Nutrition

Meal Prep – The Beginners Complete Guide

Girl, there is a secret to maintaining a diet, improving your body composition and achieving your physique goals – it’s called meal prep.

Simply by cooking in bulk and planning out your meals, you’re more likely to achieve the goals your set for yourself. It allows you to control portions, plan your week, hit your macro targets and even helps you stick to a diet.

Read our guide to meal prepping and learn how to do it, along with all the benefits it can bring.

Why you need meal prep

a chopping board ready for meal prep

We all know the biggest downfall of a diet can come with a lack of planning. Temptation can strike so easily when you don’t have a meal pre-prepared and ready to go, and working out what you’re going to eat on a day to day basis can be a lot of work.

By meal prepping you can ensure all your food is perfectly planned out to suit your diet requirements well in advance. From your calories to your macros, you can tick all those boxes before you even head to work on a Monday morning.

What’s more, it builds good, healthy habits that help you stay on track and keep you heading in the direction of your own personal goal.

So whether you’re aiming to grow muscle and gain weight, or drop fat, making meals that adhere to your nutritional needs in bulk is a great way to keep you on track.

Inspired? We’ve outlined all the essential tips you need to consider when you’re meal prepping.

Get tupperware

Without tupperware, it gets really hard to meal prep. When you start cooking in bulk and planning out your meals, you need to have containers ready to package up the food and keep them airtight until you’re ready to tuck in

Not only is it good for the environment to use reusable containers, it also helps you plan your week.

Crack out the label maker too, because meal planning is perfect for the organiser in you. Label each day of the week, both lunch and dinner to help you stay on track with your diet.

Work out your macronutrients

Before you begin prepping, you need to know what’s going in to the meals you’re making. This can be worked out based on your body measurements, how active you are and your physique and fitness goals.

Once you have these values nailed down, you can plan your meals so you hit your targets for calories, proteins, fats and carbs.

This is essential to a diet, as meeting your macronutrient needs can help you gain muscle or burn fat, lose weight or gain weight. Whatever your goals, it’s always a good idea to have your macros and calories planned out before you start meal prepping.

Check out these articles to work out how many calories you need, and how to plan your macros:

Calories: How to Work Out BMR and TDEE

Macros: The IIFYM Diet Explained

Get nutritious

selection of vegetables ready for meal prep

It can be so easy to get caught up in calories, proteins, fats and carbs, but you should also remember to enjoy nutritious micronutrients as part of your diet.

This means making up at least half of your meals with healthy veggies and greens. These are the nutritious foods that help to regulate your body processes and keep everything ticking over nicely. We all know how good vegetables and fruits are for your body, so don’t miss them out of your meal prep.

When trying to change their physique, a lot of people go down the ‘dirty’ route, which is essentially hitting your macros and calories targets, without focussing on foods that nourish the body.

Although you might be on track to hitting your physique goals, it’s still important to stay healthy, and enjoy a brightly coloured, varied diet that’s packed with the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Otherwise you may feel tired, unwell and unmotivated to hit the gym and lead a truly healthy lifestyle.

Love your leftovers

Aside from reducing waste, keeping leftovers is a great way to keep meal prep going. When whipping up a delicious dinner in the kitchen, why not make enough for the next day too. That will ensure you’ve got another meal covered, without having to cook again.

It saves you the time and effort of making another meal entirely, and it helps you stick to your diet in the long run.

 Variety is key

When you’re meal prepping, it’s very easy to slip into a routine of cooking the same meal time and time again. While this may be a healthy, nutritious meal that sticks to your macronutrient needs, it’s also dull. And dullness can quickly lead to spontaneous meals out, sweet treats and general boredom.

Instead, do your research a little and have a few recipes up your sleeve. That way you can enjoy a little variety week on week which is great for the mental aspect of your nutrition plan, and also good for your body too.

Simple cooking wins  

You might be a culinary goddess, but there’s no need to spend hours slaving away over your meal prep. Instead, think simply and you’ll find it a whole lot easier to get up and batch cook your food.

For example, season chicken breasts and bake them in the oven. Accompany this high-protein food with some steamed veggies and rice and you’ve got a tasty, yet simple meal for every lunch for the week. Not only is it super easy, it doesn’t eat into your day either.

The freezer is your friend

ice cream in an empty freezer

It’s not just for ice cream.

One area where some fall down with meal prep is with keeping the food fresh. Unfortunately, it’s easy to forget that you’ve got food in the fridge for Friday, and it can go off pretty quickly. To avoid this, check that the food you’ve cooked can be frozen and throw it in the freezer until you need to take it out to defrost.

Just don’t forget about defrosting times, otherwise you could be left without your lunch!

Set meal prep days

Allocate days in your week to do your meal prep. We know a lot of people make their food on a Sunday when they’re not at work and the whole week is stretched out in front of them.

By doing this, you get into a routine and bulk cooking can very quickly become a good habit for your diet. Specifically setting time aside for meal prep is a great way to guarantee you’ll get the job done.

Don’t forget snacks

The achilles heel of so many good diets is bad planning, and while we’re talking about prepping meals, it’s also essential you remember your snacks. They’re an extremely important part of a diet and if you don’t have a healthy, diet-friendly option to hand, you can very easily slip up.

This is especially important to women, as hormonal changes throughout the month can make us more inclined to reach for sweet treats and temptation when we’re hungry. We’ve all been there.

To ensure you stay on track, factor snacks into your meal prep and plan your week with these in mind.

Plan your shopping trips

A huge selection of vegetables ready for meal prep

Planning your meals goes beyond just making all the right stuff. To ensure you’ve got enough to last you the whole week, you should plan your shopping before you go. This way you’ll know you have enough high-protein foods to build muscle, and the right kind of carbohydrates to power you through a workout.

Simply think about what you’re going to make and work out how much you need before you head to the shops. Otherwise you could find yourself buying an unhealthy lunch on Wednesday, when you should’ve been able to make it through until Friday.

The final taste – gymgirl hints and tips

Turns out there isn’t too much of a secret to losing fat and building muscle. In fact, it’s well known that a successful diet, or workout plan, needs consistency.

The brilliant thing about meal prep is that it facilitates consistency by helping you to plan and your week in advance.

This is one of the best ways to improve adherence to a nutrition plan, but also to ensure you’re enjoying a consistently healthy lifestyle.

Give it a go and see how quickly you can transform your eating habits, and your body.

Lauren

Lauren is a health and fitness enthusiast, powerlifter and writer who's written for a number of well-known fitness publishing companies.

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