How To Start Meal Prepping For Weight Loss

Hunger pangs make losing weight hard, so we’re giving you meal prep ideas for weight loss so you can have filling foods on hand all week long. The Fitmate approach to eating includes lots of protein-rich and fiber-rich foods so that you're fuller for longer on foods you can enjoy. Meal prep for weight loss can help you make sure you’ve got those kinds of foods ready when you need them.

Up next we’re going to answer questions like, What is meal prep and why should I do it? We’ll get into how to meal prep for weight loss and the kinds of foods you’re going to want to include. You don’t have to spend hours shopping and cooking, prepping can be easy and we’ll show you how next.

What Is Meal Prepping?

Meal prepping is the process of planning and preparing your meals ahead of time to help you meet your nutrition goals. When weight loss is the primary goal, you’ll want to include nutritious foods that are both filling and low in calories. Many of these foods are high in protein and fiber, as well as complex carbs like whole grains. They make it easier to stick to your meal plan because you feel full and aren’t tempted to change course when it’s time to eat.

Foods that are high in protein include lean chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, Greek yogurt, tofu, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds. High-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, and complex carbs like whole grains (think quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread). When planning your meals, protein and veggies like leafy greens should be at the core, with some whole grains mixed in.

You’ll also want to limit foods that are calorie-dense and don’t fill you up. Calorie-dense foods contain a lot of calories, but not much in terms of nutrition. Examples of these foods include regular pasta, white bread, bagels, pastries, cookies, juice, and soda.

The Fitmate nutrition approach focuses on all of the delicious and nutritious foods to eat so you don’t even crave these calorie-dense foods. If you’re not sure which foods are best for your individual weight loss needs, a weight loss coach can provide personalized guidance.

Types Of Meal Prepping

There are a few types of methods you can experiment with when doing meal prep for weight loss. The one you choose depends on your preferences and what makes sense for your schedule.

Batch Cooking

Batch cooking is when you fully prepare and cook a large amount of food ahead of time. For example, you may set aside a few hours on the weekend to cook a bunch of meals all at once. These meals are made ahead of time for the coming week and are pre-cooked, so all you have to do is heat them up.

You are therefore working in batches, making multiple servings of food to hold you over for several days. This meal planning method is great if you don’t have time to cook during the weekdays, but have time to prep ahead on the weekends.

Ready To Cook Meals

Ready-to-cook meals are those that are prepared and ready to be cooked. Some of the prep work may include washing, chopping, and arranging the ingredients so they are oven-ready. Then all you have to do is pop them in the oven, slow-cooker, or stovetop to cook.  

While these meals are not entirely pre-cooked, they still save you a ton of time on busy days. Chopping and prepping is half the battle when it comes to meal prep, so pulling your already prepped food out to cook will feel like a breeze.

This type of meal planning may be good if you don’t have long chunks of time to fully pre-cook your meals, but you want to get them oven-ready.

Made Ahead Meals

If you want to get ahead of the game, you can prepare and cook make-ahead meals. These are meals you can cook in advance, then freeze and store for later use.

This method allows you to prepare a week or more in advance, should you feel so inclined or need to plan for especially busy weeks. Maybe you’re starting a new job, class, or are going on maternity leave. For this method, it’s helpful if you have a decent amount of freezer space to store these meals.

A few great make-ahead meal ideas include casseroles such as turkey enchiladas, chicken tetrazzini, and lentil stew.

What Are The Benefits Of Meal Prepping?

Meal prep for weight loss has many benefits for your health. If you keep your fridge and pantry stocked with filling protein and fiber-rich prepared foods front and center, you’re more likely to eat them. And the more you eat filling foods that are naturally low in calories, the more weight loss results you’re likely to see.

Reduce Stress Of Eating Healthier

Eating healthy can often feel complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. The Fitmate approach to nutrition makes it easy by focusing on foods that fill you up which you’ll want to eat. Meal planning makes it easier to ensure you have foods on hand that are conducive to your weight loss plan.  

When you meal prep for weight loss properly and include Fitmate-friendly foods like those high in protein and fiber, it ensures you have healthy, delicious food at the ready. All it takes is a bit of planning based on your calorie and nutrition needs, which can be determined by your nutrition coach.

