How can you win the fitness battle without firing a shot? Meal prep will allow you to have fun while implementing a new habit.
Meal planning is one of the simplest, most effective steps you can take to gain control of your health.
What’s meal planning? Why, planning what you’ll eat, of course! If you know what every meal will be, you can prepare in advance instead of scrambling during the week. It’s fun, easy, and good for your body!
Meal Prep Breakfast Sandwiches
If you have a family, it’s important to set a good example by eating in the morning. Breakfast sandwiches are a great way to compromise a busy schedule with your family’s health. Here are some starter ideas:
- Breakfast burritos. All of the ingredients in these delectable complete breakfast wraps can be prepared ahead of time and assembled in a flash. Best of all, they’re low-carb!
- Freezer-friendly breakfast sandwiches. Easily re-heated in the oven or microwave.
- Crispy Kale Grilled Cheese. Here’s how to treat yourself and do your body good at the same time!
Meal Prep Ideas
Meal preparation is all about strategy. Harvard recommends setting goals for yourself based on your current eating habits. Let’s say you, like many of us, like to eat out.
Consider starting your plan with three days of dinners. On Sunday, decide what you need to buy at the grocery store, what you can make ahead, and how much time you’ll need to prepare. A spreadsheet can be helpful. However, you can also start with a list like this one:
- Monday: Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli. Slow cooker meals can dramatically reduce the time you need to devote to cooking.
2. Wednesday: Chicken Saltimbocca with spinach and potatoes. Chicken cutlets freeze (and defrost) extremely well. Thaw them in the fridge on Tuesday.
3. Friday: Chicken Mustard Pasta Bake. Time for a treat! Just because it’s fancy doesn’t mean it’s hard.
Meal Prep Recipes
Pre-prepped meals don’t have to be complicated! In fact, the simplest ideas can be the best. If you’re not sure about making something involved at first blush, try these:
- Hummus and crudites.
- Pesto. You can freeze it in ice cube trays!
- Stews, such as this coconut sweet potato curry. Extra advantage: stew tends to generate leftovers. Bonus meals!
Healthy Meal Prep
Ideally, you should consume certain levels of nutrients and vitamins every day. Consider those levels to be your guidelines when you decide what to prep:
- Protein: 56 grams per day for men, 46 grams per day for women. Think meat and beans.
- Carbohydrates: 130 grams per day, regardless of your gender. Try for whole grains – bread and rice will leave you hungry.
- Fiber: 38 grams per day for men, 25 grams per day for women. Snack on fruit and you’ll be all set.
- Vitamin C: 90 milligrams per day for men, 75 milligrams per day for women. Fruit often takes care of this requirement, too!
- Iron: 8 milligrams per day for men, 18 milligrams per day for women. This is why your mom told you to eat your greens.
- Calcium: 1,000 milligrams per day, regardless of your gender. Dairy has calcium, but if milk’s not your jam, so do greens and beans.
Meal Prep for Weight Loss
Meal prepping is a great way to take control of your weight! Before you plan your meals, check out my article on low-calorie foods.
If you’re female and trying to slim down, you might allow yourself to eat 1600 calories per day. That’s three meals of 400 calories a day and about 400 calories of snacks.
You’ll meet that goal with no muss, no fuss, and no need to tally up everything you eat as you’re trying to enjoy it.
How to Meal Prep
There’s a certain method to meal prepping. Once you get used to it, you’ll see how much better it is for your health, your wallet, and your time. Just follow these straightforward steps:
1. Find some recipes that appeal to you. They should fit your needs.
2. Decide what you’ll be eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day of the week.
3. Make a grocery list based on the recipes you intend to cook.
4. Buy your food.
5. Cook as much of that food as possible ahead of time. Freeze it, refrigerate it, pack it, and otherwise do what you must to make that food convenient later in the week.
6. Enjoy having healthy, low-cost food available all week long! Who needs those fancy box meal services?
Breakfast Meal Prep
Most people are peripherally aware that breakfast is important. I talked about that earlier in this article. But around 10% of Americans skip breakfast anyway. So prep! You know you’ll want to skip, so anticipate yourself with these delicious grab-and-go recipes:
- Freezer-bag smoothies are ideal. Dump them in the blender with dairy or plant milk for a protein boost.
- Freezable egg cups are both fun to eat and packed with nutrients.
- Breakfast bowls are perfect examples of delicious recipes you can just throw together form premade ingredients.
Healthy Meal Prep Ideas
When you go to prep your meals, think about the pre-processed food you see at the store. You’re going to be doing the same thing, but healthier:
- Chop carrots into carrot sticks.
- Wash and shred lettuce for salad.
- Hard-boil a dozen eggs.
- Rely on grape tomatoes, blueberries, and other small, ready-to-eat finger foods.
- Oranges, apples, and bananas are your naturally prepped friends!
