The Importance of Meal Prepping and How It Can Help You Achieve Results
Coming into the warmer months and a busy time of year, meal prepping is a fantastic way to save you time while keeping you on track to your health and fitness goals. Here are our top benefits of meal prepping and tips for getting started.
What Is Meal Prep?
Meal prep refers to preparing entire meals or snacks ahead of time. Some individuals meal prep the night before, while others prepare healthy meals for the entire week.
What Are the Benefits of Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping can make your life easier in a variety of ways, but here are seven of the top benefits of planning and preparing your meals ahead of time.
1. Save Time
Time. Most of us could use more of it. Perhaps the biggest benefit of meal prepping is the time it saves.
Instead of wasting time figuring out what to cook, figuring out which ingredients you have on hand, or deciding where to grab fast food from, meal prepping sorts out everything in advance.
2. Save Money
Do you think eating healthy has to be expensive? This is a common misconception. Meal prepping can save money since you can buy ingredients in bulk, spend less money going out to eat, and freeze leftover food for later.
3. Cut Back On Food Waste
Have you ever thrown out food? Many of us are guilty of doing this. Perhaps you bought ingredients for a certain recipe and never got around to making it or maybe you bought an ingredient for a recipe and ended up with excess that you didn’t know what to do with.
One of the greatest benefits of meal prepping is that planning allows for ingredients to be used as efficiently as possible. By planning out meals that incorporate similar ingredients and knowing exactly what you need for the week, food waste can be drastically reduced.
4. Meal Prep for Weight Loss
The ability to consume a consistently healthy diet plays a significant role in achieving your weight loss and health goals. Having pre-prepared meals on hand also ensures your portions are kept in check, an especially important factor if you are exhausted or stressed.
Whereas restaurant meals or tv dinners often consist of excessive portion sizes, preparing your food puts you in full control of portion sizes and the ingredients you are consuming.
5. Reduce Stress
It can be stressful and overwhelming to come home from a long day of work and have to decide what to make for dinner. Having meal prep ideas figured out ahead of time eliminates the pressure of deciding what to cook during the week.
For more tips on reducing stress, check out our article on staying physically and mentally healthy during stressful times.
6. Boost Your Creativity in the Kitchen
Feeling uninspired in the kitchen? Meal prepping can help increase your confidence in the kitchen, encourage creativity, and open up an entirely new world of recipes and flavours.
7. Improve Your Relationship With Food
Meal prepping causes you to learn more about the nutrients and energy that certain ingredients offer. It can also help spare you from choosing unhealthy food when you are hungry and rushed.
Different Ways To Meal Prep
While most people think meal prepping involves spending an entire weekend afternoon cooking and planning, there are a variety of methods you can choose from.
- Batch cooking – Making large batches of a chosen recipe and splitting it into individual portions to freeze or eat
- Make-ahead meals – Full meals cooked ahead of time which can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated for meals
- Ready-to-cook ingredients – Prepping ingredients ahead of time to cut down on the time spent cooking in the kitchen
- Individually portioned meals – Fresh meals prepared ahead of time that can be stored in grab-and-go portions
It may take some time and experimenting to determine the best meal prep method for your goals and situation. Start by picking the method that looks most appealing and continue trying different methods until you determine the meal prep method that fits you best.
Safe Food Prepping
Cooking, storing, and reheating foods properly is key for meal prep safety. Here are safety tips for meal prepping:
- Double-check that your refrigerator is set at 40 degrees F (5 degrees C) or below (freezers should be at 0 degrees F or -18 degrees C)
- Cook poultry, fish, or fresh meat within two days of purchasing (red meat should be cooked within 3 to 5 days)
- Store meats on the bottom refrigerator shelf
- Cool foods quickly and refrigerate within two hours of cooking or purchasing
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure meats are cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F (75 degrees C)
- Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator rather than the countertop
- Only reheat foods once
- Reheat all meals to at least 165 degrees F (75 degrees C)
- Eat frozen meals within 24 hours of defrosting
- Use labels to remind you to consume foods within a safe period (frozen meals should be eaten within 3 to 6 months; refrigerated meals should be eaten within 3 to 4 days)
Tips For Healthy Meal Prep
If you need help coming up with healthy meal prep ideas and getting started, here are some simple tips.
- Choose a meal prep method that suits your lifestyle and routine or select a combination of methods that work with your schedule and nutrition goals
- When first starting, try to stick to recipes you are already familiar with
- Make a clear grocery list of every ingredient you need for the week and try to plan recipes that use overlapping ingredients
- Decide which day you will do your planning, shopping, and cooking
Do You Want To Learn More About Meal Prepping?
Do you have questions about meal prepping? Have you ever tried meal prepping? Do you have any meal prepping resources you would like to share? We would love to hear from you!
For more tips on getting in shape for the warmer months, check out our top 10 recipes to slim down for summer.