Quick And Convenient Meals To Avoid Temptation

Another advantage of meal prepping is it helps to ensure you include the healthiest foods in your diet, rather than leaving it up to chance and ending up ordering takeout. While takeout is alright once in a while, too much processed takeout food can make your body retain water, cause you to eat too many calories, and slow down your weight loss progress.

As much as you do your best day-to-day picking healthier options for your meals, meal prepping just makes it easier. When you know you’ve got your meals and snacks set, the less you have to think about what you’re going to eat next.

You can meal prep in a few hours on the weekend for an easy week.

How Do You Make A Meal Prepping Plan?

Here are a few key steps on how to meal prep for weight loss easily.

Develop A Meal List For Prepping

The first step is making a pantry list of healthy, filling foods to always have on hand to prep. It’s also equally important to minimize foods that are not filling. Non-filling foods include packaged foods, refined carbs like white bread, and sugary drinks like juice or soda.

Here are a few essential Fitmate-friendly weight loss foods and drinks that make it easy to stick to your calorie goals:

Fitmate
Foods and Drinks Meal Prep Food and Drink Ideas
 Lean Proteins Chicken breast, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, tofu, tuna, lentils, and beans.
Vegetables Veggies are naturally low in calories and high in fiber, which keeps you full. Leafy greens are also especially quick and easy to prepare. Choose veggies such as pre-cut salads, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens.
 Fruits  Fruits are also a great source of fiber, and should always be part of your pantry list. Buying pre-chopped fruit and vegetables is another way to save additional time in the kitchen and is worth the investment.
 Complex Carbs Whole grains like oats, oatmeal, buckwheat, quinoa, bulgur, millet, whole wheat, and barley. These also provide fiber, are easy to prepare, and can support weight loss. They should be eaten in moderation as they are higher in calories than other high-fiber foods like vegetables and fruits.
 Beverages Water is hands-down the best beverage as it hydrates you, fills you up and has no calories. You can also include naturally flavored water, seltzer, decaf coffee and tea.

Plan Out Your Grocery List

After you’ve created your pantry list, now it’s time to plan your groceries. You can find healthy and easy recipes using your pantry list items, such as sheet pan baked chicken, lentil soup, or a spinach frittata.

Check your pantry first to see if you already have any of the items needed, then add what you still need to your grocery list. If you’re planning on doubling or tripling any recipes to batch cook, make sure to account for that in your list so you get enough and don’t have to go back to the store.

Determine Your Budget

Determine how much you have per week to spend on groceries, and try to base your meals around this budget. This will help you plan your meals based on your budget. A good rule of thumb is to buy fresh produce that is in season to maximize your dollar.

The good news is that meal planning can save you money in and of itself. When planning your meals ahead of time, you only buy what you need. This results in less food waste as well as fewer last-minute drive-through or takeout runs that leave you feeling sluggish.

Factor In Macros And Calories For Portion Control

To lose weight, you’ll want to factor macronutrients and calories into your meal planning.  Macronutrients are protein, carbs, and fats. It’s a good idea to get lots of protein and complex carbs in your meal planning so you stay full.

In general, a higher protein diet (20-30% of your calories) is best for weight loss and for keeping you full. Fat and carb amounts may vary depending on the person. To lose weight, you’ll also need to be in a calorie deficit. This simply means that you are burning more calories than you consume.

To figure out how many calories you normally burn in a day you should calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).  As long as you consume fewer calories than your TDEE number each day, you will move towards losing weight. Your Fitmate nutrition coach can help you figure out your TDEE numbers to create a more specific nutrition plan for faster weight loss.

Weigh Your Food

Portion control is essential in regards to weight loss, to ensure you’re staying within your calorie budget. Breaking out that food scale is the most accurate way to know your portions, especially if you’re new to meal planning. The good news is that, if you don’t have a scale or don’t want to weigh your food, the Fitmate approach can help you portion control without it.

The Fitmate approach prioritizes lower-calorie, filling foods like lean proteins and veggies. When you include these foods, you are fuller longer and in turn, don’t have to weigh everything because your body will naturally tell you when it’s had enough calories.

When you fill up on low-calorie, filling foods like leafy green veggies, this is also known as volume eating. This can be hugely beneficial for weight loss, as it allows you to eat a larger portion without going over your calories.

Meal prep with dried beans and lentils.

What Food Can You Meal Prep With?

Here are a few specific meal prep ideas for weight loss to give you a better idea of where to start.

Develop a Meal Prep-Friendly Shopping List

The type of food you choose to meal prep with can make or break your weight loss efforts. The focus should be on foods that are easy to prepare, nutritious, and filling so that meal prepping is easy to stick to. If you’ve ever found yourself losing motivation to meal prep after a few weeks, chances are you’re making it harder than it has to be.

The focus should be on foods high in protein and fiber, as these foods have been shown to help support weight loss and curb cravings. It’s also a good idea to store some foods that won’t spoil too quickly, such as canned beans, dried lentils, frozen fruits and vegetables.

Fitmate Meal-Prep Friendly Shopping List
Lean Proteins Vegetables Fruits Complex Carbs
Canned tuna  Leafy Greens Bananas  Oats
Chicken breast  Broccoli  Oranges  Quinoa
Eggs  Cauliflower  Apples  Bulgur
Tofu  Green Beans  Grapes  Buckwheat
Lentils Carrots  Berries  Millet
Beans Frozen vegetables  Pineapple  Whole wheat bread, pasta
Greek Yogurt  Salad Kits  Frozen fruits  Brown Rice

Lean Proteins

These proteins are at the core of Fitmate’s nutrition plan, as they are filling and make it easier to stick to your meal plan. You can stock up your pantry with canned fish and beans as well as dried lentils and chickpeas that you can buy in bulk

Vegetables

Veggies are naturally low in calories and high in fiber, which keep you full. Buy fresh veggies when in season and frozen ones otherwise to stay within budget. For fast meal prep you can buy prepared salad kits and bagged leafy greens.

Fruit

Many low-carb diet gurus label fruit as bad because it contains sugar, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Fruit is a great source of fiber and natural sugar, and should always be part of your pantry list. Buy fresh or frozen fruits depending on budget and availability.

Complex Carbs

These whole grains provide fiber, are easy to prepare, and can support weight loss. They should be eaten in moderation as they are higher in calories than other high-fiber foods like vegetables and fruits. You can stock up  your pantry with these for quick sides for meals.

How Many Meals Should You Meal Prep?

There are no hard fast rules as to how many meals you should prepare ahead - it is a matter of preference and what works best for your schedule. Depending on your lifestyle, you may choose to meal prep for weight loss a week ahead just to get it done in one sitting, or you may prefer to take it a day at a time.

If you have a busier than normal week coming up, you may want to prepare for the whole week so all you have to do is heat up or grab and go on busy weekdays. You can save yourself time in preparing this way by batch cooking and making enough for leftovers. So even though you’re cooking for an entire week, you may only need to cook 2-3 dinners with leftovers.

If this feels overwhelming to you or you don’t like leftovers, you can simply take it a day or two at a time. For example, you may want to prep and cook on Sunday for Monday and Tuesday, and then Wednesday you prep again to get you through the rest of the week. This may work better if you don’t have longer chunks of time to prepare for a whole week in advance.

When it comes down to it, your meal prepping schedule has to be feasible for you so it’s sustainable enough for you to reap the benefits of it.

Meal Prep Storage Tips

Once you have prepared all your food, you’ll want to store it properly so it stays fresh, is pre-portioned to support weight loss, and is easy to find when you need it. Here are a few tips.

  1. Make room for your meal prep. Before you start prepping, quickly go through your refrigerator (and freezer if cooking for longer than 5 days). Make sure things are organized and that you have enough dedicated space to store your meal prep containers.
  2. Store your prepared meals in single-serving-sized containers. Storing in single-serving containers will make it incredibly easy to stick to the proper portion you need for weight loss. Glass containers are ideal as it is easier to clean, is better for the environment, and is safer to reheat than plastic.
  3. Label your containers with the name of the meal and the day you plan on having it. For example, “Chicken stir-fry, Monday,” and organize each meal by day of the week. Then when you get home after a long workday, you can easily pull out what you need without a second thought.

