What Is Meal Prep and How Do You Do It?
In addition to items like wearable devices and nutritional supplements, today’s most popular fitness trends include a focus on healthy living. From positive sleep habits to regular blood pressure checks, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is about so much more than active exercise.
Meal preparation — preparing entire entrees ahead of schedule to save time — is another important strategy in both fitness and effective scheduling. Not only will you save time when dinner rolls around; you’ll also be less likely to deviate from your healthy eating habits when you know you already have a meal prepared.
What Is Meal Prep?
By cooking your dishes ahead of time, meal preparation helps you save time, money, and resources. Typically, individuals who practice meal preparation will reserve a time of the week specifically for all aspects of the meal creation process, including ingredient preparation, cooking, meal packaging, and kitchen cleanup.
After meals have been prepared, you will create adequate portions and package them individually. When mealtime arrives, you’ll only need to remove your prepared meal from the refrigerator or the freezer, heat appropriately, and enjoy. During any given meal preparation period, you can typically create anywhere from three to seven full meals.
The Benefits of Meal Prep
The practice of meal preparation offers a wide variety of benefits. Some individuals meal-prep because it allows them to save time. Others practice meal preparation because it forces them to stick to a schedule, without allowing them to eat out more than they should. No matter why you meal-prep, you’ll become the recipient of some powerful perks.
The benefits to meal preparation include:
- Convenient, ready-to-go entree options during mealtime;
- More time reserved for other items on your schedule;
- Extra encouragement to stick to meals that suit your fitness strategies;
- Reduced waste that you would have generated from daily cooking;
- Easier budgeting and shorter shopping lists.
If cooking every day isn’t a possibility for you, meal prep is a valuable tool that allows you to save time and money. Meal prep also allows you to enjoy home-cooked meals, while freeing up your schedule to enjoy an active social life.
If you’re currently in the middle of a hCG diet or other wellness routine, meal prep offers extra benefits. Preparing meals ahead of time allows you to virtually eliminate the temptation to compromise your healthy eating habits.
People often use meal prep in tandem with clean eating because of a shared focus on healthy ingredients. This strategy offers you health-conscious food at your fingertips. Compatible with a variety of weight-loss diets, fitness routines, and everyday schedules, meal preparation restores your control over your eating habits.
Types of Meal Prep Methods
For some, meal prep is an effective weight loss strategy. Others meal prep to save time and money. Maybe meal preparation reduces the likelihood that you risk your diet with an unhealthy, mid-week fast-food meal. Different meal preparation methods accommodate different people, with different schedules and dietary needs.
Individual meal-prep methods include the following options:
- Make-ahead meals are fully prepared meals, which are prepared well before you plan on eating them. This method is particularly popular with individuals who mainly meal-prep their dinners.
- Ready-to-cook ingredient meals require the preparation of specific ingredients ahead of time. This meal prep method doesn’t require you to prepare full meals ahead of time. Instead, you prepare individual ingredients, typically items that you know will take a large amount of time to prepare once cooking begins.
- Batch cooking means meal prepping a single recipe in large quantities. After the recipe is prepared in a large amount, it is portioned into single meals, and packaged for future consumption.
- Individually segmented meals require fresh ingredients, and allow you to segment individual meals for refrigeration. This method takes less time than batch cooking, and is perfect for anyone looking to expedite the lunch preparation process.
These meal preparation strategies help you spend more time eating — and less time cooking — daily.
Foods That Are Good for Meal Prepping
When you are preparing meals, it helps to know which foods are eligible for meal prep. Certain foods are viable options and others are not. The nature of some ingredients makes them easier to store for longer periods. However, other food items are more difficult to freeze or refrigerate.
Foods that are easy to meal-prep include:
- Certains types of meat, including chicken and ground beef;
- Some cheeses;
- Many types of soup;
- Quinoa and brown rice;
- Fresh fruits, including bananas and apples;
- Fresh vegetables, including carrots and kale.
Some ingredients, including fish and roasted vegetables, are delicious when you eat them immediately after preparation but cannot be safely stored for long. Fortunately, the above food items can last an entire week as long as they are stored at correct temperatures.
Meal Prep Tips and Considerations
Seasoned meal prep experts understand exactly which ingredients work well, which foods items store well, and how to save time and money during the meal prep process. To expedite the meal prep learning curve and prepare your meals like a pro, follow the below meal prep tips:
- Choose correct container sizes for your meals to avoid taking up excess space in a refrigerator or freezer. Containers that are too large also leave room for air or frost, which can compromise the overall taste or quality of your meals.
- Research recipes ahead of time to determine recipes and individual ingredients that play well in a meal prep environment.
- Identify correct meal storage temperatures to ensure that your meals are correctly stored and don’t expire before you eat them.
- Practice safe reheating habits when getting ready to eat your prepared meals. This means heating foods for the correct amounts of time, covering foods while you reheat them, and ensuring that your plastic containers are microwave safe before heating them.
- Track how well your meals stayed fresh during storage to prioritize meals that retained their taste during subsequent meal prep periods.
- Buy ingredients in bulk to make it easier to prepare meals in bulk during cooking periods.
These tips can help you routinely find success while preparing meals. Whether you’re looking to save money, preserve your diet, or spend less time in the kitchen, meal preparation can teach you a new skill and help you develop a better relationship with the foods you eat.