Meal prep for weight loss — is it worth it? The short answer is yes, but, you are probably looking for more than the short answer, do not worry, we are about to dive headfirst into the world of healthy meal prep ideas for weight loss.
The word 'healthy' when it comes to food can bring up a lot of daunting feelings. It may feel like you are giving up the things you love most — chocolate, cheesecake, crisps — you know, all of the sugary goodness. However, while it may be somewhat tough at first, you will quickly see that eating clean does not mean you have to dread mealtimes and ultimately, completely dislike your food. Luckily for us, we live in an age where we have almost every type of edible substance we could ever fancy, right at our fingertips, meaning it is decidedly easier to cook up clean eating meals for weight loss in no time — and make them taste great too!
It is important to remember that meal prep should fit into your life, not the other way around. Preparing your meals for the week ahead of time is supposed to ensure you can maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout your busy week; you should never stress about it, prep on a day that suits you. The majority of people's weeks run from Monday to Sunday and so, they may choose to do all their meal prep on a Sunday. This may not work for you and that is completely and utterly fine! Pick a day that is most suited to you and go from there — again, fit it into your personal schedule.
Benefits of Weekly Meal Prep
There are a surprising amount of benefits for preparing your meals ahead of time for the next week — ready to be awed? Read on.
You will never have to spend each day pondering the thought of 'what should I have for dinner tonight?' and then spend an hour (or sometimes more) in the kitchen after a long day of work. Meal prep can be completed in just under a two-hour block of time that you set aside on your chosen day — then, you can leave the stove for the entire week because it is all sorted!
Preparing your meals for the whole week negates the temptation to order takeaway for convenience or go out to eat at a restaurant as you have your evening meal ready and waiting at home, which will be ready in a few microwavable minutes. Not only that, but it will save you a ton of money that would otherwise be spent on quick processed foods at a supermarket — truly a win-win experience.
Working long hours is tiring, there is no doubt about that. The last thing anyone wants to do after their shift is come home and have to decide what to cook themselves (or make any kind of decision really, you will have been doing that all day). Fortunately, meal prep cuts this out as you have prepared absolutely everything ahead of time meaning you will never have to come home and make decisions, just shove a pre-filled Tupperware container into the microwave.
Far Less Washing Up
Yes, granted, you will have a larger amount of washing up straight after your bulk cooking efforts, but that is the last of it for the week! You will only have a few small containers to tackle in the sink after arriving home for work which is far more manageable than a mountain of pots and pans from cooking each day.
Easily Add Variety
You can, of course, cook the same thing for months on end. If you are happy with that and it will satisfy you enough, then go for it. However, the majority of people (including us) like a bit of variety. We will talk about the sheer variety of meal prep recipes for weight loss later on but for now, just know that there are thousands upon thousands of various delicious meals you can prepare for yourself to keep you interested and stuck on your journey towards all your health and fitness goals.
Complete Control of What You Eat
Consistency is what will enable you to reach your goals and meal prep is guaranteed to give you exactly this. You will be able to control precisely how much of everything goes into each meal, right down to the amount of oil you use in the pan when cooking. This method allows you to easily measure calorie intake or calculate your macros (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) right down to the last gram.
How to Meal Prep for Weight Loss
Getting started with meal prep for weight loss can seem like an extremely difficult task. However, there are some tips and tricks that you can follow to make it a streamlined experience straight from the beginning.
Make a Plan
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail — we are sure you have heard this phrase before and it absolutely applies to meal prepping!
Make a shopping list ahead of time so you know exactly what you need before heading to the supermarket. For beginners, it is best to select two to three recipes and rotate them throughout the week — it will save you time as you will not need to cook a huge variety of different ingredients.
Be Prepared to Multi-Task
Efficiency should be one of the core values you uphold during your meal prep adventure. Do not be afraid to cook a multitude of ingredients at the same time.
Do Not Over Prepare
What do we mean by this? Well, be sure not to meal prep for too far into the future as a lot of your food will not last longer than 3-5 days in the fridge.
Remember, you can freeze some things so make use of this!
Use Appropriate Containers
As plastic Tupperware can give off potentially harmful chemicals once heated in the microwave, opt for glass receptacles instead. Not only will they keep your food tasting fresh for longer, but you will also be able to see precisely what is inside each one.
Pack Your Food Correctly
If you are making salads, for example, ahead of time, do not pour the dressing on the top as it will only force the leaves to go soggy and ultimately, rapidly lose their freshness. Instead, place your dressing at the bottom of the container and sprinkle the salad leaves on top.
