Whether you’re trying to lose weight or maintain after you reach your goal, you’ll need a solid nutrition plan and a way to stay on track. Prepping your meals in advance can go a long way toward helping you succeed.
However, meal prep takes a lot of different forms, and what works for one person may not be right for you. When it comes down to it, you’ll need to find a way to prep that’s sustainable and simple. Here are some meal prep tips that will set you up for a successful week.
What Meal Prep Is
For those who are new to it (or think it’s too difficult after seeing too many neatly arranged food storage containers on Instagram), meal prep is cooking your food in advance. You’ve meal prepped if you’ve ever made a sandwich to take to work or school! There are several different ways to meal prep, including:
- Cooking a single meal in advance and storing it in your fridge or freezer.
- Making different, individual meals in advance.
- Cooking a multiple-serving meal, and then separating it into single servings and storing it in containers.
- Preparing the ingredients for meals in advance, like roasting a chicken and separating it for use later in the week.
People take different approaches as to how to meal prep. The trick is to find what works best for you based on your preferences, your lifestyle, and your goals. For example, you might not want to cook all your meals for the week in advance if you prefer the taste of fresh food. On the other hand, if you
What You’ll Need to Meal Prep
Aside from food, cutlery, and pots and pans, you will need a few things to successfully prep meals in advance:
- A food scale to weigh portions
- Measuring cups
- Food storage containers (glass, plastic, disposable – whatever works best for you)
Things like slow cookers, instant pots, etc. are optional, but they can help!
Know Your Macros
Before you start grocery shopping, chopping, and sautéing, you need to plan out what you’ll be eating. There’s a lot of conflicting information about macros, calories, and other things to track. If you need guidance before you get started, consider signing up for personalized nutrition coaching.
Choose Your Foods
Once you know what your macros are, the next meal prep tip is to pick out what kinds of meals you’ll make. For example, some people like to completely prep their lunches and dinner ahead of time. Others will prepare just the ingredients for meals so that their meals taste fresher. It’s completely up to you how you do it – once again, it’s all about setting yourself up for success.
Your meals don’t have to be chicken, rice, and broccoli every time. Use Google and Pinterest to look for meal prep ideas and choose recipes that will be easy for you to make and have ingredients you like. You can also check out the spices and seasonings aisle at the grocery store; the seasoning packets can be a treasure trove of easy ways to prep your protein, like slow cooker packets. You can prep a bunch of tasty, flavorful chicken, then use it in bowls or wraps.
A word of caution: if you’re prepping for the week, choose foods that will keep well in the fridge. Fish is probably not a good option.
Decide When You’ll Meal Prep
The best time to meal prep is… when it works for you. Period. You don’t have to meal prep on Sunday; if you’d rather cook on Friday night (and set yourself up for a weekend of success!) or in the wee hours of Monday morning, go for it. As long as the time works for you, there is no wrong time to meal prep.
You also don’t have to limit meal prep to once a week. Some foods don’t keep well throughout the week (check the FDA’s fridge and freezer storage guidelines); other times, you just really want the taste of fresh food. You can meal prep every few days if that works better for you, or you can prepare your lunches and snacks the day before. The idea is to keep you on track to reach your goals so that you don’t end up at the vending machine or drive-through.
Use a Slow Cooker/Instant Pot/Air Fryer
At some point in your adult life, you’ve likely received a slow cooker, instant pot, air fryer, or other small cooking appliance. Put it to good use; if you’re limited on time, you can throw ingredients into the appliance and let them cook while you do something else. Google and Pinterest will have a ton of recipes for you to choose from, so it’s just a matter of picking something that suits your tastes and meets your macros. You can also use it to prep a bunch of protein, which brings me to…
Try Buffet-Style Meal Prep
If you don’t mind portioning out your food every day, buffet-style meal prep can be a really simple way of setting yourself up for success. You just prep multiple portions of things like lean protein and carbs, then combine them and add healthy fats and vegetables. For example, you might prep a batch of taco-seasoned chicken, a pot of rice, and some roasted red peppers, then at lunchtime measure out your servings and top it with sliced avocado.
Ultimately, the goal of meal prep is to make it easy for you to meet your goals. These meal prep tips will help you as you build and maintain healthy eating habits.
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