Meal prep for weight loss
Healthy food ideas
Sticking to a healthy diet can be challenging. When you’re busy it’s easy to slip into unhealthy eating habits as a quick fix. You might grab an unhealthy lunch at work, snack on treats or go for that ready-meal option at the end of a long day.
On the flip-side, being at home can be just as hard. When you’re sitting at home twiddling your thumbs it can be difficult to resist the call of the snacks coming from the kitchen.
So how can you avoid this? What are some tricks you can use to kickstart your weight loss and shift that troublesome excess weight.
One useful technique to help with weight loss is meal prepping. This is when you plan and cook some (or even all) of your meals in advance. This helps us lose weight by reducing the need for us to make those tricky small decisions throughout the day. So, when you’re feeling tired or struggling for weight loss motivation you’ll have a nutritious ready meal prepped at hand to keep you on track.
What is meal prep?
Okay so most of us would have heard of meal prep before. But what does it mean in practice? What exactly is meal prep?
Meal Preparation, or meal prep for short, is when you plan and prepare your meals in advance. This means rather than having to cook from scratch or buy every meal, you can eat a healthy meal you made earlier.
There are lots of ways to meal prep, so you can choose a system that works for you. Weekly meal prep can be anything from batch cooking a few lunches and dinners throughout the week, saving leftovers from dinner for lunch the next day, to even preparing all your meals for the week in one-go.
Meal prepping does require a change in approach to get used to, but with a bit of planning can help to bring weight loss rewards.
Why does meal prep help you lose weight
Many of us simply lose track of how many calories we drink and eat, causing us to put on extra weight. As a result, activities such as structured meal plans and food diaries that help you keep track of your food have been shown to help you lose weight by making you more aware of the calories you are consuming.2,3 Meal prep can serve a similar purpose. It helps you think about what and how much you are eating, making it easier to stick to a healthy diet .
The other advantage to using meal prep recipes for weight loss is that it can help you avoid making unhealthy eating choices throughout the day.
Heard that old adage you should never shop hungry? Planning every meal off the cuff can have the same effect. You let your tummy do the thinking, rather than your head. If you make snap decisions throughout the day, those unhealthy choices can quickly lead to calories adding up.
Meal prep for weight loss avoids this happening because your meal choices are planned out in advance. So, you can choose nutritious healthy options that keep you on track for weight loss.
Save time and money with weekly meal prep
It’s not just your waistline that will see the benefit of meal prepping, you’ll also save time and money. Meal prep for weight loss on a budget is a great option, as you’ll be able to make savings by cooking budget friendly meals in bulk rather than buying or preparing individual meals.
Meal prep can also save you time. While meal prep will require you to be organised with your time upfront, over the course of a week you’ll find yourself saving time as you don’t have to cook each meal individually. Even taking the decision-making over what to have for each meal can be a relief.
How to meal prep for weight loss
There are lots of different ways to meal prep. Some people choose to prepare all the meals in one go, often on a sunday, while others will make extra portions throughout the week.
No matter what your approach, a good place to start is to make a plan. List out all the meals you want to prep in advance in the week, and make a shopping list of ingredients. This will help you both plan your shopping and give you an overview of all the meals you have planned.
This is important as to eat healthy you need a variety of different meals to get a balance of different food groups. Getting the right balance of foods will help you to maximise the effect of using meal prep to lose weight.4
Pre-prepared ingredients: The simplest way of meal prepping is to prepare your ingredients in advance. This might mean cutting all your veg in one go, marinating meat, or preparing a sauce in advance. This means when it comes to cooking you can add in your ingredients with no prep time needed.
Individual meals made in advance: A common approach used for lunches when on-the-go is to prepare a meal and place it in an individual container ready-to-go. When it comes to meal time, simply pop open the container and you’re set.
Batch cooking: Cooking a large batch of one meal, then saving excess portions to be eaten later. Common batch cooked meals include lasagnes, soups or stews. These can then be stored in the fridge as easy meal options to quickly re-heat.
How to store your meal prep
Opening your work bag to find your healthy soup sloshing loose at the bottom of your bag can be a disappointing start to your day. Luckily, there are lots of storage options to prevent your meal prep from becoming ‘free-range’.
- Plastic food containers: Great for a meal on the go, most people use plastic food containers to store their lunches. When choosing a plastic food container it is worth checking in advance to see if it can be used in a microwave.
- Glass food containers: If you are looking for a more durable material and to cut down on your plastic use, there are glass options. Another advantage of glass is it is less likely to stain than plastic when using spices, such as turmeric.
- Vacuum Flasks: Fancy a hot soup for those cold winter days? Then a vacuum flask could be what you’re after. The vacuum will keep your soup hot, while the tight seal will keep your soup safe
- Mason jars: If you’re keeping your food at home the humble mason jar is an old classic. Great for storing pre-prepared ingredients that you want to cook later, and an ideal way to keep your kitchen cupboards organised.
- Beeswax cloth: For pre-prepared meals that don’t have a sauce or a dressing, such as sandwiches or slices of cauliflower cake, then a sustainable alternative to tin foil or cling-film is fabric soaked in beeswax. And, when they reach the end of their life they make a cracking firestarter. These can be bought or easily made at home
- Bento boxes: A Bento box is a traditional container used commonly in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and other Asian cultures. It has multiple sections to allow you to store several ingredients without them mixing. Ideal for rice or noodle dishes.
Healthy meal prep ideas for weight loss
Almost any meal can have elements prepared in advance. The best option when choosing meal prep recipes for weight loss is to choose recipes that are healthy and that you like. You are more likely to stick to your healthy eating plan if you enjoy what you are eating.
If you are looking for inspiration see below for some easy meal prep options:
People who eat breakfast are often slimmer as they tend to snack less throughout the day. This means when using meal prep for weight loss breakfast is an important meal to consider.
Overnight oats can be prepared the night before for a quick and energy boosting breakfast. Oats soaked in water or milk also reduce the cooking time for porridge if you prefer a hot breakfast. Alternatively, if you want to avoid prepping breakfast every night, you can bulk produce your own granola giving you a quick and easy breakfast for weeks.
If you’re out and about during the day meal prepping lunch will save you both time and money. Often, you can simply save left-overs from last night’s dinner. However, if you prefer a bit more variety, healthy meal prep recipes for lunch include chicken salad with brown rice, cauliflower cake or cold pesto pasta. Pesto can be bought, but is also surprisingly easy to make in bulk from scratch with fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil and a hard cheese (traditionally pecorino or parmesan).
Dinner is normally the meal you’ll have the greatest time to spend cooking for, so can be a good time to batch-cook lunches and breakfasts for other days.
However, if you’re short for time you might want to pre-prepare your ingredients earlier to reduce your cooking time. Alternatively, if you’re meeting up with friends after work or going to the gym then you might want to have an individual meal to hand.
Healthy meal prep recipes for dinner include oven roasted vegetables, such as onions, aubergines, peppers and sweet potato baked on a sheet pan. These can be chopped in advance and easily be saved for lunch the next day. Oven baked peppers can also be blended in a food processor with coriander, a sweet chilli sauce, garlic and a dash of vinegar to create a red pepper sauce that can be quickly combined with couscous or bulgur wheat.