Hello and Happy New Year! It’s crazy how we are already halfway through January and I have yet to post any new updates here. Well that ends today. One of the questions I get asked most when I post on Social Media about my weight loss journey is how I meal prep and how I come up with the recipes I create. Today I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks from the past year. Now I should quickly mention that I am not a Nutritionist or a healthcare professional. All of this is coming from someone who has learned and stumbled along the way. Think of this not as and end all be all for meal prep, but more of some best practices from someone who has made prepping part of his every day life. Alright, let’s jump in!
What Makes a Good Meal Prep?
Truth be told, the answer to this question is going to be different for everyone. Your meal prep should be based on your health goal and why you want to meal prep in the first place. For some people, meal prepping is literally just a way to save time and money during the week. For others, like me, prepping is a way to maintain portion control as a means of losing weight. For others, prepping can be a way of bulking and building muscle. Whatever the reason, I implore you to KNOW your reason once you get started. And if you’re not sure, simply saying “I want to have more control over what I eat every day,” is a great starting place.
While calorie count and what nutritional elements you are looking for will differ, a good meal prep usually consists of three basic parts: Veggies, Carbs, and Protein. As seen in the photo below which I borrowed from MealPrepOnFleek.com
What Do I Need to Meal Prep?
Starting your meal prep journey is pretty easy actually. You’ll need some containers to store the meals, preferably one per day per meal. We use a container with two compartments. This is nice as it allows me separate my starch or veggie in case I don’t want things to get soggy or if I want to keep flavors separate. I also recommend containers that are BPA free, freezer and microwave safe.
You’ll also need the ingredients you’re going to be cooking. This means shopping. And if you’re going to go shopping, you’ll need a plan, which leads us to the #1 question I get about meal prep.
How Do You Come Up With a Meal?
The first part of this answer is probably much more simple than you would imagine. I type “Meal Prep ideas” into my search bar and look at the images it brings up. Seriously. That is how I come up with about 80% of my meal ideas. I usually don’t grab the recipe straight out though.
This brings me to an important point about knowing the reason you are meal prepping. For me, it was weight loss and fitness. Based on my height and weight, I determined that I needed to consistently eat 1600 calories a day. Splitting this up with snacks and my three meals helped me to know just how many calories I wanted to add to my meals. From there, I start to build a plan based on an idea and following the rules of including a protein, a starch and a veggie.
Sometimes, I find it also helps to have a theme in mind. For example, this last week I decided to do a “Mexican” style dish. But sometimes I’ll do something that is more “Chinese” or maybe I want do a healthy pasta and salad. In knowing the theme, I can then work backwards and say, okay, how do I make this healthy?
Of course, A lot of this comes down to knowing what to look for on the nutritional label. First a foremost, I look at serving sizes. If I’m making 8 meals, I need to have 8 servings of every ingredient I am getting. Otherwise, things will come up short and I wont’ be able to make all the meals I need for the week.
I also make sure to know my daily sugars and calories, because this can factor into choosing a sauce or other ingredient if I’m trying to stay under a certain amount. A great example is that I eat 37 grams or fewer of sugar a day. Sometimes, I might add a sauce to my prep. I need to make sure that the sauce doesn’t become the worst part of the meal, and throw my prep way over on calories or sugar. My point is, know your numbers so that you can make smart choices in the grocery store. By knowing the numbers you want to stick to and knowing the plan for your meal for the week, you can easily pick items out on the fly.
Making Time for Meal Prep
This holds A LOT of people back. My best advice is to pick a day and commit. In general, we stick to prepping on Sunday’s. I usually have the day off and that allows me the time to shop and then cook. Prepping doesn’t have to take a million hours. In fact, if you go in with a plan, it can take as little as an hour or less. I usually make my different pieces of a prep and then give them an hour or more to cool down since I don’t want them to melt or disfigure the meal prep bowls.
I also want to circle back to choosing your meal prep idea. Keep it simple! This is not thanksgiving dinner. It shouldn’t take hours of your life. Go with items you can multitask while cooking. I’m a big fan of chicken, rice and broccoli because all three can cook at the same time, with very little effort on my part. The goal of meal prep is to eat better, but also to save time, so don’t forget that part!
Some Ideas to Get Started
These are my starter tips for prepping, but I want to leave you with some food for thought. Get it?? Throughout this article are some photos of my favorite preps we’ve done with a short description. Hopefully this helps get you started coming up with some great preps of your own. If you have ANY questions or if there is something you think I missed here that you’d like to see covered in a future post, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments! My hope is that this year I can post more about health and wellness and we can all get healthy together!