The beginners guide to meal prep for weight loss

Learn step-by-step how to get started with meal prep to lose weight and eat healthy

Organisation and planning can help solve most problems that arise from trying to live a healthy lifestyle in the busy, convenient and confusing time we live in. Being organised and planning meals ahead of time is a tried-and-tested way to make better food choices. Choosing food when you’re hangry/in a rush/on the road can easily lead to overeating and less than ideal meals.

Research in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine of 1319 adults found a greater amount of time spent on home food preparation was associated with a higher diet quality, including the intake of significantly more vegetables, salads and fruits. It found those who spent less than an hour per day on food preparation spent significantly more money on food away from home and frequently ate fast food in comparison to those who spent more time on food prep.  

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Meal prep is the epitome of food organisation. Because most people don’t have an hour to spend on food preparation every day, it makes sense to prep things in bulk in one or two days to save that time throughout the week. Meal prep is one of the most effective tools I’ve found to date to lose weight and eat better.

Successful meal prep is an art form, like when mums have seven different components of Sunday dinner ready and piping hot at the exact same time. If you don’t go in with a plan of attack, you can easily waste hours reading recipes and waiting for certain ingredients to cook. When starting out as a meal prep novice, stick to these guidelines:

  • Keep it simple: Start by prepping snacks or a single meal like breakfast for the week. Once you’re comfortable with that, try making two different recipes at once. Trying to prepare a week’s worth of food in one day is a mammoth task, build up to it. 
  • Get organised: don’t go in with a few Pinterest recipes in mind. Sit down and take 10 minutes to build out a plan. Download or write out a meal plan and see what you need. It’ll save you a tonne of time in the long run and make the process run much more smoothly. 
  • Choose wisely: not all recipes are meal prep friendly. Logically think about what the ingredients you’re putting together will look and taste like after a few days spent together in the fridge. Reheatable dishes are perfect for meal prep. Whereas many salads, rice paper rolls and cauliflower pizzas are best eaten straight away. 
Here are seven simple steps to start meal prepping: 

Search

Spend a few minutes searching for a few easy, meal prep-friendly recipes that are within your cooking skill level and price range. Pinterest is a great place to find and organise different recipes, especially ones for meal prep (my boards are jam packed with healthy meal prep ideas). Start off simple. Begin with one or two meals at a time. There’s SO much of information about this in the Meal Prep challenge. Sign up below. 

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Plan

Once you’ve decided on which recipes you’d like to eat during the week, make a physical plan. If you’re a paper person, print out a meal plan (like the one in the free Shape University Resource Library), fill out the meals you plan to prep and when you’ll eat them. Hang it on the fridge or somewhere in the kitchen. If you’re a tech lady, save a copy to your smart device for easy reference. I use the free app MyFitnessPal to plan my meal prep. There’s a tutorial on exactly how to do this in the Meal Prep challenge.

Count

If weight loss is your goal, it’s a great idea to get an estimate of the amount of energy (calories) that are in a serving of the recipes you’ve chosen to cook. It doesn’t have to be exact, but having a ballpark figure will only benefit you. The best thing about meal prepping is you only have to count calories once to know the energy content of each meal. This is a huge time saver when you prepare 6-8 servings at a time. Be wary of misinformation if you’re using online tools to count calories such as MyFitnessPal, try to stick to verified foods and take note of serving sizes. 

Shop

Write down ALL the ingredients you need for the recipes you’ve chosen. Yes, all of them. Then physically make sure the ingredients you think you already have are in your fridge or cupboard (or garden). There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a recipe and realising you’re missing a crucial ingredient.To save money, choose recipes that have similar ingredients so you can buy them in bulk. To save time, arrange your list in groups such as produce, meat, deli, frozen and pantry. Many grocery store’s websites or apps have a shopping list feature, some even tell what aisle the ingredients are in!

Organise

Once you’ve got all the ingredients, spend a few minutes considering which steps of your recipes will take the most time. Look at the common ingredients between the recipes you’re preparing. If you need brown rice for two recipes, make sure you cook enough for both in the one pot. If you need onion for two dishes, chop both at the same time. Meal prepping can quickly turn from time-saving to time-consuming without a plan of attack. 

Cook

Now that you’ve got the ingredients planned, it’s time start chopping, slow cooking, baking, boiling and whatever else your chosen recipes call for. Start with the most time-consuming dishes first. If a soup takes an hour to simmer, get that on the stove first. If vegetables take 45 minutes to roast, throw them in the oven as early as possible. That way you can use that cooking time to begin preparing other ingredients or recipes. If time permits, allow the food to cool before storing. 

Store

The way you store your meal prepped goodies is super important. Containers are generally the easiest way to store food.  It’s helpful if they’re the same shape so you can stack them in the fridge. No containers? No worries. Place food portions in separate bowls or on plates and cover. That way it’s ready to heat and eat. You can also store ingredients in separate containers and combine just before eating – this is perfect for salads. Many recipes like curry, stew, soup and stir-fry can also be frozen. Vegetarian recipes are great for meal prep because they tend to last long than their meat-containing counterparts. 

Happy meal prepping!

As part of the free meal prep challenge, you’ll learn:

Day 1: How to get started with meal prep
Day 2: How to achieve lasting weight loss with meal prep
Day 3: The secret to planning for a successful meal prep
Day 4: Meal prepping with MyFitnessPal tutorial
Day 5: Meal prep myths people fall for
Day 6: Exactly how to save $3600 a year with meal prep
Day 7: 5 ways to save time when meal prepping

So what are you waiting for? Become a meal prepper today. Sign up below!

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