Take a moment to think about the last three meals you had this week. Can’t remember? Or, perhaps you don’t want to remember. Whether you’re a serial snacker, a frequent fast-fooder, or a forget-to-eat-er, your daily eating habits could probably use a remix.
But when your life is taken up by work, school, kids, or a combination of the three, it’s easy to put cooking on the back burner.
That’s precisely why weekly meal prepping is so critical. Not only is it convenient, affordable, and efficient, but it will also help to improve your healthy eating habits. If going from sporadic meals to a fully-prepped week of delicious treats sounds intimidating, don’t worry. This article has your back.
Read on for the best beginner tips for smart and healthy meal prep.
Meal Prepping 101
Meal planning is the simple act of pre-preparing what you eat during the week to avoid having to cook or dine out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are several ways to reap the benefits of meal prepping:
- Some prefer to prepare and store ingredients (e.g., chopping vegetables and creating sauces beforehand), so that cooking meals later in the week is faster.
- Some cook large portions of soups, pasta, or meats to be eaten throughout the week. This concept of batch cooking is great for those who don’t need variety every single day.
- Some will spend a single afternoon, portioning different meals into individual containers to create an entire week’s meal plan.
Your preference for your meal prep style will vary based on your personal health goals, your schedule, and your need for variety. Regardless of which style you prefer, after some practice you’ll be meal planning and prepping like a pro.
For all its convenience, weekly meal prep can seem like an ordeal to a beginner. How in the world are you going to get all the ingredients together, much less cook and store them for the entire week?
Let’s start with the basics.
Meal prepping is like any other good habit. It takes commitment, discipline, and baby steps to start out. Don’t worry about rushing into it or being perfect. Instead, start your journey slowly by putting together the essential supplies for any meal prepper’s toolkit:
- For overnight oats and smoothies, you’ll need some sealable glass jars with lids.
- Stock up on microwave-friendly glass or silicone containers for your hot foods.
- Invest in a portable cutlery set for lunching and munching on the go.
- For a sustainable way to drink your favorite drinks and healthy smoothies, get your hands on a foldable, reusable straw.
- Pack your snacks and sides in small, stackable silicone or glass containers.
- To fit full meals in one place, grab some fun bento boxes in various shapes and sizes.
- For hot soups and sauces, invest in a high-quality thermos.
If you’re planning on prepping every single meal for the work week, you’ll want to invest in fifteen sets of containers for the main portion of your meals and around ten sets of smaller containers for the snacks and sides you’ll be eating alongside them.
Next, you’ll need to equip your kitchen with a few cooking essentials that make for a smart meal prep setup. These include:
- A rice cooker and steamer combo
- High-quality knives
- An easy-to-use blender
- A cutting board
- A food peeler
- A toaster oven or air fryer
Cost-saving reminder: The investment in equipment is well worth the money you save not eating out or overspending on pre-packaged meals at the grocery store.
Scheduling in Your Prep
Just like the name implies, meal prepping is about the prep just as much as the meal.
If there’s one piece of advice you need to take, it’s this: plan your week’s meals beforehand.
That means coming up with your menu for the entire week, writing down all the ingredients you need for healthy recipes, grocery shopping, and carving out time on a Saturday or Sunday to do it all.
Once you have all your supplies and your menu at the ready, let’s jump into the yummy stuff and start filling those prep containers.
How to Meal Prep for Breakfast
Breakfast is an essential part of the day, so you shouldn’t neglect it when you’re meal prepping. Here are some clean eating meal prep ideas to give the most important meal of the day the love it deserves:
- Overnight oats are a wonderful way to kick off the day. Just pack some oatmeal, nut butter and plant-based beverage, and any flavoring or spices you want into a glass jar and refrigerate overnight.
- Try your hand at the latest trend in healthy breakfasts with this fun blueberry chia pudding recipe. Top it off with some granola, sliced almonds, or fresh berries.
- To start the morning right and get your gut ready for the day ahead, pair a delicious Bio-K+® probiotic drinkable with your breakfast.
Adding variety to your preps: Overnight oats and chia pudding are made for variation. Don’t just settle for one flavor when you’re preparing these. You can use almond butter on Monday, cacao powder on Tuesday, and fresh fruit on Wednesday for a breakfast of champions that’s as tasty as it is healthy.
Who said healthy prepped meals for breakfast had to be boring?