- Make kale chips for easy greens.
- Assemble parts of meals. For example, roast a bunch of vegetables and mash some potatoes on Sunday. Combine them when you’re ready to eat.
- Avoid super-processed foods like energy bars. Even processed food that is marketed as healthy isn’t usually that good for you.
- Eat what you love! Don’t force yourself to enjoy celery if you’d rather have grapes. If you prep food you’re likely to eat, then your meal prepping journey will be a success.
Easy Meal Prep
Easy Meal Prep…
The key to prepping meals is to do as much work as possible ahead of time. If you know you’ll want a salad for lunch, portion out your fixings. Better yet, assemble as much of the salad as you can! Likewise, if you plan to have tofu for dinner on Thursday, slice it and freeze it on Sunday. Here are some more tips:
- Plan, plan, plan. Know what you’ll eat before you want to eat it. Then, stick to that plan!
- Shop ahead. Make sure your ingredients will be on hand when you need them.
- Cook everything at once. Ideally, do this on a Sunday.
- Cook in pieces. If you know you’ll eat roasted veggies a couple times that week, cook a huge batch and store it alone. That way, you can add it to various dishes later!
- Cheat on work! Can you buy frozen mango pieces instead of whole mangos? Do that! You’ll save yourself a ton of effort.
- Don’t forget the snacks. They’ll save you from dipping into your prepared food stores and messing up your meal plan!
Weekly Meal Prep
With proper planning, you can eat prepped meals all week long. The best day to stock up is generally Sunday, but your weekly schedule may vary. Having a written schedule can help. Here are some options:
- This list-based meal plan is quite pretty and includes serving sizes.
- Have a family? Try this individually-focused meal plan sheet. Great for managing food sensitivities!
- If you prefer to freeze your prepped meals, try a freezer inventory.
- Serious about weekly meal prepping? Plan your whole month!
Meal Prep Lunch Ideas
Prepped lunches can be as simple as a dry sandwich and crudites. But don’t discount the power of leftovers, either! Here are some ideas for prepped lunches that will free you from food anxiety:
- Last night’s dinner. Depending on what you had, you can spread out your leftovers by turning them into sandwiches. This is a good way to make one moderately-sized chicken meal last for three days.
- Mason jar salads. Oh, the things you can do with a Mason jar! Look hip and enjoy an amazing variety of salad lunches.
- Wraps. Have you ever noticed that you can wrap anything? This is an ideal use for bits and pieces that didn’t make it into your salad! Having a jar of hummus around helps.
Meal Prep Dinner Ideas
Now that you have a few ideas for lunch, let’s talk about dinner. You’ve had a hard day at work and you deserve to enjoy a real meal without more exhausting hours on your feet! Try prepping these recipes:
- Lemon roasted salmon and broccolini. Sound too good to be true? It’s not!
- Italian sausage and veggies. Healthy and delicious.
- Crockpot spaghetti squash. Crockpots are meal prep gold!
- Butter chicken and cauliflower rice. A healthy, low-carb alternative.
Prep is anything that you can do to your food in advance of finishing a recipe with it. It can include cooking food that will keep, freezing food that won’t, and everything in between. For example, prep includes:
- Chopping onions
- Grating carrots
- Cubing and freezing chicken
- Mixing up pesto
- Sauteing vegetables
- Shredding lettuce
- Slicing cucumbers
Chicken Meal Prep Ideas
Chicken is ideal for meal prep! Raw chicken is easy to freeze, thaw and cook, especially if you cut it up and store it in your desired portion sizes! Here are some tips:
- Refrigerated raw chicken is only good for a couple days, but frozen raw chicken cutlets are safe for up to nine months.
- Chicken can be thawed under cold water, in the microwave, or in the refrigerator. If you thaw in the fridge, start the day before.
- Chicken is going to taste good no matter what you do with it. Bake it, saute it, put it in the slow cooker, or boil it in sauce. Just make sure that its internal temperature reaches or exceeds 165 degrees Fahrenheit before you eat it! Use a meat thermometer to check.
- Chicken leftovers last for three or four days in the refrigerator.
Clean Eating Meal Prep Ideas
Meal prepping is ideal for people who want to eat clean! Clean eating is all about good ingredients, whole foods, and minimal processing. Here are a few of my favorite recipes:
- Marinated tempeh. Good for salads, sandwiches, and as a main course!
- Hard-boiled eggs. Another versatile food, you never know when one will come in handy.
Whether your goal is to lose weight, save money, foster healthy habits in your kids, or just have some real food on a weeknight, meal prepping is the way to go.
Soon, you may find yourself relishing the twenty minutes it takes you to throw together an antipasto or a smoothie. Your efforts will be rewarded with a stronger body and mind. And, of course, a better meal!
Any other ideas on meal prep. What has worked for you?