Keep Your Goal at the Forefront of your Mind
Try not to lose sight of your goal (or goals) in amongst all your preparation. Remember why you are doing this and stick to the plan — it will help immensely when you struggle with craving a sharing bag of crisps.
Healthy Meal Prep Ideas
There are a whole plethora of healthy meal prep ideas for fat loss out all over the internet and in various books, so it can be difficult to know which ones to go for. Ideally, you will know how many calories you should be consuming to achieve your body goals, along with the exact grams of macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, protein). If you are unsure, here is how to calculate that:
Know Your Maintenance Calories
Your maintenance calories are calculated based on your age, height, weight, and lifestyle. This figure is the baseline intake you need to keep at your current weight. To help you decipher this, there are plenty of online calculators that are easy to use that will tell you within seconds how much you need to eat for maintenance.
Define Your Goals
After the above, you will need to determine what your goals are in terms of health, wellness, and fitness. If the desire is to lose weight, then you will need to be eating in a calorie deficit.
A lot of apps are available to help you decide how much less (calorie-wise) you need to be ingesting in order to shed the pounds. These provide a really efficient, free and simple way to obtain answers to questions that people ponder for months on end.
Once you are clued up on just how much you actually need to eat, then you can begin devising your weekly meal plan.
Universally, you should be searching for a plan that encompasses enough carbohydrates to stay energized and feeling full, protein to build muscle and improve metabolism, and essential fats from ingredients like nuts and rapeseed oil. On top of that, you must ensure that vegetables play a huge part in your diet as this is where all your vitamins and nutrients (that our body really needs!) will come from.
When you are just starting out, you do not need to go all out with your cooking. To begin with, start small and start simple. This way, you will not get bogged down in stressing about how to cook everything and will only have a few recipes to focus on. Like with everything — get the basics right before you tackle harder projects.
Achieving a plan that encompasses easy food prep for weight loss is well within your reach if you follow some of these 'go-to' recipes below that are sure to have you 'beach body ready' in no time.
Examples of Healthy Make Ahead Meals for Weight Loss
Trawling the web and leafing through recipe books to find the perfect meal plan takes a lot of time and effort. Fortunately for you, we have done that bit, so you don't have to!
Breakfast: - The most important meal of the day. Luckily, you can, in fact, prepare your morning meals ahead of time. Here are a couple of quick and easy ideas to get you started:
Make-Ahead Fruit and Yoghurt Cups
This is probably the quickest breakfast you will ever make and above all, it is tasty too!
Ingredients (for 4 servings)
- 1-2 cups of chopped fruit (this can be any selection that you desire — oranges, kiwi, strawberries, apples, bananas — anything!)
- Splash of lemon juice
- 11/2 cups of plain yogurt (Quark is your best choice)
- Place 3-5 tablespoons of fruit at the bottom of your chosen container.
- Layer the yogurt on next.
- Add more fruit on top of the yogurt.
- Seal them shut and pop them in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Optional: You could always add a layer of granola or some nuts to the top of these for an added crunch.
Peanut Butter and Banana Overnight Oats
Overnight oats are featured heavily in so many health blogs because of the fact they are genuinely brilliant breakfasts and super effortless to make. This version is ultra tasty due to the favorite combo of peanut butter and banana.
Ingredients (for 1 serving, incredibly easy to scale up)
- 1/3 or 1/2 cup rolled oats (Quaker, ideally)
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 banana
- 1/2 milk (use skimmed milk for weight loss)
- Chop the banana into tiny pieces.
- Place all the ingredients into a mason jar (or any container really).
- Shake, shake and shake until it is all combined.
- Place it into the fridge while you sleep.
- In the morning, take it out and it is all ready to eat!
Optional: You could swap the chia seeds out for flaxseeds, it would work just as well.
Within your meal prep plan, you are going to need to eat lunch at some point. So, we have compiled a couple of simple recipes for you to make before you need them.
Chicken Fajita Lunch Bowls (makes 4)
- 2 chicken breasts
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 cup rice (measure this before you cook it)
- 2 bell peppers (slice these however you would like)
- 2 tbsp red onion (dice it, then measure)
- 1 cup sweetcorn (doesn't matter when you measure this)
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tbsp sugar (this is optional if you don't want to cut out any of the spice)
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp vinegar
- Turn the oven on to 425.
- Put the chicken into a baking dish (or on a tray).
- Sprinkle some salt, pepper and olive oil over them both.
- Once the oven has heated up, cook for the chicken in there for 10 minutes.
- Turn chicken.
- Bake again for 10 minutes.
