The Ultimate Guide to Meal Prep for Beginners
If you dread the idea of spending hours at the grocery store and in the kitchen, crafting the perfect meals to meet your health and fitness goals, I TOTALLY get it. I am many things, but culinary enthusiast is not one of them.
But if you've got health goals, meal prep is a fool proof way to stay on track.
When you're tired from a long day and have no intention of cooking, it is vital to have a healthy meal already prepped and ready to go ahead of time! Just reheat and eat! This way, you aren't tempted to hit up that takeout every night.
Here's how to make the process as smooth and effective as possible:
1. Schedule Your Prep Time
Make meal prep a regularly scheduled appointment with yourself. I'm talkin' put it in your phone reminders so a little alarm goes off and tells you to drop everything and do it. Every week.
Tell your hubby so you have the added accountability that this time is a non negotiable.
The more militant you are with sticking to the same time each week, the faster this will become an unbreakable habit.
2. Start Small
I feel like most of us want to go from zero to hero with every goal we set. However, the less extreme/large your expectations of yourself to start, the more likely you are to stick with a new habit.
That being said, try, for just one week, to schedule only one meal. Don't immediately go all in on prepping everything. You'll just feel overwhelmed and get tired of it quickly.
I recommend starting with breakfast. Most people eat some variation of the same thing every morning so it's an easy place to start. Once you start noticing how much calmer and more relaxed your mornings are with breakfast ready to go, you will LOVE that you gave this a shot and have the momentum to start prepping a 2nd and even 3rd meal.
3. Pick 2 Proteins, 2 Starches, 2 Fats, 2-3 Fruits and 2-3 Veggies and Plan Your Menu for the Week
This ensures you can go to the grocery store armed and dangerous with a solid plan. Plus, you're making sure every meal has all of the nutrients your body needs for better health.
I recommend having a cheat sheet on hand with your favorite proteins, carbs, and fats on hand so you can quickly pick a couple and go.
You can try my own printable cheat sheet below:
4. The Air Fryer is Your Friend
I am a huge fan of the air fryer for my own meal prep process. Anyone else never get their chicken cooked just right? Well, this changed my life. Wash it, season it, and press the button. In just 20-25 minutes, you will have a batch of perfectly cooked, crispy chicken.
The air fryer helps keep my prepped meals easy AND tasty.
5. Stock Your Pantry Intelligently
Meal prep is easiest when you already have some key staples on hand. I recommend stocking your pantry with rice, quinoa, and wheat pasta, for example so you already have some easy prep starches available.
6. Pre Portion Each Meal
I can't stress the importance of this enough. Sticking to your health goals will be SO much easier if all of your meals are already portioned out and totally ready to eat. This way, you won't be tempted to grab for a king sized portion and get off track.
Cook everything in bulk, then divide into 4-6 portions using a food scale for proper measurement.
7. Wash and Prep Your Fruits and Veggies as Soon as You Come Home from the Grocery Store
I am SO guilty of just throwing them in the fridge, and then being too lazy to prep them later.
If you just make a habit of washing and prepping right when you get home, your fruits and veggies will be ready to eat, perfect little snacks.
8. Take Shortcuts (Guilt Free)
It is not only ok but recommended that you take shortcuts wherever you need to make this process as easy as possible. You know yourself. If you're someone that absolutely hates cutting up veggies, it's worth the extra investment to buy them pre cut.
Think of it this way: you're probably saving money in the long term that would have been wasted away on veggies that sat in your fridge uncut until they went bad.
Get some frozen veggies and lean proteins to store in your freezer. I always have at least 5 bags of frozen Brussel sprouts and vegetable medley ready to go. I also love to have a bag of frozen grilled chicken strips on hand. It makes for a quick and easy Plan B meal that's far better than you taking a trip to the drive thru, right?
9. Pre Portion Your Snacks
Sometimes, it's the little things that really make or break your diet! Especially with snacks, calories can add up quickly if you're "grazing" and not measuring out your portions mindfully.
The easiest way to keep snacking under control is to weigh out your portions and put them in baggies so they are ready to go at the start of the week. Or, if you prefer not to have to weigh out the extra food, buy pre portioned snack packs.
10. Ask for help
When trying to create healthy habits, meal prep is a wonderful way to start consuming more quality whole, nutrient dense foods. The next step is to ensure you are eating them in the amounts that make sense for your health and fitness goals.
The quality of your food affects your energy levels and your body's ability to sustain normal, healthy internal processes each day. The quantity of food is what creates healthier body composition i.e. fat loss and muscle gain.
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Not convinced? Check out some of these amazing success stories from women JUST LIKE YOU. That voice in your head that tells you you're too old, too far off, too busy, or too tired? It is a liar. You are SO capable of achieving your dream health and body. And with the right guidance, that goal is much closer than you think.
There will never ever be a perfect time to start pursuing better health. The best time to start is right now!
To Your Good Health & Success,
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