Meal Prep Ideas for Weight Loss
By Stacey Feintuch
You've heard it time and time again: Prep your meals on the weekends, and you'll save time and eat healthier during the week. But how many of you actually do that?
If you properly map out your meals, you'll be more likely to stick with your weight-loss plan and make healthy choices. Sound daunting? It's not; we promise.
Follow our tips and tricks to help you prep some belly-busting meals and snacks over the weekend to ensure that your diet doesn't veer off track during the week.
You don't have to go in guns blazing on week one, whipping up 21 meals in one sitting. You'll only get discouraged at how long it takes and how messy it may be. Instead, start slowly, making a few days' worth of meals at a time. Then build up to creating a week of meals in a session.
Prepare food with the right mindset.
You're meal prepping so you can eat healthy and lose weight, right? That means you should be mindful of how much you're sampling during your prep session. Otherwise, you may eat an entire meal's worth of food during prep. You also shouldn't prep meals if you're hungry; instead, do so after you've eaten a meal or snack. To avoid temptation, work with a mint or stick of gum in your mouth.
Befriend your freezer.
Don't have time to cook up a storm? Make healthy meals that freeze and reheat easily. Think turkey meatballs or burgers, vegetable casseroles, soups, stews or chilis. That way, when things get hectic, you can just grab a homemade meal instead of dialing for takeout. You can add vitamins and greens to the meal with a fresh side salad. Need some inspiration? Try these freeze it and forget it weeknight dishes.
Cut and slice vegetables and fruit ahead of time. Store them by type in individual containers. When you're cooking, you can easily grab what you need to make a salad or side dish (such as veggies that you've already roasted or sauteed). And the fruit can be used as a sweet ending to a meal instead of cookies or ice cream. Plus, you'll have the fruits and veggies on hand for snacking. Whip up our Strawberries, White Bean, and Edamame Salad. This flavorful, enticing mix of fresh strawberries, white beans and edamame is topped with a light vinaigrette, resting on baby spinach and topped with crumbled feta. And read about the best fruits for weight loss.
Don't prep too much food.
You may think it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to meal prep. But if you over-prep, you'll be left with waste or feel like you must eat the extra calories you bought and prepared. Plus, you're spending money unnecessarily. Because it can be difficult to plan how much food you need, you may need to figure it out through trial and error.
Don't prep too little food.
Playing it safe with portion sizes? Then you may not have enough food to last you the whole week. Or you'll be eating unsatisfying small meals all week, leading you to eat too many snacks or too much at your next meal (or both!). It can be hard to know how much to prepare. For the first few weeks, note if you're hungry after each meal. If you often have hunger pangs, consider increasing your portion sizes. Too full? Do the opposite. And learn more about how to eat healthy on a budget.
Avoid store-bought dressings, marinades and sauces.
Yes, they're convenient and great in a pinch. But store-bought condiments like dressings, sauces and marinades are typically loaded with added sugars, sodium and calories. You can add your own flavors to your meals to keep them interesting and appealing. Drizzle olive oil over your salad. Sprinkle your favorite spices on chicken. Or make your own dressings and marinades. This balsamic vinaigrette recipe is so simple you'll barely need to follow the instructions.
Prepare what works for you.
Know that you have dinner plans every night this week? Short on time over the weekend? Think about what food prep will save you the most time during the week and focus on that. Bag nuts for quick snacks. Boil eggs to eat with your breakfast. Grill chicken to top on salads. Saute ground turkey meat for tacos.
Mix it up.
If you prep the same foods every week, you'll definitely get bored. And you may even stop prepping food to begin with. Rotate through some recipes and main ingredients week to week. And always prepare different recipes for each meal. That way if you open the fridge and aren't in the mood for say chicken, you can opt for the veggie burgers instead.
If you're like most people, it's near impossible to cook something healthy in the morning. Make some breakfast foods over the weekend to ensure you start every day right. These egg muffins—made of eggs, vegetables and cheese (meat is optional)—keep more than a week in the refrigerator and make a perfect grab-and-go breakfast.
Eat what you like.
If you despise turkey burgers, don't force yourself to make them just because they're healthy. Prepare what you like or something that sounds delicious. Yes, you may have heard about the wonders that quinoa does to promote weight loss. But it's pointless to make a batch if you won't touch it. Like carbs? Find out more about healthy carbs for weight loss.
Stock up on snacks.
When you're famished, you'll eat whatever you see first. So, don't forget about preparing snacks for the week to ensure that you have nutritious options on hand. Divvy up healthy fare like dried fruit, string cheese and almonds into single-serve containers or baggies to make them easy to take to work or when you're on the go. Plus, this method will help prevent you from overeating. Learn about the best nuts for weight loss or get some ideas for 100-calorie snacks.