Meal Prep Ideas For Weight Loss
Meal prepping has come a long way from brown-bagging PB&J. It has become a full-on phenomenon, a coast-to-coast Sunday-night ritual.
Preparing several days’ worth of creative, balanced meals and refrigerating them in portion-sized containers is an excellent way to eat better, get healthier, save time and show off on Instagram.
Meal prepping can also be a powerful tool for weight loss if that is your goal.
Here’s how to get started.
How to Meal Prep For Weight Loss
“Meal prep is all about being prepared,” says Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD, registered dietitian and nutrition manager for Openfit. “So you need to be prepared before you start.”
This is how to make that process easy, along with some ideas for delicious results.
1. Make a list of foods you like.
Are you a beginner to meal prep? Getting started may seem daunting, but Giancoli says it can be simpler than it might seem.
“Start with the foods that you like, and think about what you already eat,” says Giancoli. “Most people have about 20 foods that they eat on a consistent basis. It helps to narrow that down. Then you can branch out. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but you do need to know what your food arsenal is.”
Review your spice stockpile as well. Spices are an excellent way to add flavor to your meals and keep you satisfied without additional fat or calories. Some, like red chili, may have weight loss benefits of their own.
It might also be time to throw out those jars of paprika and thyme that have been hanging around since the Bush administration. Expired spices aren’t dangerous, per se, but they lose a lot of flavor. Check out these 10 delicious and unusual spice blends for meal prep.
2. Choose recipes and meal plans that include those favorite foods.
Later we will share some of our favorite recipes that are ideal for meal prep.
The ideal composition of a prepped meal is 40-30-30 — 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat.
“You want to try to have protein with every meal because it helps to satiate you,” says Giancoli. “Make sure your protein takes up a little less than a third of your plate. Plant foods like vegetables and fruits should make up about half. Mix fat in there, and put grain foods in that other quarter-or-so of that plate.”
3. Buy meal prep containers and measuring cups.
Due to the huge popularity of meal prepping there is a wide range of meal prep containers on the market.
You can choose glass or BPA-free plastic, depending on your preference, or a combination of both. You might want lighter plastic containers to bring meals to work or school, and a more durable glass set at home.
There are containers with compartments that can serve as portion guides and prevent foods from mixing.
Check out our roundup of the best meal prep containers.
Giancoli likes to use measuring cups, as they help portion.
With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to visualize what a cup or half-cup serving looks like on a plate, a skill that will help you maintain your weight-loss results.
4. Make a grocery list before you shop.
You don’t want to run out of food, but you don’t want to let a bunch of stuff go to waste either. Use recipes to determine how much you’ll need of each item. You might over- or underestimate at first, but practice makes perfect.
How often should you cook, and how long does food stay good when you meal prep?
“For food safety, you probably want to meal prep twice a week,” says Giancoli. “With animal proteins like cooked meat, poultry and fish, you can refrigerate them for three or four days. You don’t want to be making chicken for two weeks.”
You can also freeze your meals or ingredients for a longer time and defrost them, but they might lose a bit of flavor.
Here are some helpful tips on how to plan, prep, and store food for healthy meals all week.
5. Don’t worry about being hungry.
This is a common fear among people who meal prep for weight loss.
“Often people get concerned that there’s not going to be enough food,” says Giancoli. “But once we start doing it, we start getting used to the amount of food and adapt.”
If you get hungry, use your measuring cups to portion out a healthy, whole-food snack, like a serving of almonds or fiber-rich berries.
Can Meal Prepping Help You Lose Weight?
It definitely can. Cooking at home is one of the most powerful tools for weight loss — unlike at a restaurant or fast-food joint, you know exactly what’s going into your meals. Even healthy-seeming restaurant dishes are often stealthily loaded with butter and salt to boost flavor.
And you control the portions.
“If you’re interested in losing weight, you’ve got to consider portion control,” says Giancoli.
Meal Prep Recipes for Weight Loss
- 1 1/3 cups cooked brown rice
- 2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro
- 1 Tbsp. lime juice
- 8 cups romaine lettuce
- 1 1/3 cups canned pinto beans
- 12 oz. cooked chicken breast
- 2 cups tomato salsa
- 1/4 cup Monterey jack cheese
- 1/2 medium avocado
- 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 lb. 93% lean ground turkey
- 5 cups green beans
- Sea salt and ground black pepper
- 1 1/3 cups brown rice
- 6 cups baby spinach
- 16 oz. cooked chicken breast
- 4 cups strawberries
- 32 raw walnut halves
- 6 cups cherry tomatoes
- 4 cups cucumbers
- 12 oz. chicken breast
- 8 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese