Treat healthy meal prep as the most important part of your weight loss plan if you want it to succeed. If you don’t plan ahead for your meals, you will soon lose interest and motivation and chances of giving up are higher. Anyway, planning ahead always helps and you are not losing anything here, except for some extra pounds, of course.
“Pasta doesn’t make you fat. How much pasta you eat makes you fat”- Giada De Laurentiis.
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind about losing weight? Head to the gym, restrict your diet to salads and smoothies or fitting into that slim-fit dress which has been lying there at the back of your wardrobe? All of the above make sense but they are secondary. First and foremost, the success of any weight loss plan depends on how well organised and prepared you are, as we saw earlier in How to mentally prepare yourself for successful weight loss. That’s what genuine weight loss experts would tell you too.
Though diet and exercise go hand in hand in a weight loss regime, once you organize and plan your diet, it is more than half the battle won. Meal planning and preparation might be a struggle for the first few weeks, but eventually, it becomes second nature and you don’t even have to try hard. Research shows that it takes 3 to 4 weeks to change or develop a habit. So be patient and keep at it.
So, how do you plan and organize your meals on a daily basis so that you can shed those extra pounds? Even if you’re not so interested in cooking, the following tips for meal prep will help you reduce the time and energy spent in the kitchen and at the same time plan and cook healthy meals that can help you lose weight.
Grocery shopping for the meal prep
Healthy eating and cooking start with shopping for groceries. Have a master list which you can refer to whenever you shop. You can either plan meals for an entire week and list down the ingredients or if you’re a bit more creative and adventurous in the kitchen, you can just buy whatever ingredients you find fresh and of good quality and then plan your meals based on what you bought.
You will need to stock up on dried, frozen and preserved foods
Other than unprocessed, natural foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, meat, fish, eggs, etc. the essential stuff your list should have are dried herbs, spices, nuts, dried fruits and frozen meat and vegetables. So even if your vegetable tray gets empty faster than you had anticipated (and it’s going to happen quite often since you’ll be preparing a lot of salads, soups and smoothies), the frozen vegetables come in handy; they can be sauteed, roasted or boiled with spices and herbs of your choice.
Frozen fruits and vegetables can also be used to make smoothies.
Preserved food like pickles ( ensure that they have less salt) come in handy when you want to spruce up that salad or sandwich.
Must-have food items for meal prep
Any home cook will agree that the refrigerator is your best companion when it comes to meal prep. Not only cooked food but also condiments like fresh herbs, vegetable or meat stock, marinades, dressings and flavouring agents can be frozen so that they last longer.
Prepare your own salad dressings so that you know exactly what goes into your salad. Various herbs (mint, cilantro, basil, parsley) and spices (pepper, cumin, paprika, coriander) can be chopped fine or crushed respectively, steeped in olive oil and stored in separate bottles in the refrigerator. That helps use your creativity and try different combinations so that you maintain your enthusiasm because weight loss is going to be long journey and enjoying it is the best way to succeed.
3.Nuts, seeds and dried fruits
These adorable little wonders make excellent snacks, can be added to salads to give that delicious crunch, can be pureed with herbs and spices to make sauces and dressings or thicken soups and stews. What more, they have a long shelf life and do not generally require peeling or chopping. These are the must-have items when you’re on a weight loss diet. Disclosure: These are my most favorite of all pantry items, they come in really handy on those “lazy days” when I make stuff like nut-free mint pesto or pasta salad with yogurt dressing or the walnut sauce for quinoa burgers.
Sun-dried tomatoes, pickles, olives, mustard (just plain mustard, not mustard sauce)and the like come in handy when you need some extra flavour or variety in your salad and pasta.
Another staple you ought to have in your kitchen. Use it to make sauces, dips with veggie sticks, fruit yoghurt, sprinkled with granola or eat as it is for a filling in-between-meal snack. It’s better to buy plain yoghurt and choose your own variation rather than the sweetened versions in the market.
6. Beans and lentils
Dried beans and lentils have quite a long shelf life and are excellent sources of protein. Dried beans need to be soaked overnight or a minimum of 8 hours before being cooked, while lentils can be cooked straight away. (I’m not a great fan of canned food, so I don’t recommend canned beans though it may be a bit more convenient). Add them to quinoa, salads or make soups.
Have you tried the lentil turmeric soup that helps in detox?
You can also enjoy the beans and lentils by just cooking and seasoning with pepper, salt and any spice or herb of your choice. The above-mentioned flavoured oils may also be used for seasoning.
Now you’re all set to cook and eat healthy meals. The above meal prep tips will help you to always stay on track, even if you are tired, in a hurry or just too lazy to cook. The idea is to not remain hungry long enough for you to reach out for junk food or binge.