Meal Prepping 101: The Easy Way to Start Eating Better

So you finally accepted that eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner makes it nearly impossible to reach your fitness and health goals? Bagels and breakfast burritos (or no breakfast at all), quick serve sandwiches and salads near the office and takeout (or worse happy hour treats) are killing your waistline and your wallet? Congrats. Acceptance is the first step. The next step is getting onboard with meal prepping and it doesn’t have to be as complicated or laborious as you think.

I absolutely LOVE this piece “How to Prepare 16 Healthy Meals in 40-Minutes” from the folks at BuiltLean. It’s a fantastic guide, complete with shopping lists, photos and recipes that you can customize to your tastes and goals. But for some folks even this is too much to tackle right away. And maybe you don’t want to deal with meal delivery services (especially for breakfast and lunch). No worries. Here’s a way to start eating healthier for those of you who just hate cooking.

Breakfast

Check out how to make the perfect smoothie. I like this because it’s easily digestible and the mix of protein, carbs and healthy fats will fuel you without overfilling you and will allow your body to absorb its nutrients.

Lunch

It’s no secret in my house. I hate to cook. Thank the universe for stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. A quick stop to the Whole Foods prepared foods case and the freezer section and I’m set for the week in one shopping trip. See the image below. Get yourself some glass microwave-safe containers with a secure lid that won’t leak when you travel to/from work. On your meal prep day (usually Sunday*) fill your containers for the week with:

  • One serving of a frozen “grain or starch” like frozen brown rice, cauliflower “rice”, lentils or quinoa. (Yes, you can do fresh if you want - just cook up a big batch and keep it in your fridge for the week.)
  • Two servings of frozen veggies. Anything goes and there are TONS of great combos in the freezer section. (Yes, you can do fresh if you want to spend the time to chop and prep. But frozen is fine too. Read more on that here.)
  • One to two servings of a protein. The folks at Precision Nutrition generally recommend one palm sized portion for women and two for men. The prepared foods case has multiple great options like various grilled chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken, turkey burgers, turkey meatballs, grilled flank steak, salmon fillets, etc. If you buy them on Sunday they will typically last through the week in your fridge and you can also freeze them.

Dinner

Same idea as lunch. Or if you want to spice it up, dinner is most often the meal to use for food delivery services like these. Or you can also use some of these strategies if you need to eat out.

Snacks

I typically eat 1-2 snacks each day and try to focus on getting in fresh fruits and veggies, healthy fats and proteins. So things like Greek yogurt, almonds, veggie bags (all prepped for the week at once on Sundays), cheese sticks, curry chicken salad, half an avocado and in a pinch a protein bar from this list (real food is preferred).

*You can make all your meals for the week at one time on Sundays or you can spend about 5-10 minutes the night before putting your meals/snacks for the next day together (I do this; it saves space in the fridge). The frozen stuff defrosts overnight and I microwave it the next day for 90s-2 minutes. Easy. And better than most of the options around busy offices.

Of course these aren't the only strategies for getting to your goals. But for a lot of folks, this represents a vast improvement over the typical "quick serve" dine out culture. Make it your own and always consult a medical doctor, dietician or nutritionist if you have any food issues, allergies or disorders.