Just like portion sizing, meal prepping is another way to stay on top of what you’re putting in your body. With meal prepping, you can save money, better manage portion sizes, and eliminate trigger foods from your diet.
Meal prepping entails preparing entire meals or dishes ahead of schedule. It can save time as well as help you stay on track with your diet and fitness goals.
Portioning is one of the tenets of learning to eat healthy and a key to losing and maintaining weight. It’s much easier when your food containers are pre-portioned and ready to go.
Benefits of Meal Prepping
Meal preparation allows you to enjoy your favorite foods while maintaining portion sizes that guarantee you don’t overindulge. In addition, having various well-balanced meals on hand can help you maintain control over what you eat and stay on track with your nutrition goals.
Better Manage Portion Sizes
When you prepare your own meals, you have complete control over your portions and can be specific about what goes into them.
One of the simplest methods to portion out your food without any instruments is using the palm method. Use the size of your hand to gauge what a portion should look like. For example, your protein portions should not exceed three ounces, and your carbs (like rice or cooked vegetables) should also measure no more than two servings per meal.
Eliminate Trigger Foods From Your Diet
Meal prepping means thinking in advance about what you’re putting in your body. For people with medical conditions like GERD, this can be very important. Meal prepping allows you to preclude foods that can trigger GERD symptoms.
Common symptoms of GERD include:
- Difficulty swallowing;
- Excessive salivation;
- Gas and bloating;
- Pain or discomfort in the chest;
- Intolerance of certain foods and liquids;
- Bad breath or a sour taste in the mouth.
Once you’re familiar with your triggers, it’s time to start meal prepping by learning the best foods for controlling reflux and incorporating them into your diet. Likewise, knowing what foods to limit or avoid if you have GERD can better help you meal prep too.
Save Time, Money, and Energy
Prepping your meals is a great way to save time, money, and energy by buying food in bulk and using leftovers. It’s also an efficient way to make healthy, tasty dishes with whatever you have available or can afford at the moment.
Meal prepping takes time, but it saves even more thanks to having everything you need for a variety of meals ready to go. It also saves you time in the kitchen by having everything prepped for fast, easy cooking.
How To Meal Prep
Meal prepping doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple changes you can make to your routine include prepping meals over the weekend, bringing a packed lunch with you instead of buying, and using healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables for between-meal cravings.
Popular Meal Prep Methods
The most common meal-prepping methods are:
- Make-ahead meals: These are meals that you prepare in advance and then freeze for later. They’re a great choice if your schedule tends to be hectic or unpredictable because they can be prepped and left in the freezer until you’re ready to cook them.
- Batch cooking: This method involves cooking a large batch of food and then freezing or refrigerating it. When you’re ready to eat, all you have to do is pull out the meal and reheat it.
- Individually portioned meals: Cooking a variety of different dishes and freezing them in separate portions for later use is another great way to make sure your family eats healthy. Simply pull out a portion and reheat it in the microwave.
- Pre-prepared ingredients: If cooking or preparing a meal from scratch is just too much, you can always use pre-prepared ingredients to put together a healthy, well-balanced meal. This can be as simple as purchasing pre-cut vegetables or frozen fruit and pairing it with chicken, fish, pasta, rice, or another carbohydrate source.
In general, these methods may be used for meal preparation in a variety of ways. Experiment with a few approaches to see which ones are ideal for your lifestyle.
People new to meal prepping should start small. For example, if you want to try batch cooking, begin by preparing one meal at a time until it’s perfected. Likewise, if you’re trying out a new meal-prepping method, start with a small number of dishes to get the hang of it before going big.
Decide on a Combination of Recipes in Advance
It’s also recommended that you decide which recipes you want to prep in advance. While this may not be practical if your schedule is unpredictable, it does allow you to plan meals that are healthy, tasty, and easy to cook.
For example, it might be a good idea to meal prep some of your favorite dishes or recipes on the weekend so they’re ready for busy weekdays. Or if you have certain dietary restrictions such as GERD, this can help ensure you don’t accidentally eat something that might trigger it.
Finally, including variety in your meal prep ensures that you have another meal plan for the next time you do meal prep and that you don’t have to worry about a lack of breadth in your diet.
Make a Shopping List
Once you know what recipes and ingredients to use, make a list of all the items that need to be purchased. This will help save time when it comes to shopping while also helping ensure you have everything necessary for meal prep success.
Make sure your grocery store trip is planned accordingly so there’s no chance of forgetting something important or running out of time to get everything. Keeping your list available either on the refrigerator or computer is a great way to remember what you need for meal prep and avoid last-minute dashes through grocery store aisles.
Find the Right Storage Containers
Lastly, you’ll also need the proper storage containers to ensure that your food stays fresh and delicious.
Here are some container suggestions:
- Airtight containers: Glass, stainless steel, and BPA-free plastic containers are ideal for keeping food fresh and crisp, as well as for preserving leftovers.
- BPA-free microwavable containers: These containers are microwave safe and great for reheating food on the go. They’re also dishwasher-safe, which makes them even more convenient to clean up after eating.
- Freezer-safe containers: These types of containers help to limit freezer burn and, importantly, nutrient loss. Moreover, you can use them later to freeze meal-prep leftovers for a quick and easy way to eat healthy on the go.
- Leak-proof, compartmentalized containers: These are perfect for making easy-to-pack meals with different components. Bento boxes are a perfect example.
Meal preparation containers come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit all meals, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Moreover, containers come in a number of materials, making it simpler to match the right ones to your lifestyle.
How Long Do Meal Preps Stay Good?
The FDA’s instructions for refrigerator and freezer storage can be a helpful guide in determining how long pre-prepared meals may be kept.
To minimize cross-contamination (or flavor contamination), use divided containers for wet and dry foods. Ice packs may be used to keep cold things chilly, while pre-heated, insulated containers can be used to keep hot things hot in your lunch bag. Lastly, clean hands and produce before preparing.
Most meal-preparation recipes should keep fresh for three to five days in the refrigerator. To keep food as fresh as possible, if you intend to prepare meals for the whole week, schedule two days a week (such as Sunday and Wednesday) to do so.
The following foods will keep for at least two weeks in the refrigerator, ready to cook as you need:
- Hard cheeses;
- Citrus fruits.
Here are some things to watch for when it comes to perishables:
- Cooked grains;
- Cooked vegetables;
- Salad greens.
Meal prepping is a great way to get organized and stay on top of your health goals, even when life gets busy. By meal prepping you can save money by buying in bulk, preparing healthy recipes ahead of time for better portion control, and avoiding trigger foods associated with GERD. Get started on a healthier path today.