How to structure and plan your meal prepping in order to achieve your goal of losing weight.Read More
Okay, so you’ve heard all the buzz, learned the basics and now you’re ready to prep your first meal. If you’ve never prepared meals for multiple days then your first time can be a little bumpy. Not to worry though, in this post we'll go over everything you need to do for your first meal prep.
For your first prepping session it’s best to keep things simple. Don’t try to get too fancy by trying complicated recipes you’ve never cooked before, or taking on too much at once.
Chicken, when prepared right, is tasty and easy to prepare. So to keep things simple we are going to start off with a simple chicken recipe.
I like to use a whole chicken. It makes the preparation much easier, you get lots more out of your prep and you have more options.
You can pull off the skin to get rid of excess fat if you want, or you can keep it on. It’s totally up to you.
The important part is that you prepare it similar to how you would normally prepare chicken for just one meal. So however you and your family like chicken, that’s how you should prepare it this time — just on a bit of a bigger scale.
For the sake of this post, we will use a simple sauce to coat the chicken.
The first thing you should do is make short (2 to 3 inch) cuts all around the chicken. These cuts are for the sauce. They don’t need to be deep but you do want to cut deep enough for the sauce to sort of infuse the chicken.
You can use whatever sauce you prefer but I like chimichurri. You can make your own if you want but it’s much easier, and oftentimes just as tasty if you buy it from the store.
Here’s the recipe I use when I just feel like doing it myself.
Low Calorie Chimichurri Sauce
- 1 bunch of parsley, roughly chopped (remove the stems)
- 1 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped (remove the stems)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- Combine oregano, hot water and 1 tsp salt in a small bowl. The let it sit for about 5 minutes.
- Combine all ingredients, except for the oil, together in a food processor, and pulse until very finely chopped and well blended.
- Pour everything into a small bowl, and whisk in the oil. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Let sauce come to room temp before serving.
This Chimichurri recipe only takes about 10 minutes to prepare.
288 Calories total (that’s about 58 calories per serving/day)
Now coat the chicken in the sauce. Go as heavy or as light as you want. Just be sure you create a consistent layer. Personally, I like to really coat it on there. This helps to make the outside crispier, especially if you have already removed the skin.
The Oven is Your Friend
At this point, you can go ahead and preheat your oven. Let the chicken sit while you’re preheating and allow the sauce to marinate.
No matter what you are doing, as a meal prepper, the oven is your friend. It’s large enough to hold lots of meals and depending on the recipe, you will be able to make your entire meal.
For example, baked vegetables would go great with the whole chicken you’re getting ready to throw in the oven. Why not bake them all at the same time? This way you’re looking at only a few dishes, almost no mess and you’re saving about ten times as much time as anyone else who isn’t meal prepping.
All you need is a bit of olive oil, and any vegetables you want. I like to do celery, carrots, potatoes and onions.
Simply put them in a bowl, pour a bit of olive oil over them, add salt and stir the vegetables around in the bowl.
Once you have them all covered you can place them on a separate baking sheet and pop them in the oven with your whole chicken.
Let them sit in the oven for about an hour at 450. I like to do 500 because it get the vegetables perfect but it may be too hot for your chicken.
A simple compromise is setting the oven to 475, throwing in the chicken and cooking halfway. Once the chicken is about half cooked (30 minutes or so) you can place your veggies in for the remainder of the time.
Just keep an eye on things.
Once your veggies are done they will be browned to a point where they almost look a little burnt. At that point you can go ahead and pull them out and check your chicken.
When cooking chicken it’s best to use a thermometer to ensure that it has been cooked thoroughly. I use one like you see in the picture, which you can find here.
It makes baking chicken super easy.
All you do is push the stinger into the middle of the chicken and watch the readout. If your internal temperature is 165 then your chicken is done.
Congratulations! Your Meal is Ready
Now it’s time to separate things and store them until you are ready to eat.
Be sure you separate your veggies into an equal number of servings depending on how many days you are prepping for. It helps to weigh things out, especially if you are counting calories.
With your veggies ready, you can carve the chicken and weigh it into separate servings as well.
Now place everything in your Meal Prep Haven Containers and store them in the freezer. When it’s time to eat you can simply pop a container in the microwave and heat until warm.
Complete Calorie Breakdown
Celery (medium, 8 inches) = 6 calories
Carrots (medium) = 2 calories
Potatoes (1 potato (3’’ dia) = 163 calories
Onions (medium 3’’ dia) = 44 calories
Chicken (1 LB) = 425 calories
Chimichurri Sauce = 288 Calories (58 per serving)
Only you can decide how much of each ingredient you want to use. But,unless you go crazy with the potatoes, you can count on this entire meal being right around 2,000 calories, which is the suggested average daily intake for most adults. Once you separate the meal into containers your calorie intake will be much lower, so you’ll have plenty of room for other meals.
The #1 Mistake Made By Newbie Meal Preppers
Too often, newbie meal preppers work hard to create great meals days ahead of time, only to toss them in regular plastic containers.
