Nutrition Blog

5 Easy Meal Prep Ideas for Weight Loss

5 Easy Meal Prep Ideas for Weight Loss

September marks the end of the summer season, so vacations and school are back in session. This is a busy time at work and school where people are slowly getting back into their regular routines and daily groove. If you’re not sure how to get great food on the table without headaches, this article is for you. This is a great time to reconsider your game plan for meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking meals that won’t take too much effort while getting you closer to your weight management goals. Meal planning can streamline what and how much you eat and will help you avoid landing in the take-out line. Consider these simple meal prep ideas for weight loss (and my bonus tips!) to get you moving towards a leaner, healthier, and happier you!

Two glass containers of prepared food filled with roast chicken, cabbage slaw, grapes and blueberries on a counter next to a open notebook and cell phone, Meal Prep Ideas for Weight Loss

Meal Prep and Planning For Weight Loss

Meal planning and prep can help manage your weight because YOU are in charge of the recipes you pick, the ingredients you buy, and the foods you ultimately end up eating – which puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to your food intake.

It’s not a mystery and you don’t have to be left guessing about what is in the pizza, the loaded baked potatoes, or the tacos you ordered.

Meal planning and prep is a simple weight management strategy that avoids specifically counting your calories per day or being on a rigid or prescriptive diet. It takes the stress out of creating a healthier diet and getting you one step closer to your goal weight!

If you have a few simple guidelines in mind you can make meal prep for weight loss or weight management effortless.

Two glass storage containers filled with prepared foods like chickpeas, raw vegetables, and roast chicken, next to a halved avocado and fork and knife

Here are some quick meal planning and prep tips to get you started:

  1. Include protein and healthy fats in the meals you are planning out. Protein-rich foods and healthy fats help keep you fuller longer and can potentially reduce sugar cravings while eating smaller portions. Think chicken, fish, beans, avocados, seeds, and nuts to meet your personal dietary requirements when you’re planning meals for the week.
  2. Try limiting processed foods and items containing a lot of added sugars. These foods are calorie dense with very few nutrients. Studies show they usually don’t have lasting power and fail to stimulate the fullness centers in the brain. Hence, processed foods make it difficult for you to lose weight.
  3. Remember to include a variety of fruits and fresh veggies in your meal plan. Both contain water and fiber which can help keep you fuller longer. These also provide a variety of vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthier diet.
  4. Build nutrient-dense meals without the excess calories by filling half your plate with non-starchy, high-fiber vegetable sources. One-quarter of the plate should be a lean protein like beans, chicken, or fish and the other quarter should ideally be a whole grain like brown rice, quinoa, or bulgur. Eating this way provides a generous nutrient-dense plate without a ton of calories for a healthy diet.

5 Simple Meal Planning and Prep Ideas to Kickstart Your Weight Loss

In order to have a meal consistently on the table by 6 pm, you need to streamline your meal planning and prep process.

Here are 5 simple meal planning and prep ideas you can do weekly to get you started:

Several fresh foods like eggs, salmon, chicken, fruit, and vegetables surround a notebook and pen for meal planning and meal prep for healthy weight loss

1. Actually Make a Meal Plan (Including Snacks)

This can be full recipes or simply a list of components. It does not have to be everything you plan to eat in the next week. For example, you can make chicken, beans, rice, and quinoa. Then choose to mix and match these items throughout the week.

For snacks, you can choose a handful of almonds, a cup of fresh berries, a green smoothie, or sliced cucumber drizzled with balsamic vinegar (one of my favorites).

If you want to use recipes and you’re new to meal prep, choose 1-2 recipes and plan on making leftovers with them for 2 other meals. You can also supplement with 1-2 take-out meals or delivery meals a week.

Once you feel more comfortable with meal prep, you can add another 1-2 recipes to your meal prep plan. Here’s a delicious grilled shrimp tostada recipe to get you started.

Strive to create your meal plan at least one day before going shopping for the ingredients so you are ready. It might be helpful to plan the day you will go food shopping as well. Once you establish a schedule, keep these days consistent. This will streamline your meal planning and prep process.

