First and foremost, as a qualified nutritionist, I have to be honest with you. There are many more factors to weight loss than meal preparation. But, I do believe that being organized and prepared is key to maintaining a healthy balanced lifestyle that will assist with your weight loss goals.
What is Meal Prepping and Why Should I Be Doing It?
Meal prep is not isolated to 14 Tupperware containers with the same meals for your lunch and dinner every day. No judgement if that works for you, but for many, this will result in flavour fatigue and a potential relapse into the habits you were trying to move away from.
You probably already practice meal prep to some degree like a Sunday shop in preparation for your week or ordering a few ready meals as backup on the nights you get home and can’t be bothered cooking.
Meal prepping includes:
Creating a meal plan for your week will give you clarity as to what you need in your grocery shop and allows you to plan around your weekly schedule. Be realistic at this stage, if you know that on Thursday your motivation is nil have a backup plan like frozen leftovers or a ready meal. Being realistic will also help decrease food wastage.
Based on your meal plan create a shopping list, this ensures your pantry, fridge and freezer have staple and necessary ingredients to help you prepare and cook your meals throughout the week.
Meal prep could also include making lunches and dinners in advance, like on Sunday making a big pasta salad and storing it in the fridge for you to portion out every day for lunch or when making your dinner cook extra and pop it aside for the next day's lunch.
Snacks are a great thing to meal prep as well, when you come home from work ravenous or are searching in the afternoons at work. Prep snacks by cutting up carrots, fresh veggies, or boiling eggs and keeping them in the fridge.
What Foods Should I Include in my Meal Prep?
Fruit & Vegetables:
First up, fruit and vegetables. Grab a mixture of leafy greens that will need to be eaten at the start of the week and more durable vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beans, and broccoli that will last the week and if not longer if kept in favourable environments.
Fruit should be included in your shop, they’re a great and very easy snack to have on the go. Shopping in season will help keep your spending low, see what vegetables are in season here.
Frozen fruit and veggies are just as nutritious and are handy to have in the freezer, they’re also cheaper than fresh fruit and veg and may help decrease food wastage if your week doesn’t go to plan. If this is the case, I always freeze my leftover fruit and vegetables, these are great for making smoothies and soups.
Both animal and plant-based. If you eat meat, purchase the meat products present in your recipes and if you’re not using them in the next 2 days pop them in the freezer. This helps maintain freshness and ensures the meat product won’t waste. You should try to eat a variety of meats; including fish, chicken, pork, seafood, lamb and beef.
Whether you practice a plant-based diet or not, you should still aim for meatless days and therefore include plant-based proteins in your meal prep. Canned plant-based proteins are cheap and have a long shelf life so are great for meal prepping and throwing together a quick meal. Plant proteins include chickpeas, lentils, butter beans, kidney beans, peas, mushrooms, edamame, and tofu.
Although we don’t go to the supermarket and directly ask for fat, making sure you have items on your shopping list that include healthy fats is important for overall health. Great fat shopping list items include olive oil, oily fish like tuna, mackerel and salmon, avocados, cheese, eggs, nuts and seeds.
Snacks are an integral part of meal prep and assist our satiety levels. Great snacks to have on hand are nuts and seeds, yogurt, fruit, cut-up veggies like carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, protein balls/bars, boiled eggs, tuna, cottage cheese and crackers, nut butter, hummus, olives, and popcorn.
Don’t Forget About Portion Size
Overconsuming is super easy to do...we’re only human! We often eat what's in front of us, so when serving up a meal ensure you serve what you need. If you have extra, pop it away for your lunch or in the freezer. This should help when you creep back into the kitchen for more, if you still feel hungry once you’ve finished your meal wait 10-15mins and reassess, chances are your brain hasn’t caught up to your stomach but if you’re still hungry after 15mins reach for a healthy snack like nuts, fruit or yogurt and enjoy with a cup of tea. Warm water can assist with digestion.
What should your plate look like? Your plate should be based on these rough guidelines, ½ non-starchy vegetables, ¼ carbohydrate and ¼ protein.
How do ready meals fit in?
Ready meals are great in assisting meal prep for weight loss and to help maintain a healthy routine. You can sit back knowing your ready meal has been dietitian and nutritionist-approved, made using a variety of fresh, high-quality ingredients and comes to your perfectly portioned. Having them in the fridge or freezer during the week is great for easy lunches and dinners on the nights you get home later than expected or really can’t be bothered cooking.
My favourite Dineamic meals to have in the freezer are the mains for two. In particular, the Chicken Burrito Mix and Thai Green Curry. It’s great knowing we have a quick easy dinner ready and all I need to do is add rice and vegetables.