It seems fine to do that because it’s simple, you probably already have several of them around your kitchen and you’ve been storing food this way for years.
However, just because it seems okay doesn’t mean it is.
How you choose to store your meal is what really makes the difference between great tasting food and mush.
When you work hard to prepare great meals you don’t want to eat slop. Unfortunately that’s what happens with regular food storage.
What you need is an airtight, microwave safe container with compartments to keep food separated. And that’s just what you get with our quality, choice Meal Prep Haven containers.
As a nation we are growing smarter and smarter about our food choices. Never before have there been so many great resources for health minded families.
However, knowing is only half the battle right? Execution is the other half. And many of us still face problems choosing healthy alternatives for our daily meals.
It’s not easy to choose healthy foods when you lead a busy life — and let’s face it, we all lead busy lives.
That’s what makes Meal Prepping so great.
What is Meal Prepping?
Meal Prepping is the act of preparing meals to sustain you through the Apocalypse! No wait, I don’t think that’s right. Hold on… Okay, sorry, I got it now.
Meal Prepping is simply preparing some, or all of your meals ahead of time. It’s like having those TV dinners that you would purchase from the store, except that you prepare them yourself, with better, healthier and unprocessed ingredients.
Not only does it save you time, but it also helps to ensure you eat healthier foods more often with the proper portions, instead of reaching for quick processed and prepackaged snacks or meals that go over your caloric needs.
The idea is that when you have healthier things ready to eat, you will eat them instead of other potentially harmful foods. And it works incredibly well.
How to Get Started
It’s important to remember to not get overwhelmed when you are a beginner. Too often people get bogged down in details when sticking to the basics will do more good.
Don’t try to incorporate too many new things at once. For example, don’t try meal prepping with all new healthy recipes. Start prepping with recipes you already know. When you feel comfortable, add more.
You see folks go on ‘health-kicks’ all the time, and what happens? They lose their gusto pretty quickly, because they add too many new things at once. They start a salad-only diet, going to the gym, running, yoga, etc — all in the first week.
It doesn’t work like that. You have to start small. Same goes for Meal Prepping.
1. Pick a Day
The first thing you should do is pick a day to prepare all your meals. For most, Sunday is the best day because it’s a day when you are off work, kids are home from school, and you can enlist the help of the entire family if you need it.
More experienced meal preppers seem to like Sunday and Wednesday as their chosen days to cook and prepare meals for the week. Using these two days allows them to split up the week’s prepping into two days.
In the beginning though, you don’t want to prepare meals for the whole week. You want to start off with no more than three meals.
If you need a calendar to help you visually map out your meals use one. You can use a physical calendar or one on your phone. Just find what works best for you.
2. Pick the Meals
You need to decide which meal you are going to prepare first: Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner.
If you are preparing for a family, then prepping your dinner meals seems to be where you would get the most from your efforts. However, if you are single, or cooking for one or two people, then you may want to try to prepare breakfast or lunch meals first.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. You just want to think about it a little before you get started.
After that, you want to decide on the recipes you are going to prepare.
You might not want to cook the same recipe for all three meals, although you can. But if you choose to prepare three dinner meals for your family, and they are all the same recipe, you might have a bit of a fight on your hands.
When choosing the recipes, think about how you want to balance the meals.
For example, if you are trying to maintain specific macronutrient goals (proteins, fats, carbs) each day, that should factor into what recipes you choose. Knowing how each macronutrient converts into calories will also help provide more accurate information:
1g of Protein = 4 Calories
1g of Carbohydrates = 4 Calories
1g of Fat = 9 Calories
Using a kitchen scale can help you with things like this.
They can also help you make sure you disperse each part of the meal evenly. And that brings me to my next point…
3. Use Proper Containers
You must use the proper containers.(!) I really can’t stress this enough. Good storage containers are really the foundation of your meal prepping.
How you choose to store your meals can make or break your meal prepping efforts.
You don’t want to simply throw everything into Tupperware bowls. That defeats the whole point of preparing things.
Throw it all in one big box and what you’ll have is a pile of goop — mmmm, tasty.
“What Makes a Good Container?”
For starters, you want to be able to divide each part of your meal. You don’t want foods cross contaminating each other.
So what you need is a container that’s air tight, with divided sections that are also air tight.
This feature alone makes for better, fresher, crispier tasting meals.
BPA Free. This is a big one. You need containers that are BPA free.
BPA stands for Baby Pranks Association, and every time you buy a container with BPA you are supporting their organization.
Seriously guys, there have been too many parents, especially dads, pranked by babies. This video shows just how far they will go. (Warning! Each clip was proven to be a well-orchestrated prank by the BPA)
We can all work together to stop this epidemic, but it starts with you.
Oh, dangit! I did it again. Uh, that previous stuff about BPA might be incorrect. We’re working with fact checkers now and will report back on this soon.
Until then, they say you still need to avoid containers with BPA. You can check by looking at the bottom of your container and locating the triangle. If the triangle with has a number “7” in it, then do not use that container.
Other containers with the “7” may have BPA also, so be sure to double check
“BPA Free” simply means it’s safe and microwaveable.
