Meal prep can be one of the most important x-factors in successfully losing weight. When you’re exhausted after a day at work or looking for lunch when you’re stressed, having a meal ready to go means you can stick to your healthy-eating goals, no excuses.
In fact, a 2017 study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that even the act of meal planning helped people cook at home and therefore was associated with lower odds of being overweight or obese.
Other research shows that those who spent more time on food prep had better diets and ate more veggies, salads, and fruit. (And, oh, they spent way less moolah, too.)
We know thinking about how you’re going to pull off the meal prep can itself be exhausting. How will you find time? What will you make? What if you hate re-cooked food? Redditors, who spend a lot of time shooting meal-prep tips back and forth on the LoseIt channel, know how to make it worth it. Here are some of their secrets.
One of the biggest downsides to meal prep is that reheating can take the life out of some dishes. “If I’m prepping things that will be reheated, I tend to undercook the veg. For some things, like green beans and peas, they’re better left raw, as they get cooked during the reheating process anyway…So for example, I’ll cook some meat (I like saucey meats for reheating, as they don’t dry out as much—so curries, stews etc). I’ll put that in the container with some raw broccoli and green beans (seasoned). Then I’ll heat the whole thing it the microwave for three to four minutes, and the broc and beans will come out cooked but not soggy.”
Come up with a theme and mix and match to prevent boredom. “Something I’ve recently become fond of is prepping versatile ingredients. I’ll throw together a big batch of Mexican seasoned chicken, which depending on the time I have in the evenings can be a lifesaver. [I’ll] also pre-cut some veggies. Instant burrito bowl, tacos, salad, or even enchiladas if I want to spice it up and have time to throw something in the oven. It’s actually what I’m doing tonight, and when my mom comes home she will have her choice of food.”
Plastic containers don’t have to be in your future. “I’d like to make a plug for mason jars. Pint-sized mason jars are cheap, will last forever, and take up very little space in your fridge or backpack. Put all the heavy stuff (roasted veg, meat, lentils, rice etc.) at the bottom, and any greens or fresh veggies on top to stay crisp. When lunchtime rolls around, dump it all into a bowl or plate (I brought one from home and keep it in my desk) and voila. The only downside is that you will absolutely look like a basic b*tch, and your coworkers will mock you.”
Don’t buy a bazillion individual containers that eat up your fridge space. “One note about the meal prep process that has always intimidated me: You don’t have to dole out everything into portions if you don’t want. For example, instead of owning five soup mugs, I keep the soup in a big plastic container and weigh out a portion every morning into my lone soup mug, which takes less than one minute. The cooking is the real time-saving part and special containers just add to the start-up costs for people.”
Read more: Why should you eat 6 small meals a day?