You've probably heard that preparing your own meals instead of eating out is a great way to save calories when you're trying to lose weight or simply eat a healthy, balanced meals.
Food prepping can and will change your life! It saves time, and calories like you wouldn't believe.
However, a home cooked meal isn't necessarily a good choice in all cases. You can prepare meals that are very high in calories without even realizing it.
Over the weekend, I meal planned, prepped and cooked and found that, although it was time-consuming, it was actually pretty simple!
Not knowing how to meal prep shouldn't stop you from planning and prepping your meals for the week. That's why I have some pro tips to help you on your food-prep journey!
Plan, Plan, Plan
My best tip is to have a plan for each meal. Decide what you're going to make ahead of time and make sure you have the ingredients on hand. That way you have the tools you need to prepare a low-calorie meal at home anytime you get hungry.
When I meal plan and prep, I typically make big batches of 3-4 meals for myself and my husband. These meals consist of: protein, healthy fats, veggies, and carbs.
Healthy Fats: 1/4 - 1/2 avocado, 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
Vegetables: 1-2 cups
Carbs: 1/2 cup (these are starchy items like sweet potatoes or yams)
My suggestion is to mix and match from these categories and start planning:
Protein: Chicken breast, lean ground beef, pork tenderloin, flank steak, nitrate-free lean lunch meat (turkey breast, ham, or roast beef)
Carbohydrates: Oats, quinoa, couscous, brown rice, wild rice, almond flour tortillas (I love Siete brand), sweet potatoes, yams
Healthy fats: Avocado, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, almond butter, olive oil and coconut oil
To be clear, you don't have to count macros to make this work. You can also use the "fist method" Counting macros or not, having detailed guidelines ahead of time will help the shopping and prep. You can even take it to the next level and label containers by day and meal.
This week I decided to plate them individually--thoroughly weighed and portioned out in individual containers. So, having a kitchen scale was paramount to this.
Eat Vegetables At Every Meal
Vegetables are a great source of fiber, which helps prevent hunger between meals. Make sure you have a vegetable at every meal.
For my meal preps, I typically add 1-2 cups of vegetables.
I love roasted or steamed vegetables, which make great add-ins and sides. Because they are packed with fiber, your body will be satiated for very few calories.
Once a week, roast a big pan of mixed vegetables and use them in salads and soups or as a healthy side dish all week long. Sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, mushrooms, and bell peppers are all delicious choices. I typically toss mine in coconut oil, sea salt, and oregano and roast them at 350F for 20-30 minutes, depending on what I'm roasting up.
Keep It Simple
Seriously, keep it simple! You don't need to prepare 21 specific meals on your food-prep day, or you'll be in the kitchen forever!
Preparing generic, versatile foods can be even more efficient.
Cook up some veggies you love and lightly seasoned salmon, chicken breasts or ground turkey that you can throw into any recipe later on during the week.
I make 3-4 different meals for some variety throughout the week.
The week's meals for lunch & dinner:
Zoodles with seasoned ground turkey and sweet potatoes
Grilled chicken with broccoli, mushrooms and sweet potatoes
Grilled chicken with sweet potatoes and cauliflower rice
Ground turkey, broccoli, and sweet potatoes
Grilled chicken with broccoli, mushrooms and sweet potatoes (or potatoes)
Grilled chicken with broccoli, potatoes, and Brussels sprouts
Grilled chicken with roasted carrots and cauliflower rice
For healthy fat, we top our meals with 1/2 avocado
These were the bases:
Roasted Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, mushrooms
Fresh Vegetables: Zucchini zoodles, brocolli (steamed before eating each meal)
Cooked Vegetables: Purple cauliflower rice cooked in coconut oil, hemp seeds, and coconut shreds, and seasoned with lemon and sea salt
Protein: Grilled Chicken marinated in lemon juice and sea salt; Ground Turkey cooked in coconut oil and seasoned with smoked paprika, sea salt and
What about breakfast? For breakfast, I usually have a Coconut-Avocado smoothie or chia pudding. Gregg practices intermittent fasting (IF), so his first meal is usually around 10:30/11am.
Don't Starve Yourself!
If you're trying to lose weight, you might feel inclined to cut back on calories by preparing much less food than you're used to eating. Nine times out of ten that will backfire. You'll be so hungry that you'll end up buying unhealthy snacks in between meals, spending more money, and ultimately gaining weight. You know your appetite, so meal-prep accordingly so that you don't accidentally starve your body!
Food-prepping is a lifestyle change that you should enjoy and not dread.
Prepare healthy foods you'll enjoy; if you hate Brussels sprouts and fish, don't eat only those just because they're healthy. Switch to broccoli and chicken if that's what you prefer.
Being happy is just as important as being healthy.
Now that you know these tips, you’re ready to get started! Don’t say next week or next month; you can start the next time you go to the grocery store. When you do, make sure you share any new tips you’ve learned here.
Do any pro food-preppers have some advice to share? I want to hear it here!
Valerie is a San Francisco native who loves overall health and wellness. She content creator and recipe developer, helping brands in the Fitness, Health & Wellness space tell their stories through gluten-free, mostly plant-based food, life + travel.