You should also make sure your containers are clear, and that they are the same size.
Clear containers allow you to quickly see what’s inside. Once you start preparing more and more meals, this simple feature will become invaluable.
Same sized containers give you the luxury of being able to stack them easily and save room in your fridge or freezer.
Put simply, you want containers that are:
- BPA Free
- Freezer Safe
- Dishwasher Safe
In the Kitchen
Start off, like I said, with just a few meals. Don’t try to cook a whole week’s worth of meals in one sitting. You may want to do this later, as you get more comfortable, but for now, just try to find your meal-prepping-groove.
Focus on simple meals. Chicken is a favorite among many meal preppers because it can be cooked in a seemingly endless number of ways. It’s also easy to store and freeze.
With just a bit of chicken and a few vegetables you can easily prepare three totally different meals.
Learn to Multitask: Remember that you can cook lots of different things at the same. Use your oven space to its fullest potential. There’s no need to place one thing in there at a time. Use multiple oven trays if it helps, or use aluminum foil to make dividers on one oven tray and multiply your efforts. Start with recipes that lend themselves to this type of cooking.
When planning your first shopping trip as a meal prepper, ask yourself if you have enough oven trays, aluminum foil and other utensils you might need.
Fruit: Fruit is a great way to dive in to meal prepping. You can cut up different types of fruit and store them just like any meals you could prepare. You can easily make fruit salads or smoothies to go along with you prepped meals. Or you can simply start off with fruit preps only.
The Crockpot: Okay, this one is obvious, yet so many new meal preppers overlook it. The Crockpot has been a favorite among moms for decades. Use it to make simple, great tasting meals then store them away.
Obviously I’m not going to tell you how to cook your meals (what am I, your mother-in-law?). You can find tons of recipes online and on our blog.
But hopefully this guide has given all you need to get started with meal prepping so you can make life a little easier.
After all, that’s what meal prepping is all about.
Well, that’s it for now. So go ahead and get started with your favorite meals. You can pick up Meal Prep Haven’s containers here.
Don’t forget to tell us about your favorite tips and recipes in the comments below!
Diet and exercise. Everyone knows that these are the two keys to weight loss and health, but is one more important than the other? Can 30 more minutes at the gym make up for that burger and fries?
The truth is this: while diet and exercise are both important, exercise can never be a replacement for a bad diet.
There’s only one way to lose weight: you have to burn more calories than you eat. However, it’s almost impossible to do this without changing your eating habits.
Imagine a delicious set of burger & fries. They can have 1,200 calories or more. Think about how easy it is to eat them. Now, think of a marathon and how much effort it takes to run one. On average, running a marathon burns 2,600 calories. In order to counteract the calories consumed, you would have to run a half marathon to burn off that fast food meal you ate so quickly. Isn’t it just easier to eat right to begin with?
Abs Are Made in the Kitchen
It’s clear that putting in more time at the gym, without making any diet changes, won’t be enough to help you achieve your health and aesthetic goals. So, what diet changes do you need to make and how do you make them?
1. Learn to Read Nutrition Labels
Reading food labels is a great place to start. Build a habit of looking at the recommended serving sizes for different foods. You might be surprised to find that a serving of your favorite chips is not half of a bag, but actually 10 chips.
Get used to looking at nutritional information like calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. Spend enough time doing this and you might be shocked. A craft beer for example, can have more 500 calories! To put that into context, it would take more than an hour of biking to burn these calories.
2. Build a Sense of Awareness
Do you know how much food you put into your body on a regular basis? We often think that we know how much we’re eating, but anecdotally we aren’t that great at estimating portion sizes. It’s just so much easier to sit back, watch TV, and mindlessly eat without knowing how much food we’re putting into our body.
So, how can you learn to build this awareness? Try using a tracking tool to start measuring your food intake on a daily basis. Yes, it’s a pain in the a**, but if you just spend 2 weeks tracking I can virtually guarantee that you’ll learn more about your food intake than ever before. That’s all it takes.
Once you start tracking and becoming more aware of nutritional information, you might decide to look into foods that give you more bang for your nutritional buck. This is an excellent reason to incorporate more healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables. These foods are filling and tend to be low in calories, but high in nutrition.
Meal Prepping to the Rescue
Of course we’re biased, but we think Meal Prepping is the ultimate tool in your arsenal to help you develop healthy, clean eating habits. We’ve seen it in our customers and we’ve seen it with our own employees!
The reason it works so well is this – the simple act of meal prepping forces you to read nutrition labels and build a sense of awareness of what you decide to eat. It reinforces all of the eating habits that you’ll need to achieve your weight loss goals.
While it certainly takes some effort to start, over time portion control and healthy eating habits become second nature, resulting in a huge, rewarding lifestyle change. Swap those TV dinners with your pre-packaged, delicious meals and watch that weight drop!
And remember this – abs are always made in the kitchen. Haven't picked up a set of containers to get started on your meal prepping journey yet? Well then, head on over to our store if you're ready to see what we have to offer!