Carving out time to meal prep is challenging and can frankly be overwhelming for beginners. However, there is truth in the saying “failure to plan is planning to fail.” You need a surefire game plan that's most supportive of your goals. With time, you'll learn how to design your own dishes, and making meals ahead will become second nature. Read below for meal preparation design as fabulous as you are!
1. Protein for fat loss and muscle growth: Lean protein is essential for weight loss. It helps you feel full and aids in muscle recovery and growth — and the more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn. But that doesn't mean you have to eat the same baked chicken at every meal. Try mixing things up with other picks.
2. Vegetables and fruit for weight loss and gut health:
If you're monitoring your digestion or trying to lose weight, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables should be the star of your plate. They're filling, and fiber helps regulate blood sugar, preventing cravings. All fruits and vegetables have different health benefits, so aim for variety — the more colors, the better. Here are some great ones to add:
3. Grains to round out the meals:
Carbs are not the enemy, as long as you pair them with a source of protein and some healthy fats for a well-balanced meal. Whole grains like brown rice and quinoa have more fiber and nutrients than refined grains like white bread. Try these picks.
4. Healthy fats to nutrient absorption:
Healthy fats are more calorie-dense than carbs and protein, but that only serves to make your meals more satiating and help you absorb your veggies’ nutrients. Plus, fats are crucial for a healthy brain and hormone function. These are the ones worth adding to your list.
5. Get cooking!
Once you get all those healthy foods home, and you're ready to start cooking, remember that certain methods will better serve your goals than others. Stick with grilling, roasting, steaming, and sautéing using low-sodium broth or water. If you're trying to eat healthier, you'll want to avoid frying your food or cooking in a lot of oil or butter.
6. Portion it out
Assemble a protein, healthy fat, and veggies or fruit with each meal. A whole grain should be an accompaniment to add texture to your meals. While portion sizes are highly individual, make sure veggies are at least half your plate. For example, to create a meal with about 400 calories, include 3/4 cup pulses (such as canned, no-salt-added chickpeas) as a protein, 10 kalamata olives as a healthy fat, 3/4 cup grape tomatoes, 1/4 cup onion, and 2 cups spinach sautéed in low-sodium broth, 1/2 cup cooked whole-wheat pasta for a whole grain topped with 1/4 cup tomato sauce. You can also add seasoning as you like, such as black pepper.
When you need to eyeball it, many experts recommend following the 50/25/25 rule, in which you fill 50% of your plate with fruits and nonstarchy vegetables, 25% with lean protein, and 25% with whole grains or starchy vegetables, with a small amount of fat (such as nuts or avocado) mixed in.
Changing how you shop and cook can be overwhelming, but totally worth the effort. Have fun and get creative. As long as you portion out your foods, you can branch out and come up with your own creations.
Women's Health & Fitness Specialist.