Meal prepping is the ideal way to ensure you can keep your weight loss plans in check. By preparing your meals, you can also save valuable time and money in the process. Those meals should be healthy, balanced, require batch cooking, and then storing. They can also form a key component of your self-care regime with some great benefits, just from some excellent organization.
In this guide, we will look at meal prepping for weight loss. This will include the benefits of meal prepping and how to make a meal plan. We will also look at helpful tools for your meal planning, great foods for weight loss, and other handy tips.
What Is Meal Prep?
Meal prepping is where you plan and prepare some, or all, of your meals in advance. That could be for the coming week and beyond so you know what you are eating and when. The purpose behind meal prepping is to ensure that you know the calorie content of your meals. Combined with that is making sure you meet your nutritional needs for a weight loss plan that meets your fitness goals.
On a basic level, that may mean preparing your lunch the night before. Going further, meal prepping should mean batch cooking a lot of balanced and nutritional meals. You can then portion these batches out accordingly and store each portion so you have healthy, ready made meals. This should save you time, cut out unnecessary calories, help you gain muscle mass, and improve your nutritional intake.
You can start off small by storing your leftovers from dinner to have for lunch the following day. That should give you an idea of portion size and how to store your meals effectively. These foods can change in texture once they have been cooked and left to cool down so bear that in mind. Following that, pick a recipe you can batch cook easily and know how to portion up.
Once you have the hang of it, move onto prepping your breakfast, lunch, and dinners. Gradually build up your food knowledge so you do not get overwhelmed by trying to prepare a full week’s meals at once. You may find that by day 4 you are sick of eating the same meal and opt for takeout. Try to build a variety of meals that you know you can pick and choose from that meet your nutritional needs.
What Are The Benefits Of Meal Prep?
The benefits of meal prepping are numerous yet the simple ones are controlling your food and saving time. Having your meals ready can also help you diet and reduce your stress if you have a busy lifestyle. In taking control of your diet, you can make sure that whatever you are eating works for you. That should mean some of your favorite foods balanced out with healthy meals that provide you with energy and end up being calorie deficient.
With a basic meal plan and some structure to your eating, it can really help prevent you from making poor food decisions. As long as your meals keep you feeling full, you will be less tempted to eat unhealthy snacks. Knowing that you have a healthy meal at home that you have prepared should also stop you from ordering takeout. Meal prepping is also increasingly associated with weight control and improved nutrition.
Meal Prep Makes Calorie Counting Easier
During a diet, you may become obsessed with calorie counting. In the process of planning out your meals, you get a better understanding of how many calories you should consume. Certainly, if you are reaching for snacks and ordering takeout, calorie counting can prove really difficult. In an effort of sticking to a meal prep plan, you can schedule when you get your calories and how many you consume.
Of course, there are weight loss calculators that take into account your weight and height. These calculators can help you work out how many calories you should consume each day. Over time, by sticking to this amount of calories, you should find yourself losing weight. Calorie counting can become obsessive so ensure that you do not effectively starve yourself.
As well as calories, you should also look towards counting macronutrients. These are those nutrients your body needs in large amounts for your daily energy requirements. The three nutrient groups included in macronutrients include protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Each one of these looks out for your daily function so balance them out properly.
If you can successfully count your calories and macronutrients, your body can find balance. This should be essential in promoting lean muscle mass, remaining healthy, and burning fat. Again, you should be able to find a macro calculator to help you make some informed decisions about your food and meals.
Meal Prep Ensures Quality Food Selection
With some ready meals, you can glance at the list of ingredients and wonder why there are so many. Meal prepping helps to ensure a quality food selection because it is largely down to you. That should mean plenty of fresh vegetables, quality, organic meat, and snacks that you know are good for you. When you combine these components, you can be safe in the knowledge that you know what you are eating and that will be beneficial.
A lot of processed food tends to include excessive amounts of sugar and extra fat so you are best off avoiding that. It can take an effort to create a nutritious meal at home but it will stop you heading for the drive-through or ordering takeout. By watching what you eat, the BMC has seen that your diet will become healthier and your weight management will be easier.
Meal Prep Saves Time
Let’s say, you prepare all of your meals yourself including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You measure out all of the ingredients and then cook it up for a single batch. There are certain meals that you can batch cook and have ready in a similar amount of time. All you need to do is apply portion control and you have a few meals instead of just one.
