Meal prep is a key part of success when dieting for fat loss (or muscle gain), which is why so many of our transformation challenge participants (and previous winners) do it weekly.
The reason meal prep is such an effective tool for getting the results you want from your diet and exercise plan is that you are in complete control of what goes into your body. You know exactly how much food you’re eating.
No hidden calories, no hidden sugars, no added trans fats.
Just healthy, clean food that will fuel your body and mind to perform and recover optimally.
Still, many individuals struggle to meal prep each week on account of not having the time and/or not enjoying the cooking process.
We’ve assembled six ways to make meal prep less complicated and help you stay on track with your goals!
6 Ways Meal Prep Can Help You Lose Weight
#1 Have a Plan
Successful meal prep begins with having a plan for what you’re going to eat during the week.
Now this doesn’t mean you have to have exactly what you’re going to eat for every meal every day of the week, but you should have a rough idea of the foods you’ll be eating throughout the week.
This helps you to avoid wasting money on impulse purchases, suffering from decision fatigue when trying to figure out what you’re going to make to eat, and overeating.
For instance, you can plan to cook a batch of chicken and lean ground beef, and then mix-and-match those protein sources with various whole grains and vegetables you’ve cooked ahead. So, one day’s lunch could be roast chicken, sweet potatoes and grilled asparagus and the next day’s lunch could be ground beef, grilled asparagus, and rice.
Having a plan for what to cook and eat is important, but also realize it’s ok to be flexible. Feel free to mix and match protein and vegetables across different meals. Similarly, if you planned on buying zucchini at the store, but it doesn’t look good, feel free to pivot and buy another type of produce, such as mushrooms or yellow squash.
#2 Prep Once, Eat Twice
One of the most common complaints we hear about meal prep is that it’s simply too time consuming. While it’s true that cooking your own food does take more time than simply picking up the phone to order takeout, the truth is that there are several meal prep hacks you can do to get more from your time spent in the kitchen.
One of the easiest things to do (that doesn’t really add that much time to your time spent in the kitchen) is batch prep food.
You’re already in the kitchen, so you might as well prep a bunch of things to eat instead of just doing one meal’s worth of food.
While it might not seem like you’re saving time in the midst of slicing and dicing your fifth bell pepper, you’ll come to realize how much time you actually have saved when you can simply open the fridge and pull the ingredients you need instead of having to pull out a knife and cutting board to prep your ingredients (and then wash those dishes each time you’re in the kitchen).
#3 Cook Once, Eat Twice
Here is another one of the best time-saving tips for minimizing your time in the kitchen and maximizing the amount of food you have -- cook in larger batches.
Don’t just cook enough chicken or veggies for one meal. If you can, roast whole trays of them. This way you maximize your time spent cooking, and when meal time comes around, all you need to do is pop open the fridge and toss together which protein, produce, and starch you feel like eating!
#4 Don’t Be Afraid of Shortcuts
Meal prep involves you preparing your own meals for the week, but there’s a fine line between cooking your own food and preparing everything from scratch.
For instance, if you’re having chicken tacos, you don’t have to make the corn (or flour) tortillas by hand (by all means you can -- and it’s a fun experience if you love cooking). You can purchase the ones from the store. They’re good quality and will save you a considerable amount of time in the kitchen.
Another example is buying frozen chopped vegetables instead of fresh ones that you’ll need to wash, peel and slice.
If it helps, once you’ve decided what foods you want to eat during the week, then determine what part of meal prep you feel comfortable doing and which part(s) you’re ok getting some help with by using a “shortcut” -- frozen veggies, store-made tortillas, etc.
#5 Feel Free to Experiment
There’s a certain enjoyment, security, and proficiency that comes with prepping the same foods time and again. After all, consistency breeds success and saves you time as the more often you cook a group of foods the more streamlined your prep time will be.
At the same time, eating the same things over and over again can be boring for some people. In these times, you can experiment with new flavor combinations (herbs, spices, oils, etc.) or new cooking techniques (broil, bake, grill, saute’, poach, etc.). You can also try swapping out some of your “staple” fruits and veggies for ones you haven’t tried before.
For instance, if you’re used to eating broccoli, maybe try using cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or asparagus.
Having your tried-and-true foods is great, but it’s also ok to venture outside your comfort zone and introduce some new foods, spices, cooking techniques or dishes. You’ll avoid palate fatigue, diet boredom, and gain new culinary skills which will boost your self confidence.
#6 Prep When You’re Ready
The weekends are when most people carve out some time for meal prep, but sometimes after a long week of work you just don’t feel like doing it.
Hunker down for meal prep when you have the time and energy to devote to it. There are times that you’ll have to put your nose down and grind through things in life, but if you’re always forcing yourself into the kitchen, you’ll come to despise meal prep, which means you’ll likely quit doing it.
Furthermore, you can divide your meal prep throughout the week and weekend. Nobody says that you have to do a week’s worth of meal prep in one massive block of time on Saturday or Sunday.
Packaging some snacks one night, chopping some vegetables one afternoon, portioning out cooked proteins -- it all adds up over the course of the week.