A woman shops with a grocery list in her hand

2. Make a Grocery List That Aligns With Your Healthy Meal Plan

One of the benefits of meal planning is you spend less at the grocery store by preparing your detailed grocery list in advance. This is fairly simple and can be done right after you make your meal plan. There are even apps you can use that will allow you to save recipes from different sites and then automatically generate a grocery list.

Here are some grocery list and meal planning apps to get you started:

Of course, you don’t have to use one of these apps for your grocery shopping.  Simply using pen and paper or creating a document or spreadsheet with items you need for the recipes you are creating will do just fine. If you have Alexa, you can also ask her to add items to your grocery list and then pull up the list on the Alexa app on your phone while shopping.

When planning meals, always remember to check your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer to see what you already have on hand and don’t need to buy.

A woman slices a cooked chicken breast as she meal preps with lots of veggies next to her on her cutting board

3. Make a Meal Prep Plan

This is probably one of the most important steps when it comes to sticking to your goals for weight loss, especially for beginners. This is where you list every single thing you wish to prepare during your food prep session.

If you have components on your meal plan list like shredded chicken, rice, steamed broccoli, slivered almonds, etc. add that to the meal prep list.

If you are using full recipes, take a look at the recipe and decide what you can prep ahead of time so that when you put the recipe together it takes no time at all.

For example, if you plan on making Chicken Fried Rice one night, you can prep by cutting up the chicken and storing it raw, and then chop up the veggies and store those in another container. Then on the night that you want to create the meal, whether it’s ahead of time or during the week, all you have to do is dump everything in a pan to make the fried rice.

A woman washes asparagus in her kitchen sink with more vegetables ready to be washed, cut and prepped sit on the counter next to her

4. Execute your Meal Prep Plan (Decide on the Date and Time)

By the time your meal prep day rolls around (it can be Sunday or any day of the week that works for you), you should be feeling pretty good about your food prep session.

Make sure to set aside enough time and get to work. You will reap and enjoy what you’ve created all week long! Don’t worry if everything doesn’t go according to plan. Food prep gets easier with practice and the more you do it, the more automatic planning meals will become.

A woman holds up a spice above fresh salmon as she meal preps in the kitchen

5. Repeat!

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every week to meet your weight loss goals. Get into the habit of collecting recipes, grocery shopping, and creating a healthy meal plan one week at a time as you head closer to your goal weight.

Once you’ve planned out a few weeks you can put them on repeat later to save time. Consider keeping a binder or a running electronic document with all the recipes and generated shopping lists with notes for meal prep. This way, all you have to do is pick your recipes for the week and you are on your way!

Healthy snack ideas like blueberries and granola atop yogurt

Consider Morning and Afternoon Snacks

Adding morning snacks or afternoon snacks to your meal prep for weight loss plan may be a good idea since you want to avoid getting hungry between meals. Hunger can potentially lead to overeating at the next meal and derail your weight loss or weight maintenance goals.

Snacks can ultimately

  • decrease hunger
  • help promote fullness, and
  • can effortlessly allow you to reduce the number of calories you eat each day.

You just need to keep the snacking in check and make sure you are eating because you are hungry and not because you are bored or anxious. Eating too many snacks unnecessarily can ultimately lead to weight gain, so it’s important to keep that in mind.

Protein- and fiber-rich combinations, such as nuts, hummus, and veggies or berries and yogurt are great snacks that are best suited to promote weight loss so consider adding them to your weekly rotation!

Several glass containers line the countertop, each with divided pre-portioned areas, filled with healthy foods, like walnuts, chicken, and roast vegetables, Meal Prep Ideas for Weight Loss

Meal Prep Must-Haves

Now that you have a meal plan and clear direction on how to execute the plan, you need the right tools to make meal prepping easier!

Consider having a variety of durable containers in different shapes and sizes for meal prepping. Glass and stainless steel food storage containers are the best. Store fresh berries in single-serving glass jars or small bowls with lids for your afternoon snacks. Shop for glass meal-prep containers, which are available in a variety of sizes, online.

