Whether it's planning for a week of meals or prepping the night before, meal preparation can ease your stress and help you stay on track with your health and weight loss goals. Registered Dietitian and SlimFast Plan Consultant, Maryann Walsh us takes us through the basics.
Meal prepping or meal planning is a great tool to help keep us on a healthy eating track amidst hectic weekday schedules and weekend outings. Although any type of meal prep requires planning, there is no one correct method, as it can differ based on food preferences, cooking ability, schedules, and personal goals. Variety is key when it comes to meal planning and with a few interchangeable ingredients, you can switch it up throughout the week.
Meal prepping is also a great way to practice portion control. When planning your meals, keep in mind that the USDA MyPlate guidelines for building a healthy meal can serve as a great template for healthy, balanced meals throughout the week!
- Make most of your meal vegetables and fruits – aim for bright colors and a variety of textures to fill up at least ½ of your plate. For those following the SlimFast Keto Plan or the SlimFast Low Carb Plan keep in mind that most vegetables are low in carbs, except for the starchy vegetables like corn, peas, and squash. Most fruit will contain a reasonable amount of natural sugar, however berries are favorable for a Keto or low carb diet because they are lower in sugar and higher in fiber. You can click here for more information about the different SlimFast Plans. Remember, men will add two additional 200 calorie mini-meals into their daily food intake. You can also check out the SlimFast Recipe page for mini-meal recipe inspiration!
- Choose whole grains or riced vegetables to fill up ¼ of your plate. Whole grains such as barley, quinoa, and brown rice are great alternatives to noodles or white rice. Riced cauliflower or zucchini noodles are Keto and low carb-friendly as well as being delicious and filling options that can be flavored and seasoned just like their starchier versions. You can even mix riced cauliflower or zucchini noodles into starchy foods like white rice or noodles to cut down on the calories and carbohydrates while still feeling like you are enjoying the real thing.
- Protein, protein, protein! Protein helps to keep you full and is an important macronutrient responsible for numerous functions in the body. Try to aim for protein to account for ¼ of your plate. Pick either a lean meat such as fish or poultry, or plant-based protein such as chickpeas or tempeh.
- Stick to fat free or 1% milk which are naturally lower in fat and calories. Choose healthy oils, such as olive, avocado or canola oil, for cooking or use in salad dressings and try to limit your intake of salt and sugary beverages.
- If you don’t like the taste or texture of reheated meats like chicken or beef, cut up and prepare these raw meats ahead of time, as well as any veggies you plan to prepare with them. Place the meat and veggies in separate containers so you can easily pull out of the fridge and either cook in the oven or on the stove top when you are ready to serve your meal.
When planned properly, meal prepping can save you quite a bit of time. Whether you simply pre-chop ingredients, pre-package 100-calorie snacks, or cook all your meals for the week each Sunday, you’ll be thankful you don’t have to take the time to go to the store or perhaps even cook every night. It takes the guesswork out of weeknight dinners, and even helps to curb your cravings. Because you have your meals already figured out, you may be less likely to overeat or overindulge in something less healthy. Remember that it may be helpful to measure out your portions using measuring cups or a food scale initially, until you are aware of what an appropriate portion size is for your favorite foods.
You can get started with meal prepping easily enough by mixing and matching your favorite proteins and vegetables over different bases to keep it interesting throughout the week. For a quick breakfast, prepare egg muffins ahead of time or pre-portion oatmeal, nuts and dried fruit in to-go cups to cut your prep time in half so you just have to add water when you’re ready.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to meal prepping, utilize the ingredients you have in your household to cut back on waste and food shopping. Involve your family in coming up with fun meal themes for the week. Investing your time in meal prepping is an investment in your health and weight loss goals. Below are three recipes to get you started meal prepping and planning for a week. Any of the recipes can be altered to utilize your favorite proteins, vegetables, and bases—just be mindful of the nutrition you are consuming and most importantly have fun!