More hours and fewer pounds. Wouldn’t that be nice? We know there are only 24 hours in a day and sometimes the scale is as stubborn as the clock. But there is a way to get both via Meal Prep.
“Meal prep” is a popular term among body-builders which simply means that you take a few hours once a week to prepare and portion out all of your meals for that week. The term and practice has trickled down and become an effective tool to 1) save time in a busy grab-and-go society and 2) lose weight by sticking to a set meal plan.
First things first when diving into meal prep for weight loss: know your calories. To determine your daily caloric intake, simply take your current weight and add a zero to the end.
Example: 150 pounds => 1500 calories/day
As you lose weight, adjust your intake. Lose 8 pounds? Take 142, add a zero, and adjust intake to 1420 calories/day.
Note: Never eat fewer than 1200 calories.
Once you have your caloric intake number, make a meal prep plan. This is not the time to go for variety. Beginner meal prep works best when you plan to eat THE SAME THING every day for a week for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Think less “buffet” and more “prix fixe.” Keep variety and options to a minimum at first. Plan a perfect day based on your calorie goal, and repeat those meals every day.
Note: Knowing what you are going to eat doesn’t mean the timing is strict. It allows you flexibility on when to eat without messing up your calorie intake. If you have planned 3 meals and 2 snacks, depending on your work schedule, responsibilities with your children, meetings, etc., you can eat those meals and snacks in any order and maintain control of your nutrition.
Main Content: 7 Tips for Simple and Efficient Meal Prep:
Having taught many meal-prep workshops, I have come up with a handy list of things to keep in mind:
1. Plan your meals around THE SAME MAIN PROTEIN. Choose a lean protein (boneless skinless chicken breast, lean ground turkey, etc.) and structure all of your lunches and dinners around that item. For beginner meal-preppers, chicken is by far the easiest protein to deal with. (Cook 4-6 pounds of chicken in your slow-cooker for 4 hours on low. Chop or shred the chicken and use as the base for your main meals.)
2. Wash, dry, slice and pre-portion all fruits and vegetables so they are ready to go.
3. Pre-portion snacks such as almonds, cashews, or chickpeas in small bags to be sure you are eating a proper serving size.
4. Choose recipes with ingredients that overlap to save time and money (green peppers, onions, etc.).
5. Make double-batches of items and freeze for future meal planning.
6. Invest in reusable and stackable microwave-safe containers to store individual entrees for the week.
7. Grab an inexpensive food scale to help with portion control and serving size.
Use the tips above to tackle your meal prep efficiently (cook chicken, chop veggies, bag snacks, portion entrees) and you’ll have a week of meals ready in an hour or two, saving you the daily stop and start of deciding what to eat, washing veggies, waiting for the oven to preheat, thawing meat, or just giving up and going out. (Did you know that the average dinner out at a restaurant is 1200 calories? Since 3500 calories = 1 pound, every splurge adds up and takes you in the exact opposite direction of weight loss.)
One or two hours in the kitchen on a Saturday or Sunday will save at least 10 hours throughout the week and as much as 10 pounds over the course of a month because you will be eating healthy meals within your calorie allotment. Staying on track WILL mean more hours available and fewer pounds on your body.
Let us know how your meal prep went and how much time you think you saved throughout the week by following these tips. And hey, be sure to use those extra hours to get in some exercise each day. That will ensure those 10 pounds disappear for good!
Stephanie Drew, Burn Boot Camp North Durham