The Benefits of Meal Prep (And How to Do It Like a Boss)

Americans aren't crazy for cooking. A 2017 survey revealed that only 10% of Americans enjoy cooking. 

Yet there are many ways for you to become a more enthusiastic and healthier chef. One way is to learn about meal prep.

What are the benefits of meal prepping? How can it help your mental and physical health? What are some different ways you can prepare meals in advance? 

Answer these questions and you can create delicious meals for yourself without breaking a sweat. Here is your comprehensive guide on how to meal prep.

Benefits of Meal Prepping 

Meal prep ideas can make a real difference for your health. Whether you want to lose or maintain your weight, you can find benefits in several ways.

Healthy Eating 

Many people order fast food because it is fast. They don't have time to cook and they order from the first restaurant they see. 

Following meal prep tips will keep you from rushing toward fast food. You just need to determine what you want to cook and how you can cook it. 

You can have the food you order from restaurants like hamburgers. But you can take steps to decrease the health effects of fast food.

You can use a kind of beef that contains less fat. If you want to avoid the saturated fat in beef, you can use ground bison meat instead.

Cook your burger on a grill without adding canola or vegetable oil to it. Use lettuce as a wrapper and then top your burger with vegetables, including sauteed onions.

Mindful Eating 

Meal prep gives you time for mindful eating. You are not rushing to eat your food when you make a schedule for when you will cook and eat. 

There are numerous benefits of mindfulness, including decreased lower back pain. You can pay attention to yourself and your body, removing yourself from stressors.

Many people think of mindfulness as meditation or prayer. But mindful eating can help you promote overall mindfulness as well as control your portions.

Sit down with your food in front of you. Spend time looking at your food and examining its colors and textures. 

Then put one bite of food on your fork and put it in your mouth. Chew it slowly, letting your saliva wash over it. Focus on how it tastes and feels inside your mouth and how it travels to your stomach. 

Saving Time 

Some people don't like to cook because it takes too long. Yet cooking can take a long time because someone does not know what to cook and cannot find ingredients. 

Meal prep involves mise en place. You look at your recipe and figure out what ingredients you need. You then spend time laying your ingredients out in the order you will use them. 

You can perform mise en place well in advance of your meals. This means you can head straight into cooking once you get home.

If you need to save even more time, you can cook entire meals in advance. When you cook dinner, create two portions for yourself. All you need to do is reheat your food in order to have another meal.

Improved Cooking Skills

Meal prep will help you learn how to cook. You can start out with basic recipes like roasted meats and salads. As you build your skills, you can try out more complicated techniques like substituting ingredients.

Many resources are available online to help you learn cooking skills. You can find a guide on how to substitute almond butter for peanut butter. This keeps you from having to go to the store and it lets you practice your creative cooking skills.

How to Meal Prep

There is no one way to learn how to meal prep. You should try out different techniques and styles so you hone your skills and don't get bored with cooking.

Plan Out Visits to Grocery Stores

Before you go to the grocery store, review the recipes you want to cook. Write down the ingredients you need, including their amounts. 

Take a look at your weekly schedule. Then take a look at when stores are available and when peak hours for shoppers are. Many people like to visit the store on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. 

If you have time during the workday to go grocery shopping, try going there at that time. You won't waste time online and you will find all the ingredients you need. 

You can buy in bulk if you plan on making several similar recipes. Aim to go to the store once every two weeks instead of once a week. This will save you time and let you strategize for the long term about your meals.

If you must order takeout food, you should opt for the prepared foods at grocery stores. They tend to be healthier than fast food and most restaurants. A rotisserie chicken breast with green beans is a good choice.

Cook Meals in Advance

Over the weekend, write down a list of the meals you want for the upcoming week. Account for everything, including snacks. 

Some meals are hard to make in advance. But you can cook most entrees and then freeze them until you are ready to eat them.

At a minimum, try cooking your meals for Monday and Tuesday on Sunday. Move from one recipe into the next and put everything in the freezer. Leave snacks for last, as they are not essential for your diet. 

Make Varied Meals

Healthy eating does not mean limiting yourself to fruits and vegetables. One serving of vegetables is half a cup, and you should aim for at least five servings of vegetables a day. But you also need to eat protein and whole grains from healthy sources. 

Find various recipes with different combinations of healthy ingredients. Do not just limit yourself to salads.

Try roasting, boiling, and sauteeing leafy greens. Eat nuts and legumes as your main protein sources. 

Snacks can give you fuel in the middle of the day and help you meet your dietary needs. If you aren't used to snacks, try them out. Make some simple peanut butter keto snacks in advance so you can eat while working.

Get Storage Containers

Do not throw your food into a plastic bag or a container wrapped in tin foil. You risk losing the flavors of your food and possibly overeating. Buy a few different kinds of storage containers.

Airtight plastic containers are good when you need to store individual ingredients. Separate your meat and cheese from your produce so you avoid cross-contamination. 

Microwavable containers are good for pre-prepared meals. Find containers that do not have BPAs in them. Glassware and silicone containers are good for the environment and they can go straight into the oven. 

If you plan on freezing a meal, you can put it in a mason jar. Keep in mind that your food may expand or gather ice crystals. Leave roughly one inch of space in the jar and make sure the lid forms a tight seal. 

Try to find containers that stack on top of each other. But find containers of different sizes and shapes so you can store your various meals. 

Learn How to Reheat

You can reheat most of your meals in the microwave. Keep the lids on your containers and heat until your food is warm in the middle. 

But microwaving is not always ideal. It can make certain foods soggy and it can melt ice, watering down the flavors of your meal.

You can reheat your food on the stovetop. Put it in a pan and turn your stove on high. Your food is ready when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

You can also use your oven. You can keep your food in a microwavable container, or you can put it in a pan. Turn your oven to 325 degrees and heat your food until it reaches 165 degrees.

The Essentials of Meal Prep

Meal prep does not have to stress you out. It can help you prepare healthier and more mindful meals in less time. 

Be thorough about your preparations. Figure out what you will cook and when you will go to the store. Practice mise en place so you are ready for cooking immediately.

Create diverse meals with fresh and healthy ingredients. Try cooking in bulk and freezing meals so you can eat when you want.

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