is what carved out the Grand Canyon. There will be some parts of your healthy meal plans that will remain consistent week over week. These are your staple foods. This does not mean that you can’t add variety into the mix.
But, it is important to get comfortable with foundational foods that will provide you with your necessary vitamins and macro-nutrients. Think omega-3 fatty acids, iron, protein, folic acid, Vitamin D, etc. You will need foods that provide you these vitamins and nutrients in ample supply.
Meal Prep Quick Start Guide
Meal prepping takes a little setup to get started. So, make sure you’re ready before you get to actually making the meals.
Start slow. Get your feet under yourself as you ease into meal prep. On your first week don’t get overwhelmed with meal prepping 21+ meals and snacks for the upcoming week.
Maybe work on meal prepping 5 – all lunches for Monday through Friday. As you get comfortable with the flow of the process start adding in more meals and snacks.
The first time that you take over your kitchen for a week of mass cooking it can be overwhelming and tiring. The more and more you do it the more comfortable you will become. You will become more efficient. Take your time and enjoy the process.
take a look at your weekly schedule and analyze your meal needs. For example, if you’re normally too busy on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to make a healthy dinner then plan for that. Accommodate for your schedule in both your menu and storage choices by preparing enough for three evening meals.
A great menu will make shopping easy and often more cost efficient. Mindlessly wandering through the grocery store usually leads to poor food and budget decisions. Don’t rush through the menu creation process. Be intentional and focused on your exact shopping list so that when you sit down to make the meals nothing is missing.
Apply the same method to breakfast and dinner, make room for snacks, and record your findings to create your own meal prep menu for the week.
you’ll need to pick a dedicated time slot in which you can prepare your meals for the week. This can be any day, as long as it makes sense for your schedule.
Get ready to set up your ingredients, lay out your containers, prep each of your meals, and clean up in the same block of time. Obviously, dishes that have to cook for several hours might mean that you’re cooking before noon and prepping by 5 pm. However, the end result should be a week’s worth of meals and a clean kitchen.
Make sure you allocate enough time for clean-up at the end of the cooking session. As stated above, the first time you go through this exercise it may seem overwhelming. Deep breaths. Try to manage the clean-up as you go in order to avoid a wrecked kitchen at the end of the session.
At the end of the cooking session you can work on updating your ingredients shopping list. If you ran through all of one ingredient put it back on the list. If you don’t have enough of one ingredient to get you through the next week prep session, add it to the list. This will help save you time next week as you are preparing your shopping list.
The Best Meal Prep Recipes for Beginners
From breakfast to dinner, here is a beginner meal prep idea for each category (and some easy, healthy snacks) to help get you started:
This super easy meal prep idea is great for on-the-go mornings and can keep you feeling full and energetic for hours. Rolled oats are packed with fiber, which not only helps lower bad cholesterol, but also helps you lose weight (and keep it off). To make overnight oatmeal, you’ll need just a few ingredients, some time the night before or on your designated meal prep day, and an easy, customizable recipe to follow, like this one from Kristine’s Kitchen.
Customize this portable breakfast item with healthy toppings like fruit, nuts, and spices to make each day different, or make a week’s worth of your favorite kind to keep meal prep day simple. There are plenty of options available; you can even swap out for plant-based dairy substitutes to create an ultra-healthy vegan version!
These amazing Asian inspired and simple meals can make meal prepping a joy, while keeping you on the path to weight loss! Buddha bowls are a balanced meal option that incorporates healthy whole grains, power-packed vegetables, and plant-based protein to renew your midday energy and curb unhealthy cravings. Also, if you cook your white or brown rice (or other whole grain) in bulk and then refrigerate you obtain all the benefits of resistant starch – learn more here.
These lunchtime favorites are easy to assemble, make great meal prep candidates for almost any diet (can be vegan, gluten, free, etc.), and the combinations are virtually endless.
Although a traditional Buddha bowl does not contain meat, feel free to customize them to your liking and add mindful options, like turkey or chicken, to ramp up the protein. Here is an ultra easy guide to building a comprehensive, healthy, and delicious Buddha bowl– get ready to add them to your regular rotation!
Mason Jar Salads
Eating fewer carbs at night can help you lose weight, and salads are an excellent opportunity to get your extra veggies in at the end of the day. Salads are also a very reliable meal prep idea that keeps well over a few days and requires very little clean-up when you’re done. Mason jar salads are very convenient and cost-effective, and are open to tons of styles and options to choose from.
A well-made salad should also fill you up, so don’t skimp on the good stuff! Build your salads by starting with something basic and easy, like Crème De La Crumb’s simple green salad recipe, and adding your own flair with super healthy additions like purple carrots, nuts, microgreens, lean protein, and a simple healthy dressing. This will ensure that you aren’t forgetting to include nutritious elements that will help you stay full until bedtime.
Having cravings for sweets? As far as healthy snacks are concerned, fruit is one of the best choices for eliminating sugar cravings. From apples to dates (here are some superfood Medjool dates you should try), it’s easy to substitute fruit for artificial sweets and trick your brain into feeling satisfied.
Fruit is also great for meal prepping, since most of it has its very own wrapper and makes for an easy grab-and-go snack. Don’t be afraid to get creative by making fruity treats like smoothies and freezer pops to really sell the dessert feel.
Sometimes called protein balls, energy bites are made using oats, seeds (such as flax or chia), and great healthy fats like nut butter (peanut butter could also work, but explore some other fats out there like those available at Super Fat!).
These power-packed snacks are both delectable and filling. Indeed, using the protein from peanut butter or almond butter combined with seeds help you refrain from snacking. These super hardy snacks require zero baking, last for a while in the fridge, and will do well in a cooler or lunch pail throughout the day, making them ultra meal prep friendly.
Favorite Meal Prep Containers
A good example of a proper meal prep container includes an airtight lid and a clear bottom. These glass storage containers from Amazon are perfect.
When choosing your containers think of a few key points. First, are they easy to clean? If the sections of the container are too small it may make it a pain to clean. If you are cleaning these containers multiple times per day this may add up to frustration.
Second, if you are carrying them with you to work or school, are they easy and light to transport? Do you have a way to transport them and keep the food cool (if necessary)? A thermal bag or ice pack may be needed.
Third, are the containers easily stored when not in use. Cluttering your countertop with containers will also get old over time. Look for containers that stack compactly away in a cabinet or drawer.
Fourth, look for some small containers as well. Keeping some healthy toppings in smaller, separate containers will help keep your meals from getting mushy.
Stock up on these mini containers and as many of the same size and style of main meal containers. Thus, keeping things super easy.
Most meal prep guides recommend glass mason jars of all sizes for the variety and cost-effectiveness. Additionally, investing in reusable utensils and straws will have the same good effect on both the Earth and your wallet. Finally, don’t forget to have a cooler or insulated lunch pail handy to keep your food cold throughout the day.
Searching for more information on how to stay healthy? Take a look at these related articles: