benefits of meal prep | Steps to successful meal planning | Preparation | Mushrooms on a Sourdough Toast | Beetroot Hummus & Tortilla Chips | Strawberry Ice cream | Sweet Potato & Chickpea Curry
Have you been trying to lose weight? Counting calories, watching out for sugar, eating at a specific time?
All of that is great, but… what if I told you that meal prep can play a huge contributing factor to your weight loss success?
In fact, I’ve seen many of my clients losing weight after having implemented a regular routine of meal prepping!
Interested to hear how? Keep reading and I’ll share with you all the tips and secrets about meal prep for weight loss: what it is, how meal prep helps you to keep control of your food and how to implement it to your routine, even if it seems you have no time.
What is meal prep and how to meal prep for weight loss?
Meal prep is the concept of preparing your meals ahead of schedule.
Studies show that people planning their meals are more likely to have better dietary quality, including a higher adherence with nutritional guidelines as well as an increased food variety.
So yes, meal prep for weight loss is a thing!
Benefits of meal prep
1. Meal prep supports your weight loss goals
Evidence indicates that meal planning was associated with lower odds of being obese in men and women. How come?
When you plan your meals ahead of time, you are in better control of the portions, the composition of your meals and the energetic value. This is particularly handy if you follow a set meal plan.
As you meal prep in advance, you are more likely to stick to your weight loss goals and won’t be tempted to snack or get a late-night takeaway. Want some proof?
I had a client who had been struggling to lose weight for a few months. She would always start a new diet every other month, stick to it for a few days and then go back to her old habits.
When we started working together, I realized that her way to ‘‘dieting’’ was to be strict for 2-3 days and then allow herself to have takeaways a few times per week. It came as no surprise that the lack of results was due to a lack of structure and consistency.
We started working on building a meal plan that would fit her food preferences and lifestyle so that she could eat delicious and nutritious foods every day and have a social life as well. As she started liking how she felt – proud, in control and lighter – meal planning became part of her healthy routine and she lost the weight gradually without even thinking about it.
“ As you meal prep in advance, you are more likely to stick to your weight loss goals and won’t be tempted to snack or get a late night takeaway. “
2. Meal prep reduces stress
When you’ve spent the whole day making decisions at work and you’re still feeling the stress from all you’ve endured, I bet the last thing you want is having to figure out something healthy to eat.
In most cases, you will end up grabbing a quick takeaway on your way home.
Imagine if you could come home to a delicious meal? How much pressure would this take off your shoulders?
3. Meal prep helps you hit your nutritional requirements
Have you noticed that you tend to eat the same things over and over again?
Every day, you need to consume a variety of different foods to meet your nutritional requirements for your body to function optimally.
Some of the most common nutrient deficiencies are vitamin D, iodine, B12 and iron, which cannot always be replaced by just taking a supplement. This is because nutrients are most potent when they come from real food.
Plus, real foods contain other nutrients and fibre. Meal prep will help you visualise the rainbow of food.
Now, what does meal prep have to do with weight loss? Whole foods are nutritionally dense and increase the feeling of fullness, which can help manage your hunger.
On the other hand, if you regularly consume low-nutrient and processed foods, you may feel hungrier and you might end up grazing all day.
A high micronutrient density diet mitigates the unpleasant aspects of the experience of hunger, even when it is lower in calories.
4. Meal prep saves your time, money and helps you avoid waste
Three years ago, I was addicted to meal delivery services.
Even though I was mostly ordering nutritionally-balanced meals, I was still spending a humongous amount of money on takeaways.
Guess what? Recently I calculated how much I spent that year, and it was a staggering $1,600 (for about three takeaways per week)!
If I was not ordering online, I was running to the supermarket before closing to buy whatever was left, which created a lot of frustration when I wasn’t able to find what I wanted.
And when I did take the time to get all my groceries at the weekend without a plan, I would wander through the aisles for hours looking for exciting foods.
And you know what usually happens in these situations: you just remember the conversation you had with your friend about beetroot, so you decide to buy it despite having no idea how to cook it… and unfortunately, at the end of the week, you’re throwing it away because it has gone off. Sound familiar?
Meal prep teaches you to think twice about your shopping decisions, making your waistline, wallet and Planet Earth happy!
5. Meal prep boosts your self-esteem and confidence
There is a huge satisfaction coming from looking after yourself and taking back control of what you feed your body.
You know the feeling when you get excited about a meal you prepared the night before because not only does it taste good, but it is also super colorful and balanced?
When you meal prep, you infuse loving energy into the food you eat. This form of self-love will boost your motivation and support your meal prep for weight loss efforts.
8 Steps to successful meal planning
1. Define your motivation
The advice I give my clients is to always start by determining your ‘’why’’.
Too often, we fail to stick to a plan because our why is not strong enough.
For example, if you want to meal prep for weight loss, ask yourself: what will losing weight help you achieve in your life?
Maybe it’s fitting into that old pair of jeans? Maybe it’s a preventative measure because you’re concerned about cardiovascular diseases in your family? Or maybe you want to take up sports again?
“ Too often, we fail to stick to a plan because our why is not strong enough. “
2. Build it up slowly step by step
Your meal prep or meal plan will differ based on food preferences, cooking ability, schedules and personal goals. No matter how you do it, the most important it has to be easy enough to fit into your lifestyle.
Always start small and build it up. Depending on your current skills and situation, you could:
If you eat takeout several nights a week, start by choosing one day a week when you will be creating your food shopping list and hitting the grocery store.
If you already have a regular schedule of food shopping with basic cooking skills, choose one day a week when you will be doing most of the cooking and/or trying a new recipe.
If you already cook some weekday meals for you and your family, allocate one day to create your menu for the week. This saves you from having to decide at the last minute what to make and ensures you have the necessary ingredients on hand.
3. Get the right tools for meal prep
There is nothing more frustrating than having all the meals ready and not having anywhere to store them.
And no, using the same container every day won’t work.
Here are my suggestions for the tools you’ll need:
4. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables
This is going to cut down your cooking time by 50%!
But what about the nutrients? Most frozen fruits and vegetables are picked right before peak ripeness so they contain a lot more nutrients than supermarket quality fruits and veggies, which are picked 2-3 weeks before peak ripeness to allow time for transportation etc.
Plus, buying frozen fruits and veggies allow you to have more variety in your meals and saves your money.
Of course, if feasible, you should go for seasonal and farmer’s market quality, but hey, frozen is better than no fruit or veggies at all.
5. Add color to your meals
Have you ever heard of the expression ‘’eat the rainbow’’?
And no, this concept is not only intended for beautiful Instagram pictures. Colors in fruit and vegetables have specific nutritional benefits.
For example, red is usually associated with the presence of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues. Isn’t nature beautiful?
To give you a bit of guidance, you should aim for 4-5 colors for each meal. Spices and herbs count as well.
How can ‘’eating the rainbow’’ help in maintaining weight loss?
Well, first of all, colorful foods mean different nutrients and if you meet your daily nutrient requirements, you won’t feel as hungry as if you keep eating the same food.
Additionally, Harvard University researchers showed that flavonoids found in blueberries, strawberries, apples, pears, oranges, tea and herbs have been linked to weight loss – just saying…
Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t have to be fancy and expensive – start by adding some black pepper and thyme to your potatoes, or sprinkling thyme on your mushrooms.
6. Prepare your kitchen and environment to help you succeed
We all react to our environment and being constantly bombarded by ads trigger specific behavior.
In fact, studies suggest that food advertisement exposure may encourage obesogenic-eating behaviors.
Though we cannot control what’s in the media, we can control our direct environment – in particular, our kitchen.
Here are a few tips to create an environment that will align with your goals:
#1 Clean kitchen
Make sure everything is where it is supposed to be. Chaos in the kitchen creates chaos in your mind.
Think of it – if you spend hours looking for oats or clean cutlery, frustration will creep up and you may end up getting a croissant on your way to work.
#2 Pre-cut veggies
Make sure that the first thing you see when you open your fridge is one or two containers with pre-cut or pre-cooked veggies you can easily use for salad or throw in a frying pan.
#3 Frozen veggies
As discussed previously, make sure to stock up on frozen veggies and berries. You can keep them all year long without having to fear of running out.
7. Plan your week and your meals in advance
Even if you don’t know anything about nutrition, if you simply make time to sit down for ten minutes every week and plan out a week’s worth of healthy meals, you’ll still be far ahead of a lot of people who may be very knowledgeable in terms of nutrition and cooking skills but not doing anything about it.
The idea here is that you don’t need to be a nutritionist or a chef to plan your meals. You just need to…wait for it… do it.
Consistency is what will make it easier over time. You will learn new skills, new recipes, new tricks and before you know it, you will be meal prepping like a pro!
8. Practise self-love
Things are going to get out of control sometimes, because life happens.
So whenever you are feeling like you want to quit, always refer back to the reason you started this in the first place. And the reason should always be about how it’s going to make you feel.
