Whether you’re motivated about a new exercise routine, trying to lose excess weight, or simply trying to make better food choices in general, meal prep is essential for health-conscious individuals who are too busy to cook three square meals a day.
Preparing meals ahead of time is one of the smartest, healthiest activities you can do if you’re serious and dedicated about improving your nutrition and shedding excess weight. Pre-made meals make it easier to resist lunchtime temptations and keep you from turning to fast food when you’re short on time. When the weekend comes and you’re ready for a break from managing work and family all week long, meal prep is probably the last thing you want to worry about. But by starting small and making meal prep a regular part of your routine, you’ll soon be reaping the benefits of healthier meals all week long.
Start small at first
Cooking too many meals in the beginning can make you feel overwhelmed and turn you off the idea of meal prep. Instead of doing too much when you first get started, take it easy and begin with just a few meals. When meal prep becomes part of your daily or weekly routine, start ramping it up slowly at a pace that feels most comfortable to you. Also, avoid prepping too much food to prevent it from spoiling in the event you can’t get to it quickly enough.
Prepare freezer-worthy meals
Frozen meals can be highly convenient if you typically eat at work or lack time in your day to prepare something fresh. Make a list of healthy meals that can be easily frozen and reheated, and still taste great. Soups, stews, chilis, and casseroles are examples of freezer-worthy meals that go a long way.
Slice and chop fruits and veggies ahead of time
Cutting up fruits and vegetables each time you grab a bite can get exhausting, and often produces a mess. Start slicing fresh fruits and veggies ahead of time, and store them in containers in the refrigerator so you can easily grab them and add to various meals and snacks. For instance, add freshly sliced strawberries to yogurt and whole-wheat cereal, and add chopped vegetables to stir-fry meals and burritos. Or just grab a bag of pre-cut veggies to eat as a snack.
Make your own dressings and sauces
Most store-bought salad dressings, marinades, and sauces are high in sodium and loaded with sugar, artificial flavors, and other man-made ingredients that can compromise your health and weight-loss efforts. Make your own condiments at home using safer, healthier ingredients such as olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, fresh tomatoes, and spices.
Experiment and change it up
Eating the same foods repeatedly can get boring after awhile, and make you feel less motivated about meal prep. Consider making a variety of meals from week to week, or just prepare what you feel like eating, as long as it’s healthy. It’s okay to stray from kale, salads, and turkey if you’re more in the mood for fresh fruits, nuts, and fish.
Focus on a healthy breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet many people either skip this meal or begin their day with pastries, sugary cereal, and other foods that lack important nutrients. When doing meal prep, consider healthy breakfast foods you can easily grab and eat on the go. Hard-boiled eggs, oatmeal breakfast cookies, and plain yogurt with berries are just some healthy options.
Consider healthy meal-replacement shakes
Many meal-replacement shakes sold in grocery stores are loaded with fillers and additives that do more harm than good when it comes to your health. Instead of buying these shakes at the nearest grocery store, talk to your doctor about healthier brands that contain a higher amount of vitamins and minerals. For instance, the vanilla and chocolate meal-replacement shakes by Vivaliti offer the amount of protein you need to stay satisfied and energetic until your next meal.
Need help developing a weight-loss and nutrition plan that works for you? Garcia Weight Loss and Wellness Centers deliver customized plans, complete with personalized supplements and consistent support to help you reach and maintain your health goals. Contact us today for your no-cost consultation!
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on August 25, 2017