Far too often, when we approach dieting, we go about it in all the wrong ways. We basically starve ourselves by restricting food intake to gain control of what’s gone out of control, and then, as a reward, binge eat for completing a diet without indulgences. Clearly, this approach to weight loss is ineffective. In order to break the cycle, a life change has to be in order, not just a diet. Here is where meal prep comes in. The dishes aren’t just Instagram-worthy, they’re worthy of your time, energy and your appetite. Don’t be intimidated by the term “prep.” It’s not overly time consuming, nor is it too difficult to follow. In fact, preparing your meals for the week will not only help you eat healthier, smarter and cleaner, but you’ll be saving yourself an incredible amount of time.
When Nikki Sharp, author of Meal Prep Your Way to Weight Loss addresses her clients for the first time, she usually finds that they want to lose weight but can’t find the time to cook. They detest boring diet food, they hate obsessing over calories, carbs, and fat and they’re just not into weight-loss classes or meetings. They want to eat delicious food, spend minimal time preparing it, all while watching those extra pounds fall off naturally. (Don’t we all?)
With meal prepping, that dream is a lot more realistic than it sounds.
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The concept here is simple. If there’s nothing ready-to-eat in your fridge, you’re likely to devour the closest, most accessible thing, regardless of whether or not it’s healthy. Meal prep eliminates that issue. By meal prepping, you know you have delicious ready-to-eat meals that fit your needs, all week long. It’s health altering, and the combinations of food and super ingredients she includes in every recipe will change the way you think about food. The meal prep time for the week will only take 2 – 3 hours so, no need to feel daunted by the task ahead of you. And hey, you may learn a few cooking skills and food combinations you never thought possible.
Based on a 28-day program, each of the 4 weeks is dedicated to a different kind of food style to address nutrient intake needed for weight loss. Week one consists of soups, smoothies, and salads. For week two, it is all about fiber intake, so chia and smoothie breakfasts, salads and noodles for lunch, and hearty delicious dinners to end the day will be in order. Week three embraces protein, with eggs, almond butter, and avocado toast breakfasts, salads with hearty additions and untraditionally protein-heavy dinners. Closing the month with week four, it’s time to detox with overnight oats, zesty fruit smoothie bowls, veggie-based lunches and delicious and simple dinners like quinoa black bean burgers, stir fry, cheesy broccoli rice, and homemade sushi rolls.
No excuses now! Each week has an easy-to-follow shopping list you’ll take with you to the supermarket. You’ll also get food prep recipes, and plenty of helpful tips on how to keep certain ingredients fresh while prepping (like those pesky avocados), approved snack foods, and what containers are best for each recipe.
Navigating the grocery store for specific ingredients can be intimidating and tricky, but with a list as concise as Nikki’s meal prep lists you’ll know exactly what to reach for in the produce section. For finding special ingredients, especially the super ingredients listed like bee pollen, baobab, and xanthan gum, it may be best to head to a health food store and ask a pro or order more hard-to-find ingredients online ahead of time.
For meals heavy on fresh veggies and fruits, make sure you choose a supermarket with a robust selection and double check that you have the proper storage containers lined up for the week’s meals, so you have everything you need for optimal freshness and the appropriate kind of containers for reheating purposes.
To offer you a more comprehensive look into the Meal Prep plan, let’s dive into week one.
Every meal prep is about pre-making or mixing the ingredients and then storing them properly for easy retrieval and consumption. In this case, the smoothies are blended ahead of time and frozen into individual baggies. When breakfast rolls around, you roll out of bed, add the frozen contents to your blender along with coconut water, coconut oil and ice, blend, and you’re done. Making this in the morning takes as much time as making a cup of coffee, and yet it provides a world of nutrition, powering you up for the day.
You’ll need to pre-chop salads into three individual containers, and dressing is divided in three separate containers as well, but on the side (no one likes soggy lettuce). All you need to do when it’s time to eat is pour your dressing and add any additional ingredients, like avocado or nuts on top.
The Buddha bowls are a tad bit more complicated (yet incredibly delicious) because they require ingredients like potato, mushrooms, quinoa, and cabbage that need to be cooked. They don’t take very much time, and you just need to take care to seal containers tightly before storing them in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat them, there is no re-heating required, just the addition of dressing, basil and avocado, and enjoy.
The soups are collectively simple and call for a handful of ingredients and require very little skill. For some, homemade soups can be intimidating, and rightfully so! But the meal-prep plan was created to inspire and motivate you, not push you away. If you can chop vegetables, boil water, and add some specific liquid ingredients and pinches of spices, then you’re going to be just fine.
Same goes for stir-fry, which requires you to chop vegetables and toss them into a baggie, then pre-mixing sauce to sauté them with come dinner time. It could not be easier.
Meal Prep is far more than just a weight loss plan. It’s an efficient way of planning meals, regardless of whether you are serious about losing weight. With busy schedules or long work days, we have a short window of time between dinner and bed. When we get home from work, or when the kids get in the door from school, sometimes it’s a wonder with the task of dinner at hand, how we can get more quality time with our families without having to order takeout, and still be healthy and mindful of what we eat. Nikki Sharp illustrates an incredibly affordable and doable meal-prep schedule that won’t just help you lose weight; it’ll help you get organized, get fed and get healthy. Consider meal prep a lifestyle change that while offering a nutritional education, may even teach you a thing or two about cooking easy, tasty meals.
If you are ready to adopt this plan into your life, start with this list (curated by Nikki Sharp) of tools you’ll need in your kitchen for successful meal prepping. This list might seem intimidating at first, but when you look closely, you’ll realize that you already have most of the items.
Measuring spoons and cups
Skillets (large and small)
Saucepans (large and small)
Silicone or tin loaf pan: 8 ½ x 4 ½ inches
Mason jars, 16-ounce
Mason jars, 16-ounce wide mouth
Airtight glass canisters
Glass meal prep containers
Plastic containers, BPA-free
Bento lunch box or stainless steel lunch box
Masking tape and marker (for labeling)
Silicone food covers
Spiralizer (although this item is not mandatory, Nikki Sharp highly recommends you get one)
Notebook and a pen or iPad to begin mapping out your meals
Note: If you can afford it, skip getting both a food processor and a blender and instead invest in a high-speed blender that has both capabilities.
Photo Credit: @nikkisharp/Instagram