Meal Prep for Beginners
Meal prep for beginners. With graduate school and cardiology residency clinics, my life is super busy! One way I stay on the healthy track and eliminate the stress and time factor of having to cook every single night by meal prepping. I know this can be even tougher when you have a family to feed. Here are some meal prep tips for beginners.
Meal prep for beginners – Essentials
- Plethora of Tupperware – Clear containers are preferable as they allow you to see what you have which reduces the likelihood your freshly prepped food will be forgotten. Go for glass if you’re planning to reheat in the same container.I suggest buying tupperware of similar sizes/shapes so you can easily stack them in your fridge/freezer.
- Plastics bags – Gallon-size are perfect for storing large quantities of fruits and veggies, marinating meat or freezing leftover soups and stews. Sandwich and snack-size bags are ideal for smaller quantities. Freezer bags are thicker than regular plastic bags making them more resistant to moisture and oxygen, making your food less likely to get freezer burn.
Meal Prep for beginners – The Plan
I personally have been using the 21 day fix meal plan which simples my life. No counting calories and easy to prep the meals for the week. I recommend picking one day a week as your “plan and prep” day and ideally grocery shopping on this day as well. You can definitely split the days up too, like plan during the week and have a set weekend day to shop. Typically, this is Sunday for me.
- Plan your meals for the week out using the following guidelines
- Protein + Starch + Vegetable (and be making sure to get your healthy fats in!)
- In the case of the 21 day fix, this would be protein (red), vegetable (green), carbohydrate (yellow)
Protein options: I have put a * next to my favorites
- Chicken Breasts* – Boneless, Skinless; I use Kroger Organic Frozen Strips in a pinchGround Beef – 85% lean or higher
- Ground Turkey* – 93% lean or higher*, I personally like JennyO products
- Fish – Salmon*, Tilapia, Cod*, Shrimp
- Eggs (hard boiled or freshly made) & Egg Whites*
Vegetarian or Vegan? Try plant based proteins:
- Beans (black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, etc.)
- Tofu, tempeh
Starch options: opt for whole grain, complex carbohydrates as your fuel! The idea is that you want carbs that are slowly digestible vs simple sugars that are easy digestible (turn into glucose quickly) and spike insulin. I have put a * next to my favorites!
- Sweet potato*
- Brown rice*
- Pasta (whole wheat)
- Rice Varities: Jasmine*, Basmati*, Wild Grain*, Etc.
(there are other options as well but I just gave a ‘basic’ list)
Vegetable options: leafy greens are your best bet here! I have put a * next to my favorites!
- Yellow squash*
- Green Beans
- Red, Yellow, Orange Peppers*
- Bok Choy
Make sure you have everything you need at home & add things you need to your shopping list.
Meal Prep for Beginners – The Prep
Once you get the food home, it easy to prep instead of putting it away. If you shopped on a different day, I recommend taking out food in categories (veggies, proteins, carbs).
- Peel, chop, cut all raw veggies for the week to put in lunch or to have as a snack. Its much easier to make healthy choices when these foods are ready to be eaten.
- Repeat the process for any fruit that requires cutting to be eaten
- Prep your protein/meals.
Now, you can take prepping as far as you want to. You can cook enough protein, veggies, starches to eat for the week or cook two meals to generate enough meals to alternate for the week (i.e five days of dinners)
Meal Prep for Beginners – Protein Prep
Cook as much of your protein that you would like to have for the week
- Make ground beef/ ground turkey meatballs and freeze for a later date. Check out my easy recipe here
- Sauté ground beef/ground turkey with a little bit of garlic powder, no salt seasoning to make tacos, healthy sloppy joe, chili
- Make homemade burgers for now and to freeze for a later date. Check out some great recipes I posted here
- Grill chicken in bulk with a variety of seasonings to switch up the flavor during the week
- Bake chicken in bulk
- Use your crockpot! Makes enough of a dish to have for the week!
- Hard boil enough eggs for the week as a lunch option or go to protein based snack
Meal Prep for Beginners – Start Slow
Please don’t get overwhelmed before you even start to prep!! Start small prepping 1-2 meals week and go from there. The level of meal prep depends on your schedule, health goals and time willing to dedicate to prepping. For example, I consider myself a beginner to intermediate meal prepper, since I prep for usually four to five days worth of dinner, a few days of breakfast (which for me is easy as I just blend up a quick shakeology breakfast to drink on the way to work), and all my healthy snacks. You can go more advanced and prep meals 7 days week including freezer meal prep (something I have not tried yet but involves cooking and freezing meals to defrost and enjoy at a later date). I do prep and freeze my turkey meatballs and protein veggie cups which are easy for a quick meal or snack.
Meal Prep for Beginners – Notes/Tips
- Make all the lean protein very “basic” so they are more versatile for eating through out the week. i.e. I will cook my ground turkey with only Mrs. Dash no salt seasoning, or grill my chicken with just similar seasoning as opposed to a marinade.
- Bake four different types of marinated chickens, so while you may be eating chicken a lot, there is a variety of flavors!
- Cutting up of vegetables and fruits on this day, in addition to cooking all of my protein, starches, and veggies!
- Break up your Meal Prepping. Do all my cutting up of vegetables and fruits on Sunday, and cook one of your meals (2 servings per person eating), including the meal for Sunday evening. That way you have food for Monday and another meal that week. Then, on Tuesday you can cook additional meals when you have more time for meals for two other days that week. This is a “dinner based” meal prep, meaning I will eat the same two dinners through out the week, on alternating days.
- MAKE YOUR LUNCH THE NIGHT BEFORE HAND, or even multiple nights in advance! This is a BIG one and one that when I do it make my morning workouts go much smoothier and I am not rushed to get it in, meal prepped and to work. I have a 45 min commute so every min counts. Prepping lunch ahead of time is much less work on you and ensures you have a nutritious and delicious lunch to fuel you through the day
- When buying ground meat, make your burgers or meatballs ahead of time while the meat is already defrosted so you can freeze them in bulk and pull them out to use at a later date. If the meat is already “prepped” then all you need to do is simply cook it to enjoy its’ deliciousness. I definitely love this tip as it having to defrost my turkey to make my meatballs is a pain in the butt. I have even gotten turkey the day I wanted to prep vs defrosting some turkey I have in the freezer. Just being honest! I did make sure it was sale though 🙂
Meal Prep for Beginners – Work in Progress
Just so you know I walk my talk (or type…), tonight I made my dinner for tonight as well as prepped my lunch for tomorrow. Dinner tonight was vegan burgers, broccoli and beet (1 red, 2 greens) and lunch tomorrow is steamed cod (prepped), broccoli and beets (1 red, 1 1/2 green). I have already made protein vegetable cups (1 red, 1 green) and turkey meatballs (1/2 yellow, 1 red). Chocolate shakeology will be for breakfast (2 red) with blueberries/blackberries (1 purple) and almond butter (teaspoon).
I will be posting an example of my meals for the week in another post. I hope this meal prep for beginners helped you get started. I would love comments and your tips! Please share the meal prep for beginner tips with other using the social share buttons below.
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