Meal Prep Pro Tips: the How, the Why, and the What

Meal Prep 101: the How, the Why, and the Pro Tips

Meal prepping is a game-changer for anyone looking to improve their diet and overall lifestyle.

At its core, meal prepping simply meals preparing ingredients and meals in advance. This makes it easier to stick to healthy eating habits throughout the week, when time is short and life is busy!

One of the biggest reasons we meal prep is to save a ton of time during the week. By dedicating a few hours once or twice a week to cooking, chopping, and portioning out meals, you can eliminate the daily grind of deciding what to eat, how to cook-- and cleaning up afterward. This frees up time for living your life! It also reduces the stress associated with meal planning and preparation.


Here are some more incredible benefits of meal prepping (the WHY of meal prepping):


1. Saves Time
By dedicating a few hours once or twice a week to meal prep, you can significantly reduce the time spent cooking and cleaning each day. This allows you to have more free time for other activities.


2. Promotes Healthy Eating
Having pre-prepared meals available is almost guaranteed to help you make healthier food choices. We are far less likely to go for fast food or processed snacks when you're short on time or energy, if you already have hummus & veggies waiting in the fridge.

By prepping your meals ahead of time, you can ensure that each portion is balanced and aligned with your dietary goals, whether that's increasing protein intake, reducing carbs, or boosting vegetable consumption.


3. Controls Portion Sizes
Meal prepping allows you to portion out your meals in advance. This can help with managing portion sizes, which in turn, avoids overeating. If you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, meal prepping can be a game changer.


4. Reduces Stress
My favorite benefit! I find it super stressful to finish work and immediately need to switch gears to making dinner. Knowing that I have meals planned and prepared definitely reduces the daily stress of deciding what to eat and how to make it. This is especially important during busy periods, like every day with a family (only partially kidding).


5. Saves Money
Buying ingredients in bulk and preparing meals at home will cost less money than eating out or ordering takeout. Making sure you meal prep once a week helps you stick to a budget and avoid impulse purchases. 


6. Minimizes Food Waste
By planning your meals and using all your ingredients, you can reduce the amount of food that goes to waste. This is not only good for your wallet but also for the environment.


Practical Tips for Effective Meal Prepping (the How of Meal Prep):


Getting started with meal prepping may seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be complicated.


Begin by planning your meals for the week. (Check out this article for meal planning 101.)


Decide what recipes you want to make and create a shopping list based on those recipes. Try to go for a mix of proteins, vegetables, grains, and healthy fats to ensure a balanced, Mediterranean Diet.


Once you have purchased your groceries, set aside a block of time for cooking. It's helpful to start with simple recipes and gradually incorporate more complex dishes as you become more comfortable with the process.

Important Storage Tips
You will want to invest in good-quality storage containers to keep your meals fresh. Glass containers are a great choice because they don't retain odors and are microwave-safe, but plastic can work ok too. Lids need to be tight so that air does not get in. This will keep your food fresher.


Label your containers with the date and contents to keep track of what needs to be eaten first.


Don’t forget that premade meals can be frozen for even longer storage. Not everything works well in the freezer. Chopped watermelon, for example, will never be the same out of the freezer. Chilis, muffins, and stews can work perfectly in the freezer.

Cooking A Lot at a Time
When cooking, consider making large batches of meals. It takes virtually the same amount of time to double or triple a recipe (provided that your oven or stove is big enough to handle it all). The extras can be portioned out or frozen for later.


Foods like soups, stews, casseroles, and grain bowls are excellent options because they store well and can be reheated quickly.

Incorporating Variety and Flexibility
Some people love eating the same lunch every day. Others of us (me!) find this to be too predictable. To keep your meals enjoyable, use a variety of recipes and ingredients.


We find that using different spices or dressings can make the same meal taste totally different with virtually no extra time.


For example, if you cook up a huge batch of chicken, you can portion it out into several meals. Then you can eat chicken topped with salsa and ears of corn on night, chicken with butter sauce and cooked cauliflower another night, and chicken and broccoli over rice with a light cheese sauce on a third night.


Another way to add variety is to use the same meal prepped ingredients in new ways.


Take chicken again. Night one, you eat chicken breast with some sides. Night two, diced the chicken and pop it into a wrap with salad and homemade ranch dressing. Night three, chicken with hot sauce can go over homemade pizza.

Balancing Nutritional Needs
When planning your meals, focus on creating balanced portions that meet your nutritional needs. Include a source of protein, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables in each meal. The Mediterranean Diet recommends that we use whole grains and legumes for added fiber and nutrients.


By balancing your meals in this way, you ensure that you're fueling your body with the necessary nutrients to support your daily activities and overall health.

Meal Prepping for Specific Goals
Meal prepping can be tailored to meet specific goals too.


Whether you're looking to lose weight, build muscle, or simply eat healthier, focusing on meal prepping can be important.


If your goal is weight loss, focus on portion control and incorporating plenty of low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables and lean proteins.


If you're aiming to build muscle, ensure your meals are rich in protein and include complex carbohydrates for sustained energy.


For general health, aim for a balanced mix of macronutrients and include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to cover a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals.


Meal Prep This Week (Examples)
Ready for examples of what to meal prep for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner? Read on!


Breakfast


Overnight Oats
Combine rolled oats with your choice of milk, yogurt, chia seeds, and sweetener. Add toppings like fresh berries, nuts, or honey. Store in jars and refrigerate overnight.


Breakfast Burritos
Scramble eggs with vegetables and cheese, then wrap in whole wheat tortillas. Store in the freezer and reheat as needed.


Smoothie Packs
Portion out frozen fruits, spinach, and protein powder into freezer bags. In the morning, blend with your choice of liquid for a quick and nutritious smoothie.


Lunch
Mason Jar Salads
Layer ingredients such as quinoa, beans, chopped vegetables, and greens in mason jars. Add dressing at the bottom to keep everything fresh until ready to eat.


Chickpea Salad
Mix canned chickpeas with diced cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, and parsley. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Store in the fridge for an easy lunch option.


Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps
Shred cooked chicken and mix with Greek yogurt, celery, grapes, and walnuts. Serve in large lettuce leaves for a light and refreshing meal.


Dinner
Stir-Fry Kits
Chop vegetables and proteins like chicken or tofu in advance. Store in containers. When ready to eat, quickly stir-fry with a pre-made sauce.


Sheet Pan Dinners
Arrange chicken breasts, potatoes, and mixed vegetables on a sheet pan. Season with herbs and olive oil. Store in the fridge and bake when ready to eat.
Stuffed Peppers


Fill bell peppers with a mixture of cooked quinoa, black beans, corn, and salsa. Top with cheese and store in the fridge. Bake until the peppers are tender.


Snacks
Veggie and Hummus Packs
Portion out sliced vegetables (carrots, celery, bell peppers) and hummus into containers for an easy grab-and-go snack.


Fruit and Nut Mix
Mix your favorite dried fruits and nuts in portioned bags for a healthy, portable snack.

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1 comment

  • Good helps

    Gail Weaver

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