Meal prepping is a simple way to save time each week. It’s ideal for those with hectic schedules or who like to plan ahead. It can also help you stay on track with your weight loss goals. Knowing what to eat helps limit mindless or impulsive eating.
If you’re new to meal prep, you need the right mindset. It’s easy to get caught up in the planning, but the prep can feel like a chore. If this describes you, take a break. Don’t be a “perfectionist” and think you have to plan for everything. single. meal. This can be overwhelming, especially if you are short on time or a weak cook.
Meal planning and prep is meant to save you time and ease your life, not to stress you out. Remember that!
Here are my best dietitian tips for getting into a healthy meal prep mindset and creating easy, delicious meals that support your health goals.
Form a plan
Making a meal plan is the first step. Meal prep is much easier and more organized when you know what recipes to prepare and what ingredients to gather.
Look at your calendar and set realistic weekly goals. Calculate your meal prep time, how long you have to cook each day, and your nutritional goals for each meal.
For example, I enjoy easy-to-make, satisfying breakfasts that also help me recover after a workout. My afternoons are busy, so I need lunches that are light, healthy, and portable. Dinners are simple, veggie-forward meals full of flavor, fresh produce, and nutrients.
Invest in your gear.
Preparing meals successfully requires the right tools! A good knife, storage containers, sheet pans, and cutting boards are a good start. It’s nice to have a slow cooker.
Pre-cooked grains, cut-up veggies, pre-cooked grains, pre-cooked grains, sauces and dressings, and chia pudding are all stored in glass mason jars with lids. I also like to prepare lunches in two-sectioned glass containers (these are easy to heat up in the microwave, too). To freeze meals like chili or smoothie bags into grab-and-go portions, use zip-top storage bags or freezer-safe containers and label with masking tape.
Healthy food is great if eaten! Using transparent glass containers makes you eager to grab all that healthy ready-to-eat food!
Establish some space
Organizing your fridge and freezer for a week’s worth of meals can be tricky, especially if your fridge is small. Another reason to plan meals ahead of time. Buy only what you need for the week to save space and money. It also helps to clean out the fridge before meal prepping to make sure nothing is hidden or uneaten from last week.
Scheduling time is also vital! It doesn’t take all day to meal prep, but it does require time to shop, wash, chop, and cook! If Sunday is too busy for you, try a weeknight. You can also prep for 2–3 days and do the rest in a mid-week session. Undeniably, prepping all your meals ahead of time is a daunting task.
Quick healthy meal prep ideas
Here are some helpful tips for getting healthy and delicious meals on the table quickly while supporting your weight and wellness goals.
Divide it up.
Meal prepping allows you to portion your food before you eat it. This is useful because we tend to overeat when we are rushed or hungry. Preparing your meals ahead of time saves time and possibly calories. Use measuring cups to portion food when meal prepping. Fish and meat should be weighed on a food scale. This helps you eat more confidently when eating out or away from home.
First, eat vegetables.
Veggies and greens are great long-term healthy eating choices! Make seasonal, nutrient-dense veggies and greens the “hero” on your plate instead of protein! You’ll be more creative in the kitchen, eat more veggies and greens, and be healthier as a result. Salads, roasted veggies for grain bowls, fajitas and tacos, sheet pan dinners, and veggie-based soups are all winners.
Another perk? Seasonal produce is readily available, cheap, and tasty.
Comfort is key.
You don’t have to make every meal from scratch. While it is cheaper to chop and prep your own food, buying convenience foods can save you time! Pre-chopped onions and garlic are staples in my pantry, as are bagged salads tossed with canned salmon or leftover grilled chicken. Pre-made pasta sauces and frozen veggies are also winners.
Breakfast is a must
Meal prepping can help you get out of the house hungry on busy mornings. Smoothies are a great way to start the day with fiber, antioxidants, and protein, and frozen smoothie bags save time. Simply freeze your favorite smoothie ingredients overnight, add your liquid, blend, and enjoy!
Preparing healthy breakfast on the go has never been easier. Make chia seed pudding, overnight oats, or egg muffins every week to avoid the Starbucks drive-thru.
Cover it up!
Driving kids to sports practices, meetings, or other school events often leaves dinner as an afterthought. It’s easy to make healthy lunches or dinners in a mason jar (and it’s fun to do while watching soccer!). It saves space in the fridge and makes for an easy grab-and-go meal.
Dinner bar nights are a fun way to feed your family and get dinner on the table quickly. Dinner is as simple as opening the fridge! Some inventive bar dinner ideas:
- Prepare a pasta bar with sauteed vegetables and frozen peas.
- Grilled flatbread with hummus, sauteed greens, artichoke hearts, and olives
- Salad bar with everything (pre-chopped!)
- Tomato salsa, guacamole and canned beans
- Steamed greens, roasted veggies, and salsa
- Mushroom, spinach, salsa, and black bean omelet bar
- Shut it!
A wrap is the easiest way to eat lunch! Simply heat leftovers and wrap them in a high-fiber tortilla for a quick lunch. Substitute cabbage, chard, or romaine leaves for the tortilla. Make a big batch of chicken, egg, or tuna salad for the week.
We do make time for things we enjoy. That’s why I recommend having fun with meal prep. Prep time can be used to catch up on a podcast or audio book, listen to music, or watch a show on your iPad. I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, preparing healthy meals for the week ahead.
Meal prep can save time, but it doesn’t mean you have to stick to a rigid schedule. Keep an open mind, be flexible, and be creative! If meal planning and preparation are new to you, keep in mind that you are learning a new behavior, so keep an open mind and learn from your mistakes. There will be bad meals and mishaps along the way. A little skepticism is healthy and only serves to fine-tune your
Maintaining a positive outlook on meal prep can make it feel less like a chore. You might even start looking forward to it!