- Slice the breasts once they have cooled.
- While this is happening, you can cook the rice — just follow the directions on the packet for this.
- Put the rice, bell peppers, onion and sweetcorn into a big bowl.
- Combine the vinegar, lime juice, chili powder, olive oil, sugar, and lime juice in a separate bowl.
- Once that has combined, mix it in with the vegetables.
- Split the chicken and vegetable mix between 4 containers.
- Put them all in the fridge until you are ready to eat them.
Carrot and Ginger Soup (makes 6)
For this one, you will need an instant crockpot. You can purchase them pretty cheaply on Amazon if you do not have one already.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion (chop this up)
- 2 cloves of garlic (dice this up into extremely small pieces)
- 2 tbsp ginger (grate it)
- 5 cups carrots (peel them all and cut them into whatever shapes you please)
- 900ml vegetable broth
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- Scattering of thyme
- 400ml coconut milk
- Lime juice (best if you freshly squeeze it)
- Put the onion and olive oil into your instant pot.
- Set it to the sauteé mode.
- Leave that for 5-6 minutes.
- Place the garlic and ginger into the pot.
- Cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Switch the sauté function off.
- Put the carrots, salt, pepper, and stock into the instant pot.
- Place the lid onto the pot.
- Turn it to the sealed position.
- Cook on high pressures for approximately 5 minutes.
- Once the time is up, release the pressure.
- Pour it all into a blender.
- Blend until smooth.
- Put the coconut milk and lime juice into the mix.
- Stir until combined.
Voila! You are all ready to divide it up and eat it for your lunch for the next week!
It is important that your evening meals are for weight loss too. They should be light but filling — ideally, you do not want to be feeling heavy before you go to bed.
Honey Baked Salmon Bowls (makes 3 to 4)
- 3 or 4 salmon fillets
- 1/2 cup bbq sauce (for weight loss, you will need the low or no sugar type)
- Honey to taste
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- Scattering of black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
- Dash of salt
- 1 cup rice (measure this before you cook it)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium courgettes (these should be spiralized but, you can just thinly chop them)
- A few lemon segments
- 1oz pumpkin seeds
- Turn the oven on to 400.
- Put some foil into a baking tray.
- Place the bbq sauce, spices and honey into a bowl.
- Mix this up.
- Spread this bbq mixture equally over the salmon fillets.
- Bake the salmon in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. You will have to check the once 8 minutes have passed to ensure you do not overcook them.
- Once cooked, cut the salmon into chunks.
- Adhere to the instructions on the packaging of the rice and cook accordingly.
- Lightly fry the courgette.
- Now you have everything cooked, place 1/3 cup of rice into each container.
- Add 3 oz of salmon on top.
- Put 1 cup of courgette alongside the salmon.
- Then, add some pumpkin seeds.
- You can brush some extra bbq sauce on the top of everything if you wish.
Garlic Kale Pasta (makes 4)
- 1/2 lb kale
- 1/2 spaghetti
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 garlic cloves (finely chop these)
- 1/4 cup grated cheese (whichever hard cheese you prefer)
- Scattering of salt and pepper
Optional: Add in some chili flakes.
Second optional addition: Cook some chicken and add this in afterward, depending on your caloric needs.
- Make sure you tear the kale leaves off of their stems.
- Chop the leaves into small pieces.
- Rinse under the tap in a colander or sieve.
- Boil a pan of water on the stove.
- Break each spaghetti piece in half.
- Place in the boiling water.
- Cook for 7 minutes.
- Place the olive oil, butter, and garlic into a frying pan.
- Cook for just 2 minutes.
- Put the kale in this frying pan.
- Sauté until it has wilted, this should take between 5 and 7 minutes.
- Take the pan off the heat.
- Add the cooked (and drained) pasta into the pan with the kale.
- Mix together.
- Allow it to cool slightly.
- Crack some black pepper and grind salt into it.
- Sprinkle the parmesan over this.
- Combine all this together.
Note: If you are using the chili flake option, add these last.
You may find that your calorie allowance enables you to snack between meals. Remember, these should still be healthy!
A good idea is to try munching on carrot sticks, cucumber slices or eat an apple. Depending on your goals, you may be able to have a protein shake between meals — these are incredibly filling and you will need to ask a personal trainer or dietician whether or not they are necessary on your fitness journey.
By now, you will hopefully be ready to commit to your health, fitness and body dreams and desires by successfully preparing your meals ahead of time. Do not worry if it all still seems daunting — it was for everyone at first! — Just remember to stick to your plan and trust the process. We believe in you. You will succeed!