Meal Prepping And Weight Loss

If you’re ready to start seeing the health benefits of meal prepping for yourself, here are a few meal prep ideas for weight loss and a sample plan that will give you 6 meals for the week. You can prep them all in an hour or two and place them in your fridge for the week to come.

Fitmate Sample Meal Prep for 3 days
Meal Recipe Meal Prep List 
 Breakfast Egg Salad on Whole Wheat 6 eggs
3 tbsp Greek Yogurt (instead of mayo)
Whole Wheat Bread
salt/black pepper
 Lunch  Roast Chicken Breast Salad 3 Chicken Breast (spiced as you like)
6 cups Leafy Greens
Vinaigrette
salt/black pepper
 Dinner Lentil Soup and Brown Rice 1.5 cup Red Lentils
1 small Onion
2 cloves Garlic
1.5 cup Brown Rice
salt/black pepper

When it comes to meal prepping for weight loss, your meals should meet the  following 3 criteria.

  1. They are meals you’ll eat and enjoy
  2. The meals should include protein and fiber
  3. The prep time must fit your schedule

This is why even before sitting down to start prepping, it’s important to determine how much time you have to meal prep in a given week. If you only have 30 minutes a day, choose recipes that are 30 minutes or less. Don’t pressure yourself to make lengthy, complicated meals if you don’t have the time. You’ll only set yourself up for frustration.

When it comes to healthy meals for weight loss, it is simple - build your meals around lean proteins and fiber, and the rest will fall into place. This is the Fitmate approach to nutrition to weight loss and is based on science.

Work With A Nutrition Coach

Fitmate nutrition coaches are experts at meal planning and weight loss. A Fitmate coach can support you as you discover the ins and outs of balancing nutrition, exercise, and your weight loss goals. Your coach will help you set up weekly goals that you can achieve and find solutions for bumps in the road.

When you’re starting a new journey it’s always great to receive advice from people who have walked down the same road. Fitmate coaches have advised hundreds of clients trying to achieve their personal weight loss goals. They can provide you with resources like meal prep plans as well as answer questions and provide you with weekly feedback so that the following week you’re one step closer to your goal.

One of the most important things about all goals including weight loss goals is to have someone to be accountable to. We all know that when there’s someone who is going to ask us about the goals we set for ourselves, it makes us want to achieve them all the more.  Fitmate coaches will not only check in with you every week, but they’ll also provide reminders to keep you on track. Together you’ll review your progress and adjust food, lifestyle, and exercise targets to make sure they’re achievable for you.

Find out how a Fitmate nutrition coach can help you lose weight with the help of meal prep by taking the Fitmate quiz.

Author Alon Laniado the founder of Fitmate Coach and certified in Nutrition with Stanford University School of Medicine and with Precision Nutrition. He is a certified Health & Wellness Coach and Personal Trainer with the American Council on Exercise. Alon has helped thousands of clients lose weight and is on a mission to help more people benefit from weight-loss coaches by making the service more affordable and accessible using technology.

FAQs

Should I freeze or refrigerate my meal prep? Refrigerating is preferable, as it takes less time to heat up. As long as you have enough storage space, most meals can stay fresh in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.

How often should I meal prep? There is no hard-fast rule on how often you should meal prep. Determine what is most sustainable and realistic for you so you reap the most benefits - whether that be prepping for 3 days or prepping ahead for the whole week.

How do you keep meal prep fresh in a week? Most meals stay fresh for up to 7 days in the refrigerator. To increase their shelf life, make sure all containers are properly sealed and there is enough space for air to circulate. This will help ensure the food stays at the proper temperature to prevent spoilage.

Can meal prep last 5 days? Most meal prep can last for 5 days when properly stored, with a few possible exceptions. The first is fish, which can last between 3-5 days. If it smells off or is too fishy on any day, throw it out to be safe. Deli meat or egg salads also may spoil after 3-5 days. If the deli meat appears slimy and has a film or the eggs have a strong odor, toss them.