Sure, you may spend more time chopping up meat and vegetables. Plus, a larger amount of food may take longer to cook yet it does save time overall. On those occasions when you need a meal, all you need to do is retrieve the portion from the refrigerator or freezer though you may need to heat it up. That’s it, grab your cutlery and crockery and get ready for a balanced meal in a matter of minutes.
While meal prepping should save time, those who spend more time preparing food should have a better diet. That can mean carefully picking out those crucial ingredients, weighing them out, and portion control. If you can ensure more vegetables and fruits with other healthy vegetables, it is time well spent as the PMC has found.
A slow cooker or crockpot can be a game changer when it comes to batch cooking and meal prepping. Simply add all your ingredients, leave them to cook, and within a few hours your cooking is done. All you need to do is portion it out and store it. Plus, you will have a portion already ready to eat.
You can even prep some vegetables to be ready to be added to various meals. Perhaps wash all of them first, prepare them so they only need reheating, and add some seasoning. After that, you only need to prepare your protein and carbohydrates for a full meal.
Meal Prep Is Cost-Efficient
If you have been to the grocery store with a shopping list, you may be mindful of how many of a certain food item you are forced to buy. For instance, you may only be able to buy a bag of carrots when you truly only need a couple. With batch cooking, you can prepare several carrots as part of a balanced meal. The remaining couple of carrots can be chopped up as crudités to be enjoyed with a healthy dip like hummus.
That works for vegetables but also for meat as a larger cut may turn out to be cheaper overall. Simply find a relevant meal with a few servings, prepare the meat, and add some vegetables with carbohydrates. You should have enough food for a few portions and that proves exceptionally cost effective. Once you create your shopping list for the week, you will know exactly how much those meals will cost and it should be cheaper than takeout, especially if you buy in bulk.
How Do I Make A Meal Plan?
You may need to get a pen and paper as you should be organized with a meal plan. That does not necessarily mean a diet plan but simply a planned-out series of meals. These meals should be balanced and varied so you do not end up eating the same meal each week. Look to hit various food groups, seasonal ingredients, and healthy meals that you actually enjoy.
Your meal plan should be structured with meals that you expect to eat during the day. That may mean fruit and oatmeal as a basis for your morning meal. Into the early afternoon, you may want a meal to see you through to the end of the working day. Come dinnertime, you could include a filling, balanced meal of meat and vegetables.
With the right structure in your meal plan, it can keep you on track to lose weight. That should give you a better idea of what works and what does not work. These meal plans are ideally worked out weeks in advance so you can do your food shopping well ahead of time.
Write Out A Basic Meal Prep Menu
Grab your pen and paper and work out what you enjoy eating for your main meals. These should be healthy and balanced meals too. If your weight loss plan is based on 1500 calories every day then each meal should be between 300 and 500 calories. That leaves you with a bit of wiggle room for healthy snacks too.
For instance, if each meal was around 450 calories then that would add up to 1350 calories for the day. That leaves 150 calories for snacks so make sure you know of some healthy ones. Try to work out which meals can be achieved with your lifestyle. Time management is key so you can work out when to cook these meals and how you are going to eat them during the day, perhaps factoring in days out or working from home.
That basic meal prep menu should include three meals and snacks. Try not to get too restrictive as your body may change its metabolism. Also, do not get too obsessed with counting calories as you may still eat other foods in moderation. That may be on holiday or at social gatherings as you should accept that weight loss takes time so be patient.
A Typical Meal Prep Menu
For breakfast – Consider 300 to 400 calories which could be an egg white frittata or some fruit with granola. Perhaps even a protein shake with some fruit or vegetables that you can quickly blend in the morning.
For lunch – Look at prep bowls of a loaded salad or deconstructed chicken wraps at around 450 calories.
For dinner – This is another 450-calorie meal though you can increase that if you go without snacks during the day. Try to ensure you include some meat and vegetables for a fully balanced meal.
Snacks – Should you stick to around 450 calories for each meal, you can fit in some snacks. These can be nuts, protein bars, protein balls, cold cuts, or fruit. Perhaps some yogurt with half an apple or some cut up crudités to have with hummus.
