Why Meal Prep Is Great For Weight Loss
Preparing meals enables you to have a meal ready when hunger strikes. This is key when trying to lose weight or live a healthy lifestyle. Another benefit of learning to prepare meals is that it’s a life skill – you’ll be able to keep the weight off and learn to prepare delicious meals for yourself! Meal planing is about finding ways of being efficient, deciding what you like to eat, and most important of all, what your goals are. For the purposes of this guide, I will assume you want to begin prepping meals with the goal of losing weight. As with anything, practice makes perfect, and it may take a few weeks of trial and error – so it’s important to know that nothing is set in stone: this includes recipes, measurements, day of the week you meal prep, how many meals you make, etc. My aim here is to show you how I started preparing meals and give you an idea of how easy this is. Ultimately, my goal is to motivate you, get you to the grocery store, and have you make some lunches for work!
Where to start?
What do you like to eat? asking yourself this question is a good place to start. Some of you are probably answering along the lines of “everything” right now, but don’t worry, you are not alone. A few years ago, I sat down and wrote a list of my favorite meals. My list was something similar to this:
- Egg and Sausage Burritos
- Soups (Chili, beef stews, Meatball, etc)
- Teriyaki Bowls
- Grilled Meat
- Soups (Chili, beef stews, Meatball, etc)
- Teriyaki Bowls
- Chips with Hot Sauce
- Ice Cream
- Chocolate Bars
I highly encourage you to make a list of meals you like eating, even if you think they are super-fattening. Something I learned early on is that most meals can be made “healthy” by substituting only a few ingredients. The important thing here is to list out your favorite meals to begin planning. Making a “favorite meals” list to begin with is a good idea because this plan is about YOU. What we are trying to accomplish here is a meal plan, not for 20 million Americans – but for YOU. One of the reasons people don’t stick with diet programs is that most meals aren’t appetizing to them. Sure, they will enjoy 5 or 6 meals out of 20 that a company offers, but those quickly become boring and unpleasant to eat. Also, by listing down some of your favorite meals, you will get an overview of what ingredients and food prep containers you will need. Don’t worry if your list is big – you don’t need to make them all your first week!
Your Lunch At Work
After making a handy list of meals you’ve committed to eating for the rest of your life (just kidding), take a look and see which are some lunch meals that you think are easy to make. I highly suggest you start by bringing lunch to work a few times a week, and move on to full-time status from there. In my experience, lunch at work has the most likely chance of being the most fattening meal of your day. This is because of habit – we get busy with work, lose track of time, and come lunchtime, it’s easy to go to the lunch truck, the nearest taco stand, or burger joint for a quick bite to eat. Do this five times a week for several months and the fat can really add up in our waist. I used to have this mentality of “I worked hard this morning, so i’ll get that double bacon cheeseburger as a reward”, only to go back and sit in a chair the rest of the afternoon. I finally figured out there was no need for that. Personally, I eat my meal during a 15 minute break, and actually use my 30 to 60 minute lunch by going out for a walk. Not only does this help with losing weight, but it’s awesome getting out of the office for some fresh air, putting headphones on, and enjoying music. If you are seeking a good meal to start prepping for, the work lunch is my personal favorite to tackle first.
When I first started bringing lunch to work, I brought sandwiches, baked chips and fruit because that was the simplest for me. My sandwiches where made at home, but I quickly discovered it was tastier to bring the ingredients separately, and put the sandwich together at work. The baked chips were a nutritional upgrade to the french fries or regular potato chips I was having. Baked chips still help me to this day, as I still have cravings for that crunch and hot sauce. If you strongly crave certain things, there is no magic pill or formula that will eliminate that craving. There is no sense in beating yourself up based on something that you like and enjoy. Instead, look for something “healthier” that can assist with the craving, and once in a while, treat yourself to the real thing. As long as you have it in moderation, it should be okay. Fruit is also a great alternative if you crave sweets – I would have some after my sandwich as dessert. Have you had mango lately? how about some melon slices? Cutting some veggies and having them with some low-fat dressing or hummus was a real good snack I made as well. Start simple, and you will grow from there. I recommend you resist the temptation of purchasing containers and lunch bags first – most people will find the basic containers to start with in their kitchen. After having a week or two of meal prepping experience under your belt, you will have a better idea of what type of containers and lunch bag to get. The exception to this rule is if you absolutely have zero containers at home, then yes, you need some. The point here is to start simple, try out some lunch meal ideas, and figure out your container needs – then purchase the right gear for you.
How about Dinner and Breakfast?
For me, breakfast was the easiest meal to prepare for. Actually, breakfast most of the time for me was coffee and a pastry. This ranged from donuts, bagels, and anything else sold in the vending machine or local coffee shop. I was not a cream cheese kind of guy, but I ended up buying a bag of whole-grain bagels and having them with peanut butter to start off with. This was easy because I would just keep a peanut butter container at work. Currently, I bring omelettes, boiled eggs, oatmeal, pancakes and breakfast burritos! For all the egg stuff, I purchased an egg maker. I can make any type of egg in less than 10 minutes, so it’s great in the mornings while you make coffee. Egg, bean and cheese burritos are also real simple to make ahead of time, and freeze them. There are many articles on this, and I will make one soon enough – they are awesome.
If you are just beginning to meal prep, concentrate on making meals while you are away – breakfast and lunch, for example. For dinner, most of us are already home and can prepare something healthy while we are there. One behavior I had to change was waiting in the fast food drive-thru line for 30 minutes every night. One day, I realized that not only was I making my commute 30 minutes longer going home, I wasn’t treating my body well by eating fast food! We might think that cooking and meal prepping at home takes more of our free time, but if you add up all the time we actually take to get “fast” food, you’ll realize it’s not as fast as you think. One of the first changes I made was picking out the “healthiest” of fast food out there going home, and then trying to make those meals at home as I got better with cooking. For example, there are these locations called “Flame Broiler” where I live, they focus on charbroiled chicken and beef bowls. I would pick some of those up after work when I first started, and then eventually make my own bowls at home for dinner. Making dinner at home can be real tiring, so if you need to start by picking up healthy fast food meals then do so. As you get better with meal prepping and cooking, you’ll soon realize that prepping dinner meals is just as easy.
Start your Meal Prep Journey
Hopefully this gives you an idea of how to start your meal prepping adventure. Remember, no one ever woke up one day and became a master chef – it takes practice and patience. You’ll spoil some food because you made too much, or you will sometimes be short a meal or two for the week. That’s perfectly fine, it’s how we learn, and you will get better. Once you develop the habit of preparing healthier meals, you’ll soon start seeing a difference in your weight. Once you’ve gotten the hang of meal prepping, slowly move on to making more recipes so that you don’t get tired of the same thing. Keep a notebook of recipes you liked, and forget the ones you didn’t like. Research which ingredients are bad for you, like butter and mayo, and substitute for their healthier alternative, which almost always exists. Get started this week making some lunches for this coming work week, starting is half the battle. The hardest part is starting, so just start, learn and adjust from there. Happy meal prepping, drop me a comment below if you have any questions or comments. Thanks!