Meal preparation (a.k.a. meal prep) is a must-have skill for any nutrition-focused fitness fiend. Preparing each meal as you go can be extremely stressful. Not only is it time consuming and inconvenient, it just sucks!
You have way better things to do with your life than cook five or six meals every single day.
That’s where meal prep comes in. Instead of making all of your meals every day you can prepare your meals, or at least certain elements of your meals, ahead of time. Meal prepping can seem intimidating and overwhelming when you first start out. That’s why I’ve come up with five simple steps for first-time meal preppers.
The first thing you need to do when you’re meal prepping is decide what your menu is going to look like for the week. Flying by the seat of your pants doesn’t work when it comes to meal prepping. You’ll want to be prepared from the get-go.
Plan out all of your meals and snacks for each day through the whole week. Once you have your menu all laid out, it’s time to make a grocery list and go shopping. Be sure to only buy how much you need. If you buy too much, chances are that extra food will go to waste.
When you first start meal planning, don’t feel like you have to prep all of your meals for the entire week. Instead decide which meals you want to tackle. You might try only prepping two or three days of meals at a time. Or you could try prepping one meal, like breakfast or lunch, for the entire week.
Meal prep is supposed to make your life easier, so do whatever you feel will work best for you. I personally like to prep all of my lunches for the week on Sunday. That way when I’m in a hurry in the morning I can just grab and go.
After you’ve planned your meals and decided which ones you want to prep, it’s time to get organized. This step is important for your prep to go smoothly. Gather your ingredients and make sure you have everything. Trust me, you don’t want to make it halfway through a recipe only to realize that you forgot to grab a crucial ingredient!
This is also a great time to decide what order you want to prepare each element of each meal. Start the things that take longer to cook first. That way everything gets done around the same time and you’re not waiting around to finish your meal prep project because you started your brown rice at the end.
Now’s the time to get chopping… literally! Prepare all of your ingredients: slice, chop, dice, etc. If you think that this step is all you need to make your life easier, you could even stop here. Cooking dinner gets a lot faster when all your ingredients are ready to go.
This step is also for ingredients that require no cooking. Measure out your almonds, slice up veggie snackers, scoop out peanut butter… whatever your plan calls for, put everything in baggies or tupperware and set the items aside.
With all of your other steps out of the way, cooking is the easy part. Especially if you pick a passive cooking method like slow cooking chicken in a crock pot, or roasting veggies in your oven. These are methods that allow you to multi-task.
You can arrange your veggies on a sheet pan and stick them in the oven. All you have to do is stir and check every once in awhile to make sure they don’t burn. The more skilled you get the more you can multitask and the faster you’ll get done!
‘Go Green’ Sample Meal Plan + Prep
I’ve put together the perfect sample meal plan, rich in healthy green foods. You can make this meal plan for one day or the whole week.
Either way, this day of meals will have you feeling saving green (cash!) and your busy friends will be green with envy!
Pre-Workout: Pistachio Shake
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 scoop French Vanilla IdealLean Protein
2 tbsp. sugar-free pistachio pudding powder
1 c spinach
Blend and ENJOY!
How to Prep:
Shakes and smoothies are definitely meant to be blended up and eaten on the same day. Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to drink a day-old smoothie. It’s not worth it. What you could do, however, is measure out the IdealLean Protein powder, pudding powder, and spinach into a baggie. That way in the morning all you have to do is measure out your almond milk, dump your baggie of ingredients, add ice and blend!
Breakfast: Spinach & Egg Muffins
5 egg whites
2 whole eggs
1/4 c skim milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 c fresh chopped spinach
1/4 c shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg whites and eggs. Whisk in skim milk and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the chopped spinach, and cheese if you are using it.
2. Grease 6 muffin tin cups with cooking spray or line cups with paper liners. Pour egg mixture evenly into the muffin cups.
3. Bake egg muffins for 20 minutes, or until the muffins are firm in the center. Remove from oven and gently go round each egg with a butter knife. Serve warm.
* You can store the egg muffins in the fridge for 3-4 days and reheat them in the microwave.
How to Prep:
Because these egg muffins are baked, I would start these first before moving on to anything else. While they’re in the oven you can chop other veggies and work on other things. Just follow the recipe once you get these in the oven you can move onto the next item. Just make sure you set a timer, you don’t want to forget about them!
Each morning you can microwave what you need for a quick and easy hot breakfast.
Lunch: Lettuce Wraps
Wrap your favorite chicken or ground turkey recipe in lettuce leaves for a healthy option. Load it with veggies! Easy way to get in extra greens and replace high-calorie tortillas.
How to Prep:
The biggest part of these lettuce wraps is the fresh lettuce and the veggies, which means there’s not a lot to cook, yay! If you feel comfortable with cooking and multitasking I would first get your ground meat cooking and while that’s going you can start chopping/slicing up whatever veggies you want to go in your lettuce wraps. Some veggies keep better than others: bell peppers, onions, carrots, celery, and radishes are all fine to prepare at the beginning of the week.
After your ground meat is cooked through, drain any fat and let it cool completely. If you assemble these wraps with hot meat you’ll wind up with wilty lettuce which will be totally gross by the time you go to eat it the next day or later that week.
Dinner: Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
1 c fresh flat leaf parsley
1 c fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic
3 tsp. red pepper flakes (more or less)
2 tbsp. dried oregano
¼ c lemon or lime juice
2 tsp. lemon or lime zest
Salt & pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients just until combined. Add 1 cup extra virgin olive oil at the very end and spin blender once more until just combined.
Prepare steak to your liking. Slice and top with chimichurri sauce.
How to Prep:
When it comes to a tasty steak dinner like this one, I do not recommend cooking your steak ahead of time. Instead just prepare your chimichurri sauce and put that in a tupperware. Then when dinner time rolls around pull your chimichurri sauce out of the fridge and re-whisk or re-blend it. Then prepare your steak and top it with the sauce.
Bringing It All Together
Meal prep takes some time, planning, and effort but the payoff is major. You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to eat your next meal, you can control your portions and ingredients, and you’ll probably end up saving big bucks!
The more you do meal prep the better you’ll get and the easier it will get. Pretty soon you’ll be able to prep an entire week’s worth of food in a couple hours.
Now let’s wrap it up! You have some great ideas for how to get fit, stay fit, and never get bored! If you’re ready to jump-start your fitness, make sure you prep the right way, with IdealLean Protein!
IdealLean Protein contains 20g of whey protein isolate so you can fuel your body right, and build lean muscle. Get toned and strong with the help of protein.