What To Remember With Your Meal Prep Menu
You could use a food scale or even a food tracking app for precision. These tools should make it easier for you to compile a basic meal prep menu. They can also help you work out your precise portion sizes that are tailored for your own needs. Make sure that you weigh your food out, especially when it comes to foods like cheese where the calories can soon add up.
Remember, these portions can change based on your fitness goals. On some days, you may want to look at your plate balance for more protein and carbohydrates for your workouts. For your rest days, you should look for lighter meals. Try to stick to lean proteins such as grass-fed beef or chicken.
Whole grains such as brown rice and wholegrain pasta are ideal as a carbohydrate base. They also travel well so you should pack them into a lunch box. Both pasta and rice take on plenty of flavor too so look towards a tasty sauce while bulking it up with lentils and beans.
For instance, you should be looking at an equal split between vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates for training. To lose weight, you should be looking at half a plate of vegetables, only 35% of protein, with the rest being carbohydrates. On those occasions of a moderate workout, you need half a plate of vegetables with the remainder being split between protein and carbohydrates.
Make A Shopping List
Once you have worked out your basic meal prep menu, you need to make sure you have the right ingredients. Check the pantry to ensure you have some of those ingredients so you only need to buy what you truly need. That should mean fresh fruit and vegetables, hopefully all fully organic. Add in some herbs and spices for some exciting flavor combinations too.
What you cook with is also important so ensure that you have the right cooking utensils. That should mean the right pots and pans but also healthy fats to cook with. These can include olive or avocado oil and you should only need a relatively small amount. Try to avoid added ingredients like heavy salad dressings, cheese, and salt which can all add up to more and more calories.
Stock Up On Staples
Those staples may include some complex carbohydrates to keep you feeling full for longer. Oatmeal in your breakfast can form a great start to your day. Also, consider pasta and rice, particularly for lunch and dinner. Plus, you can buy oatmeal, pasta, and rice in bulk which should save you some money.
Plan A Convenient Time To Cook
Of course, you will need to allocate a few hours a week to cook up all these portions. If you are used to spending a few hours in the kitchen on a particular evening or on the weekend then use them up. Grab your basic meal plan, do your food shopping, and get ready to get cooking. This could be a few meals at the same time so you can use the oven all at the same time.
Make sure that you have enough storage space for all the meals that you want to create. Some meals may need more time to reheat than others so try to make sure that dinners can be frozen. It can be truly annoying to have a frozen breakfast that you need to spend time defrosting. Especially in the morning when you really need to get going and leave the house.
You could find yourself preparing your meals for the coming week in one fell swoop. Alternatively, this can be done on a daily basis or just three times a week. Should you have a large enough freezer, you could do all your food prepping for the month.
Be Mindful Of Storage Life
While some meals can be frozen, others should be prepared the night before to remain fresh. That includes salads for lunch as they only have a limited storage life that dictates how long they stay in the refrigerator. After a day or two they can seem wholly unappealing when you should be enjoying them when they are freshly prepared.
Try to batch cook meals for the coming week and a bit longer. That way you can keep on top of your meal plan and have a couple of meals left to ease you into the next week. This is especially important if you fail to easily find the time to cook too.
If you are using up all of the grocery shopping in one batch cooking session then you should have room in the fridge. However, make sure that you have a good rotation with meals that are left in the freezer. You should be eating those regularly so that you always have room for more meals to go in.
Helpful Tools For Meal Planning
As well as a pen and paper for writing down your basic meal prep, you will need a few more tools for meal planning. Top of the list should be food storage containers for food that you need to store and transport. Consider a lunch box to bring your afternoon meal with you, perhaps storing in the office refrigerator. A meal planning journal can also be very helpful, as can meal prep labels.
Food Storage Containers
To make sure that you have your portion control in check, use some food storage containers. These can be stacked up in your refrigerator or freezer so they should be sturdy. You could recycle those takeout containers or use up some Tupperware.
Metal bento boxes can come in really handy for a cold meal. For those you want to heat up, consider divided glass containers. Ziploc bags can also come in handy if you want to store ingredients separately. Whatever you use, it should be easy to store and easy to fill with your balanced meals.
A Lunch Box
Lunch can be a tricky meal as you may need to bring it into the office which is where a lunch box comes in. Sure, you may have thought that they were aimed at children yet adults can use them too. Some of them even come with partitions so you have a dedicated space for your main meal as well as snacks.
