Meal prepping is an excellent tool in your healthy lifestyle toolbox. It will help you make better choices when you are hungry, but don’t have time or energy to make a healthy meal. And that’s just the beginning. It will save you money, and it gives you control over which foods are the fuel for your body. It makes choosing the healthier option easier.
There are some key points to consider when planning your meal prep routine to make your life easier and not feel like you are adding another part-time job.
MEAL PREP 101
Prepping your food ahead of time is supposed to make your life easier, not more difficult. Simple is best; don’t stress over everything being perfect. The point of meal planning is to give you more opportunities to choose the healthier option. However, don’t beat yourself up if you opt to go out to lunch with your coworkers on Friday. You still deserve to have fun, after all! Meal prep is about healthier choices, not 100% perfection. See below for some tips to get started:
- Make a list of your favorite meals. If some ingredients or areas need reworking for a healthier version, make notes by that meal. For example, if spaghetti is your favorite meal, don’t fret! You can have it! Sub that pasta for some spaghetti squash or a smaller portion of a higher protein pasta.
- Pick a time, preferably the same time every week, that you can spend a few hours preparing meals for the week. The more you do it, the lest time it will take you overall. I personally like to prep on Sundays. I can usually find a few hours every Sunday, and it means I don’t have any more to do during the busy weekdays.
- Purchase meal prepping containers if you don’t already have some. A variety of containers is helpful. Quart size canning jars for salad in a jar or soups, single spot containers like these. Or, try containers that have multiple spots to keep things separated like these.
Now that you’re ready to start, grab your portion containers, and let’s get prepping!
MEAL PREP FOR SUCCESS
Make a list of the meals you want for that week and a list of ingredients needed. Choose recipes that have like ingredients. Cooking 1-2 different proteins per week is simpler than 5-6. Beef and eggs, chicken and eggs, Turkey and beans, fish, and a vegetarian option, you get the idea.
I always include a “breakfast” meal in my weekly meal prep as well. Even if I only need my lunches prepped, breakfast can be eaten for any meal and for me, is almost always a favorite.
Shop for what you don’t already have. When making your list, it is always a good idea to browse what you already have available in your freezer, fridge, and pantry. Take those ingredients into consideration while planning your menu and then make a shopping list for the rest.
WHICH MEALS SHOULD I PLAN FOR?
What meals do you find are the most difficult to cook? Are you rushing out the door in the morning and tend to grab a coffee and a scone instead of a healthier option because you are short on time? Prep some breakfast.
Are you in meetings all day and find yourself skipping lunch too often? Prep some lunches that you can eat cold or heat up quickly in the office microwave.
Do you get home from work and have to hurry and get everyone ready for soccer, so you order pizza or grab fast food? Prep yourself for a healthier dinner. I love the combination of all three and use it when needed. Anything not finished during the week can freeze for a healthy freezer meal.
I love soups. They are easy to make in large batches, and there are plenty that will comfortably fill you up for a meal. You can also pair a cup of soup with a salad. Fall is here, and winter is just around the corner, so it’s the perfect time of year for soups. They are also easy to make using leftovers. For example, if you have leftover taco meat, use it up in some taco soup. A bonus: soups freeze great. You can put extra servings in the freezer for another week.
Salads might sound dull to some, but there are so many options with a salad. The dressing is only the beginning of the possible variations. Wedge salads, cobb salads, chef salads, chicken salad, taco sal – all so easy to prepare and so delicious! Keep the dressing and any wet ingredients separated from the greens until it is time to eat. Salads don’t freeze well and won’t last more than a week, so only make what you need for the week.
Pasta isn’t on very many health food lists. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat pasta again! There are so many high protein pasta options these days. There are also many great ways to substitute pasta. Anything in the right portion sizes is okay, so use them to guide you. Pasta is another option that freezes well, so split any leftovers into individual containers and freeze. Pro tip: try using a muffin tin for the perfect portion!
SIMPLE PROTEIN AND VEGETABLES
You can’t go wrong with meat and veggies. Always a staple for meal prep here. Turkey meatballs and roasted vegetables, chicken and green beans, beef, and broccoli. An excellent meal planning choice because you can cook a large batch of meat in the slow cooker or Instant Pot. And roast a large batch of veggies in the oven that will easily split into a week or more worth of meals.
Planning and prepping snacks is almost more important than meal planning. Snacking is where many people can get off track quickly by choosing unhealthy options because they are rushed or tired. Plan snacks like containers of sliced vegetables and hummus, nuts, energy bites, easy-grab fruit or jerky.
HOW MANY RECIPES SHOULD I PLAN TO MAKE?
The number of recipes will depend on the number of meals you want to have prepared for the week. Do you only need lunch for a week? One recipe works for many people, but if you need more variety, try two. Do you need meals for yourself and your partner for multiple meals during the week? Two or three recipes are perfect. Make one a simple salad topped with extra veggies and protein from your other recipes.
MEAL PREP MADE EASY
When you are ready to start prepping your meals lay out everything you need for one recipe at a time.
Make each meal as though you were cooking it for a family of six, split it into individual containers. Label each box with the recipe name and date it was made.
When you are finished preparing all your recipes, put what you will need for the week in the fridge and extras in the freezer. Try to use all frozen meals within two months. If you can’t, consider gifting them to new parents, busy parents, a grandparent, or someone in need.
CONGRATULATIONS ON MAKING TIME FOR A HEALTHIER YOU
Now that you have all the information you need, it’s time to start planning. Once you’ve made your list, gathered your meal prep containers, and carved out some time to prep, it’s time to get cooking. Having meals ready to grab and go will help you achieve your health goals while saving you time and money. Be sure to share your favorites with us. Coburg Fit Club is ready to help you make the most of your healthy lifestyle choices. Contact us today with any questions.