Diet & Nutrition
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7 Easy Meal Prep Hacks for Weight Loss

Take the guess work out of mealtime and shed a few pounds in the process.

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By Taylor Lupo

A busy schedule can make it tough to spend time cooking wholesome meals every day. Instead of reaching for what’s convenient, dedicate a few hours once or twice a week to shopping, chopping and prepping healthy meals.

Keeping premade, pre-portioned meals and snacks on hand makes it easy to stick to your diet and weight loss goals, no matter when hunger strikes.

Forget what you’ve heard about tedious food preparation. We’ve rounded up the best tips to prep your meals for optimal weight loss.

Create a game plan

2 / 8 Create a game plan

Preparing meals for an entire week may seem like quite the feat, but creating a grocery list and menu is a great way to save time and stick to a well-balanced diet.

Spend an hour over the weekend mapping out your meals for the week, and jot down the food items you’ll need to pick up from the grocery store. Using a shopping list is a great way to keep yourself on track. In fact, one study suggests creating and using a grocery list may help promote healthier eating habits.     

Building a weekly menu and only buying the food you need to make your menu items will reduce waste, prevent overeating or snacking and make cooking a breeze.

Keep variety in mind

3 / 8 Keep variety in mind

When it comes to meal prep, sometimes whipping up a big pot of a single dish or recreating a favorite week after week is easiest. This practice may save you some time (and thought) on prep, but it may not be the best tactic for weight loss. Results from one study suggest a monotonous diet can actually increase your cravings for unhealthy eats.  

Eating a variety of foods is the best way to ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs, and it keeps mealtime interesting. Load your cart with a variety of wholesome ingredients, like lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains and fresh produce, and take advantage of low-calorie broths, spices and seasonings to add flavor to your food. Be mindful, too much variety can lead to unhealthy choices and weight gain, so load your kitchen with only the best ingredients.

Practice portion control

4 / 8 Practice portion control

To lose weight, it’s essential to burn more calories than you consume—something you won’t likely accomplish eating large plates of food. Sure, keeping serving dishes off the table and filling your plate from the stove can help prevent overeating, but measuring and portioning meals may be even more effective.

Over the last 40 years, portion sizes have grown, and American adults today consume an average of 300 more calories a day than they did in 1985. Take a good look at the recommended serving size—and stick to it—when portioning out your food. Utilize tools like a food scale and single-serve containers to portion and eat just the amount of food your body needs.

What’s a serving look like?

  • Half cup of cooked rice or pasta—the size of a tennis ball
  • One cup of raw leafy vegetables—the size of a small fist
  • Three ounces of lean meat—the size of a deck of cards 
DIY whenever you can

5 / 8 DIY whenever you can

Dressings and sauces make flavorful additions to almost any meal, but some are high in calories, sodium, fat, sugar and artificial ingredients. A drizzle of creamy ranch dressing can quickly turn your healthy lunchtime salad into a weight loss saboteur, with an extra 110 calories, 11 grams of fat and 260 milligrams of sodium.

Swap these calorie bombs with homemade alternatives. Whisk together a simple vinaigrette using olive oil, red wine vinegar and a blend of Mediterranean spices, or try this healthy ranch dressing recipe.

Make a jar of your favorite dressing or sauce to keep in the refrigerator and add flavor to your cooking all week long. 

Grill, roast or bake

6 / 8 Grill, roast or bake

Greasy, fried foods taste great—but they’re certainly not the best option for weight loss. Rather, baking, broiling, roasting, poaching and steaming your food gives it great flavor, without the guilt.

The best part about most of these methods? You can cook an entire meal in a single pot, pan or baking sheet. Thread your lean protein and fresh veggies onto a skewer and pop them on the grill for a quick and easy summertime meal. Or toss carrots, onions, celery and chicken breast with olive oil and herbs, and roast in the same pan until tender. These methods make cooking a week’s worth of meals nearly effortless.

Pack healthy snacks

7 / 8 Pack healthy snacks

Meal prepping can include more than breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s smart to prep snacks, too. Healthy snacks between meals can actually help promote weight loss.

Here’s how it works: Healthy snacks help sate between-meal hunger, so you don’t overindulge during lunch or dinner. Plus, preparing snacks ahead of time makes noshing anywhere convenient, and can prevent an unhealthy trip to vending machine.

If you’re looking to lose weight, keep snacks below 100 calories. Some healthy choices:

  • Medium apple or orange
  • 20 baby carrots
  • 2 tablespoons hummus
  • 13 almonds

Healthy snacking tip: Never eat out of the bag. Measure out a single serving and savor the flavor of your afternoon treat. 

Make the freezer your friend

8 / 8 Make the freezer your friend

The real beauty of meal prep is the convenience of readymade meals at your fingertips. Ensure you’re ready anytime hunger strikes by keeping your freezer stocked.

Food lasts for a few days in your refrigerator, but keeps for months frozen. Make an extra-large batch of a family favorite, like barley soup or blueberry muffins, and freeze leftovers. This minimizes waste and will ensure you have a healthy meal on hand at all times.

Another great option? Freezer-friendly breakfast burritos.