Wondering if meal prep is worth the extra effort? It just might be. Once you look beyond all the colorful quinoa bowls and salads in mason jars posted on social media, you’ll realize that meal prepping is more than trendy. It’s quite a nifty life hack. If you’re short on time and you still want to eat healthy, the concept of meal prepping might be worth investigating.1
What Does It Mean To Meal Prep?
At its core, meal prepping is simply setting aside time at the start of the week to pre-prepare your food. You might choose to prep elements of your meals for easier assembly later, or you could fully cook pre-portioned complete meals you can reheat as needed.
Some people choose to focus on planning packed lunch they can bring to work, while others strategize on dinner meals they can reheat on busy days. It’s clearly a flexible method, one adaptable to your own preferences, schedule, goals, and budget.2
Not Just Counting Calories: Benefits Of Meal Prepping
Preparing meals in advance certainly offers a lot of potential benefits across the board, whether you’re focusing on living more efficiently or hoping to achieve fitness goals. Here are just a few of the reasons why you might consider trying to master the art of meal prep:
- It may help shave a few dollars off your food budget. Planning and purchasing ingredients ahead of time limits the chances you’ll dine out or order in.
- It might help you save more time throughout the week, since you aren’t cooking as much every day.
- It eliminates the stress of worrying about what to eat (and eating on time) every day. There’s also less kitchen cleanup night after night.
- It could potentially help you reach your fitness goals faster with targeted nutrition.
- It may also help you transition to a clean eating diet or a more specific type of eating, like slowly transitioning to a vegan diet by helping you eat more vegetables.
- It might help you stick to the right amount of calories, keeping you on track to meet your fitness goals.3
If any of these pros to meal prepping appeals to you, read on for more reasons why you might consider meal prepping as well as some meal prep ideas (plus tips, tricks, and easy recipes).
Healthy Eating: Meal Prep Tips
Invest In Meal Prep Containers
This way, you can be certain you’re eating the right amount of food in the right proportions; helpful if you’re counting calories or want to stretch your grocery budget by eliminating food waste.
Find And Fix Easy Breakfasts
So you aren’t “hangry” by lunch time, make sure you have a hearty and balanced breakfast. Consider preparing single-portion containers of overnight oats or chia pudding for the whole week. You can just grab and go each morning.
Another idea: Try prepping breakfast roll-ups made with sweet potato and different vegetables sauteed in olive oil, seasoned with herbs and sea salt, and wrapped up in vegan tortillas. Make a bunch, wrap them individually, and reheat before chowing down.
Want more wrap ideas? Slather peanut butter on a vegan tortilla, layer on some banana slices, and roll up for a sweet breakfast treat that can be enjoyed cold.
Make Your Desk Lunch Work Harder
Meal prep wisdom dictates batch-cooking versatile ingredients like grains, beans, and pasta so they’re ready to go for various recipes throughout the week. Your buddha bowls and salads in jars will be excellent with lots of quinoa, lentils, or rice.5
Have Dinner Ready Hours Before
Consider using a slow cooker to prepare hearty stews and soups that can be left simmering as you go about your day. On your meal prep day, pre-chop all the vegetables and fruit you need to add to your dishes. Save the extras for snacking. Those grains you pre-cooked (see previous tip) can be added last minute right before serving — additions like rice, quinoa, or beans beef up the nutrition and heartiness factor of your vegan soups and chilis.6
Stock Up On Versatile Ingredients
This might not only help you get more bang for your buck (as some stores offer discounts when buying bulk), but it may also help you avoid waste. Even better, it helps you get creative with flavors and seasonings.
Sturdy, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach do well in salads and stir-fries. Condiments, like peanut butter and vegan mayo, can be used as spreads or as ingredients in tasty salad dressings. Lentils and beans are great in soups and salads. Choose fruit that can last the week in the fridge, such as apples and bananas.
Make good use of your usual pound of short pasta (like bow ties or fusilli). You can make a refreshing pasta salad for lunch one day, and then throw together a tasty vegan mac and cheese for dinner the next. By having this versatile ingredient on-hand, your options don’t feel limited, and you’ve made your calories count.
Think Smart: Efficiency Is Key
Meal prep is all about simplifying your eating habits (and making all your calories count). Just make sure you get your doctor’s approval before making any dietary changes. They can help you figure out how (and what) you should be eating, and employ techniques that can help you stick to it.
Whether it’s spending an hour every Sunday night chopping vegetables and putting on a pot of rice, or strategically making a grocery list that ensures you don’t waste any ingredient by using it in many different ways, let meal prep ideas and strategies be your ally in living a healthier lifestyle.