Eating healthy throughout your hectic week can be a real struggle. How easy is it to grab some fast food on your way home or skip a meal altogether? If you want to see results from your workouts, you have to fuel your fitness goals correctly. The secret? Meal prep.
Most often when people hear meal prep, they think it’s time-consuming and will tie them to eating the same meal every day. With these top tips from Burn Boot Camp personal trainers, you’ll learn how to successfully meal prep delicious food more efficiently!
1. Prep Ingredients, Not Meals
The top meal prepping advice from our Burn Boot Camp personal trainers? Prep ingredients rather than meals. Make large batches of your choices of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables, storing them in their own individual containers, rather than portioning them out and combining them ahead of time.
“I prep ingredients to later make into meals. I’ll make rice and quinoa in an instant pot, sauté peppers and onions, roast veggies and sweet potatoes and grill a bunch of chicken. Throughout the week I mix them together differently based on what I want and need to eat,” shares trainer KC Nolan of Burn Boot Camp Manchester, MO.
Meal prepping ingredients, rather than dishes, gives you greater flexibility with your meals throughout your week. It allows you to adjust the amount of food you add into your meal based on what your body needs that day. Maybe you did a more intense workout, or didn’t workout at all, so your body will need more or less carbohydrates, protein and fat.
“I love to prepare two or three different types of lean proteins. This gives me the ability to ask my kids what they would like to eat without actually having to cook during the week. To reheat, I find best results using an air fryer or toaster oven,” says trainer Lauren Badia of Burn Boot Camp Huntersville, NC.
2. Mix It Up
Not all of us like to eat the same meal for lunch and dinner five days in a row. And how are you supposed to know on Sunday what will satisfy your hunger Thursday at 7PM? Meal prepping ingredients instead of meals also allows you to mix things up during your week.
“Prepping the same meal to eat the entire week makes it too easy to throw it in the garbage and grab some quick and easy junk food instead. I tell all my clients to find six different recipes they like that can be made from the ingredients they meal prep and then alternate what dish they eat each day,” says Cody Burns, Head Trainer at Burn Boot Camp Verona, WI.
“I tell all my clients to find six different recipes they like that can be made from the ingredients they meal prep and then alternate what dish they eat each day.”
“I love making different bowls throughout week with different flairs! I’ll have containers of black beans, chickpeas, chicken, grass-fed beef, brown rice, cauliflower rice and lots of chopped veggies stored in my refrigerator. Each night I’ll combine them differently, with different herbs and condiments, to keep my meals exciting. I might pair black beans with cauliflower rice and chicken with some salsa and taco seasoning for a delicious taco bowl. Or I’ll toss some brown rice, chickpeas and veggies together with coconut aminos (a healthier version of soy sauce), garlic and ginger powder for an exotic Asian bowl,” shares trainer Michelle Siner of Burn Boot Camp Concord, NC.
“I keep my protein prep pretty simple and mix it up as I go. For instance, I’ll throw a bunch of chicken into a crock-pot and shred it once cooked. I’ll switch up the way I eat it each day, from chicken lettuce wraps to chicken salad to buffalo chicken to teriyaki chicken stir-fry—the options are endless. I love this method because I’m saving time by meal prepping my protein but still have variety in my meals throughout the week,” says Andrea Larkins of Burn Boot Camp Collierville, TN.
Keeping different spices and condiments on hand makes it extremely simple to spice up your dish. Tahini, coconut aminos, salsa, high-quality balsamic vinegar (which is low in sugar), honey, flavored hummus, whole-grain Dijon mustard and marinara sauce are always great staples for adding a boost of flavor. Pair these with your favorite herbs and spice blends to whip up a low-calorie sauce or dressing. Some great pairings include:
Coconut aminos, honey, garlic powder and ginger
Hummus and balsamic vinegar
Salsa and taco seasoning
Tahini, whole-grain Dijon mustard and dill
Honey and whole-grain Dijon mustard
Plain marinara sauce and Indian seasoning
3. Take Shortcuts
Meal prepping doesn’t have to be laborious, time-consuming or complicated when you take some shortcuts.
Take advantage of pre-cut vegetables. You’ll save so much time when you cut out scrubbing, peeling and chopping vegetables or cleaning up the mess! Most grocery stores even carry pre-spiralized vegetables like zucchini, beets, sweet potatoes and squash for you to easily make fun “noodle” dishes.
Grabbing a rotisserie chicken or stocking up on clean proteins from the grocery store’s hot bar is a great fallback when you are short on time. Try to avoid deli meats, even if they are freshly sliced, as they usually contain processed oils and sugar.
Keep your shelves stocked with canned beans. Black beans, lentils, chickpeas and edamame are all amazing sources of complex carbohydrates as well as protein, and they have a long shelf life. Open the can, drain, rinse and they are good to go—zero prep time and zero cooking.
And don’t underestimate the frozen foods aisle. You can save so much time by buying frozen brown rice, quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, lean proteins and so much more. Try to stay away from frozen meals, as they often contain processed ingredients, preservatives and lots of sodium.
4. Snacks: Think Simple
Meal prepping lunch and dinner takes commitment, so don’t overthink it when it comes to your snacks. While it’s fun to have homemade protein bars and energy balls, it isn’t always doable to prepare them. When it comes to snacks, think about what you can grab and go.
An assortment of nuts is always a great go-to snack to keep on hand—they’re high in healthy fat and protein, helping curb your hunger until your next meal. Almonds aren’t the only healthy nut at the store, either. Cashews, pistachios, pecans, macadamia nuts and walnuts are all extremely nutritious. Just keep in mind that one serving of nuts is only ¼ cup.
Other great snack options that don’t require any prep are baby carrots with hummus, hard-boiled eggs, oatmeal and rice cakes with nut butter.
With all your snacks, it’s beneficial to portion them out into separate, small containers in advance.
5. Prep Twice a Week
If you meal prep all your meals on Sunday, come Friday, your five-day-old chicken may not sound (or look) appetizing. Trainer Kyle Lane of Burn Boot Camp Elizabeth, NC suggests meal prepping twice a week instead of one. Not only does this provide you with fresher food, but prepping for only three days takes less of your time.
6. Use a Crock-Pot
A crock-pot should be your best friend when it comes to meal prepping! It eliminates any wait time and allows you to cook food in large batches.
Before you go to bed, toss a few chicken breasts into your crock-pot along with a dash of chicken broth and set it on low for 8 hours. In the morning, shred the chicken and transfer to a container to store. You can do the same with with quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and vegetables. Or get creative by meal prepping a healthy roast, soup or stew.
“I typically make some type of a soup in the crock-pot that makes enough for my lunch every day, plus meals for the family. Sometimes I even have enough leftover that I’ll pour it into a mason jar to store in the freezer for lunch the following week,” says Lauren Badia, a trainer at Burn Boot Camp Huntersville, NC.
Other kitchen aids to consider investing in include an air fryer, an Instant Pot, a rice cooker and a toaster oven—they’re all perfect for cooking clean and quick meals.