Meal Prep 101: Where & How To Start
Meal prepping has hands down been the biggest factor in determining my fitness success. For me, once I get into a routine of going to the gym or going for a run, I'm fine, but food is always my weakness. I love a good meal and have a hard time existing on salads and lean cuisines and other too-tiny-portioned meals, because I just genuinely love the taste of things and also enjoy the creative process of combining good foods together.
That being said, meal prepping is something I personally find enjoyable (to a certain extent) because of the creativity and mental vigor it gives me towards chasing my fitness goals. However, I know it can be pretty overwhelming to just start out of nowhere, which is why I want to help you!
Here are my go-to tips and tricks of the trade to help you get started!
1) Plan (in chunks.)
Clearly, meal prepping is all about planning. You have to have some sort of plan in order properly grocery shop and cook your meals. BUT, it's not just planning in general. You need to plan in two chunks (or phases... if that word makes you feel more comfortable.)
The first planning chunk is meals.
Think about what you'd like to have for each meal of the day as you make a grocery list. If you can't stand the thought of eating the same meal two days in a row, try to buy ingredients that are easily manipulable. For example, you might buy egg whites to make omelettes, but vary the toppings and sides you have with it. You can buy chicken to grill, but have it as a salad, tacos, or main course with different sides. (Unfortunately, the more variance in your meals you insist on having, the more time it's going to take you to prep AND the more money you're going to spend.)
The next chunk is food groups.
This is like a chunk within a chunk (?)
When you're planning your meals, think of having a source of protein with every meal. This means turkey, fish, eggs, chicken, steak, yogurt or any vegetarian options like lentil beans, tofu or those kick-ass black bean burgers from Costco!
Next, think of a good source of carbohydrates. Rice, sweet potatoes, oats, waffles, or bread are all very basic ingredients that can be incorporated as breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert depending on the prep!
Finally, be sure you have a few sources of healthy fats on hand, too. Many foods, like chicken, turkey, and eggs, already contain some good fats, so you don't need to spend too much time accounting for these, but definitely don't neglect them! Avocados, nuts, nut spreads, cheeses, and oils are good things to supplement a meal with to make sure you're getting adequate amounts of fat in your meals.
Check out my grocery list and meal plan for a great jumping off point!
2) Buy steamables.
Seriously the easiest vegetable meal prep on the planet. Either buy a few different types of unseasoned, steamable vegetable combinations (Green Giant & Birds Eye make great combo bags!), pop 'em in the microwave and mix them together, OR test out the preseasoned veggies (Tuscan seasoned broccoli by Green Giant = BOMB) and steam them as you go.
Target and Walmart also carry a delicious brand of microwavable potatoes called "The Little Potato Company," which take about 5 minutes in the microwave. They also have an oven version that takes 30 minutes.
Either way, there is so a way to get your veggies in in 5 minutes or less, so no excuses!
3) Seasoning, spices & sauces.
This is a double-edged sword, because some sauces can tip you over the caloric scale instantly, but if you do it right, you can turn ground turkey into a delicacy with just a packet of taco seasoning.
My favorite sauces at the moment are: Taco Bell's Mild Sauce, any taco seasoning packet, any McCormick Grill mates seasoning or marinade packets, Mrs. Dash (anything & everything), Skinny Girl Poppyseed dressing & House of Tsang Bangkok Peanut Sauce.
Find seasonings, spices and sauces you like (that are not high in fat or calories) and cook your protein or veggies in them! Marinating & backing a chicken breast is the easiest thing-- you literally let it sit for 4 hours, and then let it sit for 45 minutes in the oven. Most of cooking is just letting things do their thing, so stock up on seasonings, throw them on your protein, and let the oven do the work.
You can buy marinades pre-packaged so you don't even have to come up with a recipe, or you can just coat the meat in a little olive oil, throw on your favorite spices, and watch the magic unfold.
Another super easy and delicious way to get your vegetable intake up is to toss some fresh veggies in your favorite marinade or sauce (like that delicious Peanut Sauce) and sauté them for about 5 minutes or so in a skillet.
(It's also super easy and time effective to bake veggies while you bake fish or chicken, just keep an eye on them because they obviously will cook way faster than your protein!)
4) Package appropriately.
Honestly, I am not one of those people who portions out every single meal and puts it in its own tupperware, ready to grab and go instantly. I'm sure that's super easy in the long run, but I a) don't have enough tupperware to do that and b) enjoy the discipline and variation I get from packing my meals daily.
I recommend just putting all of one thing in one container rather than trying to worry about packaging things meal by meal and weighing things out all at once. Give yourself an extra 15 or 20 minutes in the morning to scoop a little from each container into your lunch tupperwares rather than frantically trying to weigh and measure every little meal and snack for the week on Sunday night.
This is the part that typically makes the process so daunting and time consuming. If you can first start by just prepping the right things, portion control will come! Don't try to do everything at once. Just get your staples prepared, see how you use them weekly, and go from there.
There ya go!
For more detailed and behind-the-scenes looks at exactly how to meal prep, follow me on instagram and watch my stories, subscribe to the blog for recipes and tips, or check out my grocery list + meal plan! Happy meal prepping, y'all :)