I can’t speak highly enough of meal prep for weight loss. I’ve been meal prepping for over a year and my husband and I have each lost over 70 lbs. If you have trouble with portion control, or you don’t have enough time to cook meals every day, you should give meal prepping a try.
What is meal prep?
Meal prep is the planning and preparation of all or most of the food you will consume in the week ahead. This involves weighing/measuring your ingredients, cooking, and portioning all your food into containers.
Why should I meal prep?
When all your meals are prepped ahead of time, you will benefit in more ways than just your shrinking waistline. You will save time because you will no longer be cooking and cleaning the kitchen after each meal. Meal prep will save you money when you find that you reach for your prepped meals instead of getting takeout when you don’t want to cook. Also, by planning your meals out carefully you will lower your food waste (read: more saved $$$). Whether your goal is to lose weight, eat healthier, save time, or money you will notice meal prep makes it very easy to stay on track.
How do I start?
First, you need to think about your goal. Ask yourself, what do I want to achieve by meal prepping? If you want to lose/gain/or maintain your weight you need to find out your calorie goal. The easiest way to do this is to sign up with My Fitness Pal or another calorie tracking app. When you set up your goals upon registration it will tell you how many calories you may eat in a day to achieve your goal based on your weight and height.
Next, decide on a day or two you can commit a good chunk of time to your meal prep. Usually, I like to do mine on Monday afternoons/evenings because I don’t work that day and we don’t make plans. Most people who work regular Monday-Friday will do it on Saturday or Sunday.
Also, you will want to brainstorm your favorite foods, and recipes. Don’t worry about whether they are appropriate for your calorie goal just yet we will get to that later. Think about things you know you can eat for a few days in a row. However, if you get bored easily, you won’t want to eat the same lunch for 7 days in a row so think about how you will manage that. Maybe you would like it best if you make 2 lunch recipes a week so you alternate them during the week?
Next, you’ll want to think about where you will be eating your meals and how you will make that work for you. For example, if you’re at work for lunch, do you have access to a fridge and a microwave? If not, how will you work around that? Maybe prepping meals that can be served room temperature are best or you might want an insulated lunch bag and thermos. If you’re at home for one meal a day you may want to prep 2 of your 3 daily meals. I personally don’t meal prep my breakfast or snacks because I’m home in the morning and I don’t snack much. I prep 2 or 3 lunch/dinner recipes for the week so I can choose what I feel like eating at each meal time, which makes it feel less strict.
Lastly, you will need to gather your tools, this section contains a few affiliate links to Amazon where I will be compensated if you decide to order the linked item. Full affiliate disclosure at the bottom of the page.
- Kitchen scale: I weigh all of my ingredients and take notes of the weights as I’m cooking so I can enter it all into My Fitness Pal’s recipe calculator. It makes entering calories much easier for the rest of the week. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to work! This is the one I have, ordered from Amazon.
- Containers: You’ll want containers that can hold up to being used A LOT. You’ll want them to be freezer, dishwasher, and microwave safe and BPA free. I have these, they store nicely and they come in a large combo pack. Make sure you figure out how many you need plus a few extra in case you decide to throw some in the freezer.
- Recipes: Spend some time a few days before you want to cook looking for recipes so you’re ready with a list of ingredients for your grocery shop either the day before or the day of your meal prep. Think about what you’re craving and use Google to find a low-calorie version of that thing. Make sure the recipe has good reviews before you make yourself eat it for a whole week! Better yet, use recipes you’ve made before and scale up the ingredients to fit the total servings you need.
- Calorie Counting App: This is one I’ve already talked about a lot but it really is super important if you want to lose weight, it doesn’t matter which one you use but find one you like. I use My Fitness Pal as I’ve said before and I love all the features and the community it provides. The best part of using My Fitness Pal is you can record your recipes and edit them anytime so that you can easily make sure your recipes will fit your calorie goals. The recipe tool allows you to choose the serving amount for your recipes and then just select it from the menu when you enter in your meals for the day.
When you are ready to start collecting recipes sit down and get on Google and bookmark any recipe that you know you can eat a few times in a week. For your first few attempts make sure they are easy recipes with good reviews or ones you have prepared before. Try to pick ones that have the calorie counts displayed so you can decide if they will fit in your daily calorie allowance. If they don’t, you can try to find alternative ingredients for the calorically expensive ones or cut some out. Sometimes, it’s wise to just get used to the meal prepping and worry about getting the calories down after you get used to the process of big batch cooking. Here are a few ideas to get your brainstorming started.
- Overnight oats
- Hardboiled eggs
- Omelet muffins
- Yogurt and fruit
Lunch and Dinner:
- Baked or grilled chicken with rice, and your favorite veggie
- Chicken and veggie soups
- Mixed green salad with chopped chicken and dressing on the side
- Roasted Beef/pork/chicken and Roasted mixed veggies
- Stir fry with rice or quinoa
- Fruit salad
- Cheese and meat roll ups
- Crackers and laughing cow wedges or baby bel
- Veggies and dip or hummus
- Pasta salad
- Green salad
I hope this guide helps you get started. If you have any questions or suggestions of things I didn’t cover in this guide I would love to hear them below in the comments.