Preparing meals in advance can be overwhelming. How much should you make? What foods keep well? How can you make it tasty? Should you take meals everywhere with you? Can you ever eat out again? It’s questions like these that can make you want to give up and hit the snack cupboard. But it doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think. I spend two hours on a Sunday afternoon cooking all my meals for the following week. Just two hours, and everything is done! It takes time to find your rhythm in the kitchen, but don’t worry. With a little bit of help you’ll feel more confident when preparing meals and will soon be ready to give it a go.
The first step is coming up with meal ideas. Each meal needs protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Protein is the easy part. The amount of protein you eat per meal should be roughly the size of your palm, and this can include eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, fish, tofu... you name it! Carbs are slightly more difficult.
Each meal should include around a fist’s size worth of these — and not just bread and pasta. Rice, vegetables, and fruit are all carbs too; including more of these in your meals will provide a more balanced diet.
You’ll often hear people say that avoiding carbs altogether is a good way to lose weight, but they’re actually talking about a very specific type of carb. You won’t put on weight eating vegetables (unless you exceed your daily caloric intake), so always include a handful — or more — of veggies with each meal. The carbs you should keep an eye on are the starchy kind like potatoes, rice, and bread. If you’re trying to build muscle or gain weight, have one of these with your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you’re trying to lose weight, remove starchy carbs from just one meal. Dinner is the typical choice. Carbs high in starch will cause a blood sugar spike, which won’t help your weight loss goal. However, starches do give us a lot of energy, so make sure you still include some of these in your meal prep.
Buying food in bulk is a great budget-friendly way to meal prep. Think lots, and think easy: frozen vegetables are easily microwaveable, and large packets of chicken breasts or tilapia filets will last you a while in the freezer. Make sure you’re stocked up on containers to store all of your delicious, freshly-prepared food — Tupperware boxes are perfect for this, and come in a variety of price ranges. Seasonings and hot sauces are also great for avoiding the monotony of eating the same meal all week. Add different spices to your proteins to vary each meal’s flavor, such as a spicy chicken one day, followed by a turmeric chicken curry the next.
Meal prep can be as complicated or simple as you want. You can make different meals for each day (complicated with variety) or the same meal for a few consecutive days (simple, but gets boring quickly). Start by prepping one meal to last for the week ahead.
Some basic examples could be a nice salad (keep all the wet ingredients contained until it’s time to eat), a turkey sandwich, or a bowl of chicken with rice and vegetables.
Personally, I cook five lunches and five dinners for the week. All my lunches are the same and all my dinners are the same. My two hours of prep include chopping and cooking all the chicken breast in the same pan and putting one portion in each container with various spices — garlic powder, cayenne pepper, whatever takes my fancy that day. Then I cook some rice and microwave some frozen vegetables, and put a handful of these in each box with the chicken. I might also have another protein cooking in the oven at the same time, such as fish, for my dinners. It’s all about cooking in bulk and eating clean for the week.
If you struggle to find time to cook and eat well during the week, meal prepping will help with your weightloss goals. It can seem daunting, but starting is the hardest step. You’ll enjoy cooking for the week in no time!
Maddy has worked in the health and fitness industry for 5 years. She has a bachelors in Exercise Science and has recently received her Masters in Exercise Physiology. She has worked with a wide demographic of clients as a Personal Trainer and loves helping people reach their goals and continue to grow. She is an outdoor enthusiast and dedicates her workouts to rock climbing, hiking and whatever new experiences may come her way.
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