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Glass containers of prepared healthy foods.

Contrary to popular belief, meal prep doesn’t have to be complicated or laborious. The entire point is to simplify your life — making eating healthy easier to achieve.

It can be easy to get overwhelmed as you scroll through your social media feed and see what everyone else is doing. (I know I’m guilty of following meal prep experts!) Though it can be inspirational, it can also leave you feeling like there is no way you could achieve their skill level.

The basics of meal prep should be simple. As fitness pros, we’ve spent a lot of time perfecting this craft and teaching it to others.

Batch prepare your high-protein foods.

Buying and prepping your high protein foods (e.g. chicken) can save you both some serious cash and time.

Once your protein is cooked, use it to prepare packed meals in a container (we prefer glass) with veggies, or just store it so you can easily pull from it when you’re ready to eat or pack a meal. This also allows you to use the same protein to make different meals for variety and to reduce boredom.

Also consider cooking a variety of meat all at once. You can still save time by seasoning them the same way and then throwing them all on the grill or in the oven at one time.

Consider your high-protein snacks, too. You could prep a package of bacon or hard boil a carton of eggs so you have easy and portable snacks ready to go in your fridge for the week.

Always make extra at dinner.

Here is one of the easiest meal prep tips to date: Make extra of what you are already making for dinner so you can pack it for lunch the next day. This tip is perfect for those who can handle eating the same thing twice in a row, but aren’t necessarily a fan of eating the same thing every single day.  

If you’ve ever batch prepped a recipe to make multiple meals but found yourself avoiding eating them after two or three times, this would be a better way to save time without finding yourself bored with your meals.

Wash and cut produce ahead of time.

How often have you bought fresh produce, forgotten about it, and then found it spoiled and way past its freshness date? Nobody has time for that wasted money.

Washing and cutting your produce all at once can not only save you time in the kitchen, but also make you more likely to consume it. Once prepared, store your produce in glass containers on the top shelf of your refrigerator. That way you see them when you open the door to pack them for lunches and snacks and they don’t get lost in the produce drawer.

Having chopped vegetables at hand is great for easy snacking or to have ready to roast in the oven for quick dinners. Frozen vegetables and fruit can be a convenient way to get produce into your diet with less risk of it going bad prior to your consumption.

Use your slow cooker.

We call this “set it and forget it” for good reason. A slow cooker is a tool every kitchen should have for meal prep. It’s beneficial because it doesn’t heat up your house like the oven can and really does all the work with minimal prep. It’s great for those who want to batch prep a bunch of servings of the same recipe (e.g. chili), but it’s also a useful tool to batch prep other ingredients, such as produce or protein. It’s also great for those who want minimal clean up (you just have to clean the insert).

If you are really time-starved and have no time for cooking, go for a rotisserie chicken at your local supermarket.

Keep it simple.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. A lot of the inspirational posts out there showing meal prep are from seasoned meal preppers. If you try to do too much, you might find yourself spending a lot more time than you intended — or worse, not full committing to everything that you created.

For beginners, take the approach of meal prepping the one meal that gets you into the most trouble first (e.g. lunch). Keep it simple by prepping a few of those meals ahead of time and keep yourself accountable to consuming them.

If you tend to snack a lot between lunch and dinner, make your focus be prepping healthy produce that you can snack on after work and while you make dinner.

And when it comes to picking meals, finding inspirational recipes can be a great thing if you need some excitement around eating healthy. But you can also keep it minimal by just picking your proteins and veggies, preparing them with preferred seasoning, and calling it a meal.

Keep the conversation going.

Leave a comment, ask a question, or see what others are talking about in the Life Time Health Facebook group.

Anika Christ, RD, CPT

Anika Christ is a registered dietitian, personal trainer, and the senior director of nutrition and weight loss at Life Time. She’s known to many as “Coach Anika,” and is one of the original virtual coaches who continues to lead a number of digital programs each year. She started at Life Time in 2008 and has spent her entire career helping build Life Time’s nutrition and fat-loss programs. When she’s not at work, she enjoys reading, lifting weights with her husband, and playing with her two daughters.

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