Preparing food in advance of when you plan to eat (aka “meal prep”) is a great way to help you succeed at meeting your nutritional goals, whether it’s for the purpose of weight loss or weight gain, are an athlete in training, or just want to be prepared and ahead of the curve for the following week for yourself and/or your whole family. Meal prepping saves time in the long run, as well as money because of your well thought out plan, not to mention help keep you on track with your nutritional goals!
Meal prepping shouldn’t be a bore, nor take all day. There are essentially three ways to approach meal prep, so decide which is best for you!
- Cook more than you’ll eat at dinner, then save enough for lunch the following day (or day after that). If you save your leftovers to eat two days later for lunch, you will quickly have four meals turn into eight and not have the same food two days in a row! This also applies to you if you use a meal delivery service. Just make sure to adjust your order to make extra servings for whoever will have that for leftovers.
- Choose one day to prep for the following five days. This will take more time out of your day and spent in the kitchen, but then you won’t have to think about what to make for breakfast and lunch all week long.
- Select two days to prep your breakfasts and lunches, say Sunday for Monday – Wednesday food, and again Wednesday for Thursday – Friday food, or whichever two days works for your schedule. Prepping on two days will break up some of the monotony, and keeps more nutrients in your fruits and veggies by waiting to prep them. You can shop all on one day, or shop on two days with this method.
Now you need to know the steps to get your prep on:
- Make your meal plan (or let me do it for you!)
- Make your organized grocery list based on that meal plan (or let me do it for you!)
- Shop (but not when you’re hungry so you don’t buy unnecessary items)
- Prep and cook food (and buy ready-made or ready-to-eat where appropriate to save time)
*You can use plastic or glass storage depending on your personal preference, but note that it is not recommended that you heat up food in plastic containers because of BPA that can be released, which is a known hormone disruptor.
Wondering how you can make any of this process faster or easier? Employ the help of your family, especially the kiddos, if you’re also preparing their meals. This gets them involved in what you’re doing, learning along the way, and empowers them to eat the food they put together! It also strengthens your bonds with them while you catch up with them about their days. Be sure to label whose food it is, what’s inside, and which day you’re going to eat it. A roll of masking tape and a permanent marker make easy labeling work.
Get creative and have fun, and take a look here at a few ideas for breakfast, lunch, and snacks that are incredibly easy, affordable, and healthy!
- Whole egg muffins filled with veggies (like peppers and onions, or spinach and mushrooms). Add a few slices of avocado on top along with a slice of whole grain toast made that morning fora super-fast and nutritious start to your day!
- Breakfast burritos with eggs, black beans, and green chilis. Add a side of red salsa and you’re ready to go. These are a great option to freeze and just re-heat.
- Steel cut oatmeal. When you’re ready to eat it, just add your preferred fruits, nuts, and maybe a drizzle of local honey! If you need to add moisture to it to thin it out a little after reheating it, just add some 2% milk to it instead of water so you get added calcium.
- Turkey pinwheels with your favorite veggies (think lettuce,tomato, shaved onion, roasted red pepper, or whatever you like) with a little herbed cheese in a whole wheat tortilla.
- Goodness bowl: Mix brown rice and your favorite quinoa and top with a strip of black beans, sautéed peppers and onions, rotisserie chicken and cilantro-lime salsa.
- Lean meatballs in a spicy marinara sauce and grab-and-go salad with dressing on the side.
- Handful of mixed, roasted (unsalted or lightly salted) nuts with dark chocolate pieces and whole grain pretzel sticks. Buying these items individually from bulk allows you to have more control over your ingredients.
- Air popped corn with favorite seasonings (nori furikake, black and cayenne pepper mix, or dried herb mix).
- Cinnamon-lime apple slices.
If you’re wondering how long you can safely store specific foods, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a wonderful resource and you can check out their food storage information by clicking here.
Plastic storage containers as shown below that are sized based on approximate portion control can be found all over the internet, but I like these because of both the color coding and image on the containers. These can be found here.