How to Meal Prep for Lunch and Dinner
The key to making your lunches and dinners exciting (and convenient) is to stick to a mix-and-match method when planning your soon-to-be prepped meals. How? Prepare a weekly menu with several protein, starch, and vegetable options that would all go well together. That way, you’ll never have to stare at the exact same meal two days in a row.
Here are some common healthy food items you can cook and pack that will pair beautifully, no matter the combination:
To add some variety to your meal plan: You don’t have to cook every filet of salmon or chicken with the same seasoning. Switch between mango glazes and barbecue rubs, or even try a funky combination of lemon and honey for salmon that’s tangy and sweet. These small changes make all the difference when putting together a healthy meal that still satisfies the taste buds
How to Meal Prep Snacks and Desserts
Snacks and desserts are the easiest (and most fun) items to plan for when meal prepping. Here are some of the healthiest, tastiest, and most affordable ones to start with:
- Pack bell pepper slices, pita chips, and snap peas into various little containers. Bring along a small bowl of hummus, yogurt dip, or ranch, and voila! You have yourself a portable dipping platter fit for royalty.
- Pop no-butter popcorn in bulk and separate it into little bags or containers. Add salt to taste.
- Alongside fresh pita bread and hummus, add a delicious combo of couscous, cubed mozzarella, and sliced cucumbers, olives, and tomatoes for a fresh take on a Meditteranean classic.
- If you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, pack fresh fruit into containers and mix and match them with various flavors of chia pudding for the end of the day.
To add some variety to your preps: Load up on packs of parsley, parmesan cheese, and paprika to sprinkle over your popcorn for an extra blast of flavor to break up the monotony of your snacks. Experiment with different fun spices and come up with new combinations and easy recipes to keep your taste buds excited.
The Dos and Don’ts of Meal Prepping
Before you come up with your own delicious pre-portioned meals and snacks, pay attention to the main dos and don’ts of the craft. Meal prepping takes time, patience, and planning to get right, and it won’t always go perfectly the first week you try.
So, to get off on the right foot, keep these rules in mind:
Picking Recipes That Will Last
Do: Integrate these ingredients into your weekly menu to stay health-conscious:
- Whole grains like quinoa, sorghum, or oats
- Pulses like lentils, peas, beans, or chickpeas
- Nuts and seeds like peanuts, chia, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts
- Frozen and fresh vegetables and greens like celery, potato, yuca, cauliflower, or cabbage
- Lean protein like chicken breast, eggs, turkey, salmon, and Greek yogurt
- Spices and condiments like paprika, garlic, lime, soy sauce, or mustards
Don’t: Make these mistakes when choosing your menu:
- Packing avocados in advance. Because these creamy staples oxidize, or brown, quickly, it’s better if you hold off on slicing them until the meal itself.
- Dressing your salads before you store them. This will make your greens soggy and your overall eating experience unsavory, to say the least.
- Storing your yogurt and granola in the same container. Your granola will get soggy in a heartbeat. Instead, sprinkle it in when you’re ready to eat.
Making Your Food Last
Do: Keep your food refrigerated for no more than five days, or store in the freezer for three to four months. Look up the ingredients you’re using when following a recipe to ensure they don’t spoil. Make sure the prep containers you’re using are airtight and designed for food storage.
Don’t: Store food in temperatures higher than 40° F or lower than 140° F. This will help to ensure optimal freshness.
Adopting the Right Mindset
Do: Embrace this experience as a chance to improve your well-being and give yourself more time in the day to focus on your tasks. Meal prep for beginners is all about testing new healthy recipes and methods bit by bit and learning along the way. Don’t forget to have fun with it!
Don’t: Worry too much about being the perfect meal prepper. Sometimes you’ll end up skipping a meal, ordering in, or failing to cook something correctly. That’s okay. Just move on, and you’ll get better in no time!
Introduce Probiotics to Your Smart Meal Prep With Bio-K+®
Supplement your meal prepping endeavours by adding probiotics to your plan.
Bio-K+® drinkables are crafted with care so that their probiotic bacteria survive the journey to the intestine, supporting a healthy microbiota and immune system.
This not only makes you feel better throughout the day, but it also supports the intestinal functions that will boost the effects of your healthy diet. Don’t let your hard work and planning go to waste—by adding a probiotic into your weekly meal prep, you’ll give your lifestyle an even bigger upgrade.
- Burry, Madeleine. (2018) 10 Ingredients Meal Prep Pros Always Have in Their Kitchen. Health. Retrieved from: https://www.health.com/food/meal-prep-foods-ingredients