For example, if you want to meal prep for weight loss because you want to wear your favourite pair of jeans, ask yourself: how is that pair of jeans going to make me feel?
Hold on to that feeling. It is intrinsically connected to the idea of self-love.
To remember your ‘’why’’, I always tell my clients to write down their goals and strategies on a chalkboard and keep it somewhere visible in their kitchen.
My 4 All-time Favorite Meal Prep Ideas
Ready to start meal prepping for weight loss but not sure what to make?
Below are four of my all-time favorite recipes that keeps me on track.
Mushrooms on a Sourdough Toast
One of my favourite brunch dishes!
Mushrooms are high in vitamin D, which is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies. Farmers market-quality mushrooms are the most ideal as they have been exposed to the sun for a longer period of time, and boast a higher concentration of vitamin D.
Sourdough bread makes a great healthy option because it is fermented by using lactobacillus cultures, which are beneficial for the gut flora. If you are interested, other fermented foods include sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha.
- Start by pouring some extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chopped mushrooms and sweat for about 5 minutes (stirring occasionally).
- Add crushed garlic (optional) and sauté for about 15 minutes until mushrooms are browned and all liquid has evaporated.
- Add a bit of thyme and cream towards the end for extra flavor.
- Grill one thick slice of sourdough bread in the oven. To serve, sprinkle with fresh thyme and season with chili flakes and pepper.
Beetroot Hummus & Tortilla Chips
This easy ‘’aperitivo’’ will impress your guests and take only 15 minutes to prepare… and probably 5 minutes to enjoy.
Beetroot is a great source of folate, potassium, iron and vitamin C, hence it makes a great pre- or post-workout food.
It gives the hummus a sweet and tangy taste and even better, is also a good source of dietary fibre, which helps maintain proper bowel function and lower cholesterol levels, making it an ideal snack to support weight loss.
- 2 baby beetroots cooked
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 1/3 tsp coriander
- 1/2 can chickpeas
- 1 tsp chopped garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 pinch of sea salt
- Add in all the ingredients into your blender and blend until you achieve a smooth consistency.
- If you like you can add a dash of extra virgin olive oil, and some chopped herbs like dill for flavor.
- Serve with homemade tortilla chips (which can be made simply by cutting tortillas into wedges and baking in the oven for 10 minutes).
Strawberry Ice Cream
Bananas and strawberries together are a nutrient powerhouse!
A single scoop provides a healthy dose of vitamin C, B6, magnesium and potassium, and only 80 calories instead of the typical 130 you might find in commercial ice cream.
And, it consists of only two ingredients – super simple!
- 1 sliced and frozen banana
- 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
- Add frozen bananas and strawberries to your food processor and blend until smooth, which will take approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
- This can be enjoyed immediately as soft-serve, or placed in an airtight, freezer-safe container and frozen for at least 1 hour before scooping if you prefer firmer ice cream. Delicious!
Sweet Potato & Chickpea Curry with Cauliflower Rice
Despite what you might think, curry is one of the healthiest dishes you can eat, when prepared at home.
Curry reaps benefits from coconut milk, veggies such as vitamin A from sweet potatoes, protein from chickpeas, and anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and ginger.
Also, it is an excellent meal prep option, because you can make it last for days.
- 1 tbsp light olive oil
- 1 large red onion finely sliced
- 1 tbsp mild curry paste
- thumb-size piece fresh ginger grated
- 2 large sweet potatoes peeled and cut into large cubes
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 400 g chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 400 g chopped tomatoes
- 1 bunch fresh coriander
- tomato puree
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and fry, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until they turn soft. Add the curry paste and stir over the heat for a minute, then stir in the grated ginger and cook for a further minute.
- Add the sweet potato cubes, chickpeas, coconut milk, tomatoes & tomato purée. Stir well as you bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cover the pan, letting it simmer for 20-25 minutes until the sweet potato is tender.
- Stir in half the coriander. Serve the curry with cauliflower rice and sprinkle the remaining coriander over the top.
Ready to use meal prep for weight loss?
Convinced that meal prep is amazing and can make your life so much easier, but still feel overwhelmed when it comes to creating your own meal plan and coming up with recipes for the week?
Think no more and join 21-Day Holistic Weight Loss Challenge prepared by me, to lose weight in a holistic and sustainable way. I show you exactly what you need to eat and check in with you every day to ensure you stay on track and succeed with your weight loss goals.
No more guessing – sign up and feel confident about your body again!
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