When I first heard the buzz for meal prep, I associated it with fitness influencers on Instagram showing off these perfectly portioned, delicious-looking meals in Tupperware that still looked brand new, and with the original lids intact! I thought it looked like too much work — a lot of planning, prepping, cooking, and portioning. But I also recognized that meal prep could be very beneficial to me financially, time-wise, and nutrition-wise.
I could have healthy homecooked meals, in which I know the exact amount of fat, protein, carbs, and calories? This sounded too good to be true! I knew I had to give it a shot.
It turns out that I loved it so much, I got pretty good at it.
How to Prepare a Meal
Meal prep does not have to be complicated or tedious. You can buy your meats, fish, veggies, and fruits in bulk. By preparing a few different meals from each, you will be sure not to get bored and not to waste one bit!
I prefer a lower-carbohydrate diet to help manage my diabetes, so I construct my meals around healthy protein sources, usually meat or seafood.
1. Make a List
Think about what you and your family would like to eat for the week and ask for their input, too. Make a list of a few different meal options for each protein source. Consider what sauces, cheeses, and spices you will need as well. For example, I love using rotisserie chicken for a few different meals for the week. I make chicken salad with it for lunch using onion powder, salt, and pepper. For dinner, I turn the rotisserie chicken into pulled BBQ chicken that could be served on rolls or with a plate full of veggies.
Make sure to also consider what sides would work for each dish. Some can double as an entirely different accompaniment to your main dish. A great example of this is peppers. I love to just slow roast peppers with olive oil and sea salt but red peppers can also become the base for delicious, low-carb, beef, and mozzarella stuffed peppers, which happens to be one of my favorite and easiest dishes to make.
2. Buy in Bulk
Most people immediately think of work when it comes to meal prep, but few think of the cost savings. Using the same meats, fish, and vegetables for several meals throughout the week will allow you to buy in bulk and save a ton! Check out your local wholesale clubs like BJs and Costco and make sure to check local grocery store chains for their sales of the week. I like to buy steak in bulk, grill it all at once and use it throughout the week for steak salads and dinner entrees.
3. Dedicate the Time
While it may sound time-consuming to dedicate a portion of your week to cooking big batches, the alternative is cooking (and cleaning) each day — or grabbing takeout yet again. I actually don’t like to spoil any of my weekend time, so when I cook Monday’s meal, I cook for the rest of the week as well.
4. Count the Macros
With multiple pots and pans going, it is easy to forget the main reason you are doing this. Knowing exactly how many macros you are eating at each meal can make weight loss and diabetes management a lot easier. Have a scale handy and weigh each portion accordingly. If you like using an app like LoseIt to track your macros, then meal prep is likely to make your life and nutrition journey a lot easier. Make sure to weigh each individual portion of each food in the meal and mark it down so you have it readily available for labeling.
5. Store/Freeze and Label
If you’re meal prepping for the weeks ahead, make sure to get freezer bags with labels that you can easily mark up. And if you are prepping for the week, please each meal into single-serving marked-up containers, so you can easily grab a healthy meal at any time!
Meal Prep Ideas
Option 1: I love to grill chicken breasts until brown, then remove them from the pan and create a balsamic reduction. Next, I throw some halved cherry tomatoes into the pan and add the chicken back in. Finally, I add mozzarella cheese on top add bake at 400 degrees until cheese starts browning.
Option 2: You can use half of the grilled chicken from the meal above and cut it into thin strips, throw in some mixed veggies (even a bag of frozen will do), and make chicken fajitas. I love eating this with Misson’s Low Carb Balance Tortillas.
Ground Beef, Chicken or Turkey
I cook big batches of ground meat at once. It makes dinner a snap.
Option 1: Stuffed peppers with the meat of your choosing and mozzarella is one is my favorite meals, and one of the easiest, too. First, I brush halved peppers with olive oil and bake at 400 degrees until soft. I brown and drain the ground meat, and add it back into the pan with some Rao’s sauce (which I have found to be one of the lower-carb sauces).
Option 2: Growing up, I was a sucker for Bolognese pasta. As I got older and more health conscientious, along with my type 1 diabetes diagnosis, I began to avoid pasta at Italian restaurants. One day I decided to try Bolognese ragu at home with zucchini noodles, and it was excellent! You can add any type of sauce to this, whether you prefer a basic tomato sauce or an alfredo, and this goes well with beef, chicken, or turkey. This is an extremely low-carb meal packing in a lot of protein.
Option 3: Taco Tuesday! Add some taco seasoning to any of your ground meat to create a theme night the whole family can enjoy!
Option 1: Salmon is an excellent choice and is full of healthy fats. One 3-ounce portion has 177 calories, 11 grams of fat, and zero grams of carbs. It can be simply grilled and served in many different ways. This recipe is a great choice with a creamy lemon garlic sauce.
Option 2: What do you do with leftover salmon? It’s great in a salad, or, you can turn your salmon into salmon cakes like in this recipe using pork rinds or almond flour for a golden crispy coating.
Meal prep does take some thought and time, but can save you money and set you up for success with your nutrition journey.
Also, check out this article for more healthy dinner options!