Meal Planning Journal
Keeping track of how your meal prepping is going calls for a meal planning journal. This is where you can list your meals, their calorie content, and ingredients. Try to make notes on which meals seem to be working for you and which are not. You can add more detail such as how long it takes to prepare certain meals and which ones work better when you workout.
Meal Prep Labels
When you use food storage containers, you should be able to quickly find out what they are at a later date. Not only can meal prep labels tell you what the meal is but when it was stored. The date is especially important for meals that you leave in the refrigerator as some only have a limited shelf life. Even in the freezer, you should be looking to rotate your meals so frozen ones are not in there for months when they can lose their nutritional value.
Great Foods For Weight Loss
If you are struggling to work out what food to include in your shopping list then some are more helpful than others. That includes whole grains like quinoa and oatmeal. For vegetables, include spaghetti squash and potatoes including regular ones and sweet potatoes. Dairy is also important so include Greek yogurt and for fruit, consider some watermelon.
Spaghetti squash can be frozen and prove to be an ideal vegetable to have in your portion. Not only is it healthy but it bulks out meals and can be included in your carbohydrates.
Having grains like oatmeal included in your meal prep plan can really help suppress your appetite. Try to include them alongside brown rice and wholegrain pasta.
You should also look to include dairy in your meal prep plan. That can be in the form of Greek yogurt which you can have as a snack or as part of a meal.
Quinoa And Other Whole Grains
Another wholegrain that you should shop around for is quinoa. This can bulk out meals really well and help you feel full for longer.
Potatoes (Sweet And Regular)
More starchy vegetables that you can include with spaghetti squash are potatoes and sweet potatoes. These can be prepared in a variety of ways so you mix them up with your meals.
Not only is a watermelon a healthy fruit to eat, you can also use it in several food prepping recipes. That could be chopped up in a jar with some yogurt and chia seeds for breakfast. Alternatively, you can have a slice of watermelon for a snack.
How Does Meal Prepping Help You Lose Weight?
By controlling your meal portions and making you think more about what you are eating, meal prepping can help you lose weight. If you are cooking your own meals, you can easily calculate the calorie count. That means looking out for each component and finding a balance. That should be meat and vegetables with good amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Knowing exactly what you are eating, and in what quantities, can help you stick to a weight loss plan. Those meals will be designed to meet your nutritional needs and provide you with the right options during the day. In turn, that should stop you from grazing with unhealthy snacks when you become hungry. Your next meal is right there, all you have to do is get it ready to eat.
How Many Calories Should You Eat In A Day For Weight Loss?
Your daily recommended intake of calories depends on various factors. That could be how active your lifestyle is, as well as your gender, current weight, height, and even your age. As a general rule, each of us should be consuming between 1200 and 1700 calories every day. That is if you want to lose weight though if you workout regularly, you should probably consume more calories for fuel.
Your calorie consumption is important yet you should not starve yourself to lose weight. By restricting your diet, you can disrupt your metabolism and force your body to keep that stored fat. That’s where meal prepping comes in as you can form a general idea of portion size and how you are feeling. With balanced meals, you can eat mindfully to look after your body and lose weight.
How Long Can You Keep Meal Prep In The Fridge?
Depending on the meals that you have created, you could be looking at an overnight stay in the refrigerator or a week. Certainly, a fresh salad should be prepared the night before to be enjoyed for the following day’s lunch. Softer vegetables and fruits typically do not stay fresh for long. Any meal or food kept in the refrigerator will suffer from a slow decline in its quality.
Start by considering the FDA’s refrigeration guidelines and work out your own preferences. That may mean only keeping meals in the refrigerator for around four days as they may be unappealing after that. Also, if you perform batch cooking a couple of times a week, you typically have a couple of meals leftover in the freezer anyway.
Meal prepping does take a fair amount of time, organization, and strategy. Your meal prep plan does not have to be set in stone so feel free to play with it. That may mean mixing up your meals for variety. Part of the experience is also finding out what works best for you to lose weight and maintain your fitness goals.
Ideally, you want to achieve a calorie deficit which can be as little as 300 calories per day. You can stretch to 500 fewer calories every day, as long as you can maintain your muscle mass. That typically comes from more protein so take that into account. Start with your protein component and then build around it with your healthy fats and carbohydrates.