It’s nice to have different-sized containers and even some that have multiple compartments to help save space and to keep food separated.

You want to ensure you have smaller containers for condiments, garnishes, and sauces and larger containers for your proteins, grains, and vegetables. You want enough space so the food doesn’t get compacted and becomes unappetizing if already cooked.

Having a well-designed lunch bag is also important when meal prepping for the week. Your tote or lunch bag should be insulated and have a place for ice packs to keep your food cool during your day.

Consider how many meals you’re planning on prepping and taking with you on a daily or nightly basis. If it’s just one meal and a snack per day, a smaller lunch bag will do. If you’re prepping multiple meals to transport for the week, consider buying a larger tote.

Easy Recipe Ideas for Meal Prep, So Your Weight Loss Plan Doesn’t Feel Like a Diet

Here are some quick and easy specific meal prep ideas that require a minimal number of ingredients to get you started with meal prepping for weight loss or weight management!

A woman's hand holds a bowl of beef stip stew

1. Soups

Remember to include lots of fresh veggies and healthy proteins like beans, seafood, and chicken in your soup. Don’t forget to add a whole grain like rice, quinoa, or bulgur. This will make it a complete stand-alone meal that meets your dietary requirements.One of the benefits of meal planning and prep is that batch cooking and freezing into individual portions makes it easy to prepare your soups ahead of time and defrost later during the work week.

A fresh homemade pizza topped with basil, tomatoes and prosciutto on parchment paper

2. Pizzas

This is a very simple meal you can put together in under 15 minutes if you have all the ingredients on hand.

  1. Buy whole grain store-bought dough can save you some time.
  2. Add pizza, tomato, or pasta sauce to the crust.
  3. A source of protein is key and can be leftover cooked chicken, turkey breast, or even tempeh.
  4. Top with a little cheese and some fresh greens and you have a winner for dinner without the added sugars of frozen pizza!

3. Salads

Salads are quick and versatile.

  1. Start with leafy greens, a few colorful vegetables, and a source of protein like egg, chicken, or hummus.
  2. Top with good extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or choose from another variety like red wine or raspberry vinegar).
  3. Consider adding almonds, seeds, and even leftover grains or sweet potatoes for starch.

Bowtie pasta topped with pesto and tomatoes in a large bowl

4. Pasta Bowls

  1. Start with a whole-grain or plant-based pasta like banza, and then add a source of protein, such as chicken, fish, or tofu.
  2. You can then mix in a tomato-based pasta sauce or pesto and some vegetables like broccoli or spinach.

A spoon dips into a chicken white bean soup in a slow cooker

5. Slow Cooker or Electric Pressure Cooker Recipes

These are great for making chili, spaghetti sauce, and stew. Simply place your ingredients in your device, start it, and let it do all the work for you.

Cooked quinoa grain bowl topped with roasted chickpeas, sweet potatos, and kale

6. Grain Bowls

These are a great option, especially for beginner meal preppers. All you need are components like cooked grains (consider batch cooking them for the week), a choice of protein (beans, eggs, chicken, fish), and a non-starchy vegetable. Top them with a homemade salad dressing or sauce and you have a winner!

Final Thoughts on Meal Planning, Nutrition, and Prep for Weight Loss

Meal planning is a budget-friendly way to streamline the meal prep process and eliminate the agony around “what’s for dinner?” while maintaining a healthy diet. If you aren’t convinced, try implementing the meal prep ideas for weight loss provided in this article. This process takes a little bit of upfront work, but with some organization, the right set of tools, and designated time to do it, it can become second nature and part of your weekly routine.

One of the main benefits of meal planning is it allows you to be in charge of what you are eating without the mystery.

In this way, you can effortlessly manage your weight – and have sustained weight loss – because you had a hand in making it. Simple, easy, good.

Voula Manousos’ writing is featured in the “Winchester Living Magazine” and “The Winchester Star” of Wicked Local.

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