Starting a weight loss journey can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to food. What to eat? When to eat? How many calories should someone eat to lose weight? These are just a few of the questions I get from readers once they’re ready to start their weight loss journey.
I’ve been on my own personal weight loss journey since 2010 and I’ve learned a lot about food since then. I wrote about some of these lessons in this early blog post. However, the one I want to mention again is the importance of meal prep. Yes, I know I talk about meal prep all the time but honestly it’s important. In fact, I strongly feels it’s the most important habit you can start when trying to eat healthier and lose weight. In my experience, it’s the only way to ensure healthy food is available to eat all week.
When it comes to food, I have a few meal prep recipes I’d recommend when starting a weight loss journey. Of course, you can eat just about any food if it fits within your daily calorie range but if you’re looking for some clean and healthy recipe recommendations, that will make the biggest impact when trying to lose weight, then these are the ones I turn too.
Without sounding overly dramatic, green smoothies completely changed my life. I didn’t start drinking green smoothies until I was about 2 years into my weight loss journey, so I did lose weight without them. However, prior to discovering smoothies I was tired, unfocused, and bloated. Also, I struggled with getting fruits and vegetables in every day. As much as I would like to think I’m the type of person who can munch on raw veggies all day, I’m not.
Once I started drinking a daily green smoothie I noticed a huge difference right away in the way I felt. First of all, I was totally focused. The brain fog that I grown accustomed to disappeared – this alone makes smoothies worth it. Second, I had energy because I was hydrated. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth mentioning again, I didn’t even know I was dehydrated until I became hydrated. The difference in the way I felt was night and day. Last, my belly bloat went away. Drinking a green smoothies gives me more than a daily dose of fruits and vegetables which provides lots of fiber. We all know what this means? Yep, the pipes get cleaned out on a regular basis. Sorry if that’s TMI, but it’s true.
Anyway, I advise anyone starting a weight loss journey to add green smoothies right away, especially if you struggle with any of the symptoms I mentioned earlier.
You might be wondering how to prep ahead a green smoothie. I do this two different ways. My favorite way is create a freezer smoothie kit. You can see my full instructions here but basically all you need to do is throw all the green smoothie ingredients in a bag and freeze. Yes, you can freeze kale and other greens. See these tips here. When you’re ready to enjoy a green smoothie then just throw the ingredients into a blender with some liquid and blend.
If you’re going take my advice, and enjoy green smoothies on the regular, then I strongly recommend investing in a high quality blender. I have a Vitamix. Yes, it’s expensive but it’s completely worth it (use my link for $80 off a new Vitamix) When I first started drinking smoothies I purchased cheaper blenders and each one broke within a couple months. Not to mention they didn’t have the power to blend kale and fruit into a smooth smoothie. If you don’t want to invest in a Vitamix then consider a Ninja – it’s a little cheaper and works good.
I also blend 1-2 smoothies ahead of time and keep them in the refrigerator. I store the smoothies in a 32-ounce mason jar container and use these plastic lids. The consistency does change a little bit but it doesn’t bother me because I enjoy the convenience of have the green smoothies made ahead of time.
Here’s my full green smoothie tutorial.
Mason jar salads
Mason jar salads have been a part of my weight loss journey since the beginning. There’s so much about these I absolutely love. First, mason jar salads are filled with tons of vegetables and lean proteins so I’m satisfied and full without any bloat. When I enjoy a smoothie for breakfast and a mason jar salad for lunch I feel like I can take over the world. Seriously, I get more roughage in a day than I used to get in a entire month. Second, mason jar salads are portion-controlled and portable. Each salad is measure out to keep calories and fat under control. Also, you can easily grab a salad, and stick it in your bag as you’re running out the door. Third, you can make 5 mason jar salads on Sunday to enjoy for lunches all week. Personally, I feel like mason jars salads are the ultimate meal prep recipe. Here’s my tutorial if you have other questions on preparing mason jar salads.
Here are favorite mason jar salad recipes:
Greek Mason Jar Salad
Smoked Turkey, Chickpea, and Sun-dried Tomato Mason Jar Salad
Taco Mason Jar Salad
Low-carb meal prep bowls
When I first started on my weight loss journey I simply reduce the amount of calories I ate to lose weight. I didn’t worry about carbs at all. As I got older I realized living a lower carb lifestyle made me feel better so today I keep carbs to a minimum. Just for clarification, when I’m talking about carbs I’m referring to refined white carbs like white pasta, rice, and bread. I will eat whole grains in moderation and I don’t limit fruits and vegetables. However, white carbs I try my best to keep off limits.
Anyway, I prepared low carb meal prep bowls earlier in the year as an alternative to mason jar salads and also to enjoy for dinners. I absolutely loved them and will be working on new recipes in the future. Meal prep bowls are so easy to prepare ahead of time and last all week. I use these pyrex glass containers and find they keep food fresh longer compared to plastic.
Here are my favorite low-carb meal prep bowl recipes.
Low-carb Chicken Burrito Bowl
Low- Carb Greek Shrimp Bowl
Low-Carb Asian Shrimp Bowl
Low carb protein snack packs
I eat 5 times a day – 3 meals and 2 snacks. To carry me through to the next meal I need snacks to be high protein and fiber. If I eat chips or something sugary all that does is make me hungrier. This year I started putting together low-carb protein snack packs and I wish I would’ve made them sooner. I love having these snack packs in my refrigerator ready to eat. I don’t need to take the time during the week to make anything and more importantly I know what to eat ahead of time. No guessing means no mindless eating.
You can see my snack pack instructions here.
Homemade lean cuisines
Nothing makes me happier than to go into my freezer and grab a portion-controlled meal I simply need to warm up. Prior to starting my weight loss journey I used to purchase lean cuisines all the time. Today I make it a priority to cook meals at home. However, I love the convenience of frozen meals so a few years ago I started making homemade lean cuisines. All I do is make a recipe, portion it out, and then freeze it. It’s also helpful to write the nutritional information of the container to make tracking easier. I recommend preparing 3-4 month recipes a month this way, that will make around 15 – 20 individual freezer meals. These are great to have for lunches but I find it most beneficial to have these meals ready for dinners.
Here are some of my favorite homemade lean cuisine recipes.
Skinny Fettucine Alfredo
Cajun Chicken Pasta
Shrimp Fra Diavolo
If you’re starting a weight loss journey, or getting back on track, I hope you find these recipes helpful. By preparing recipes ahead of time you can track calories (and other nutritional information) in advance. This keeps you intentional with food and mindless eating under control. As you work to change your eating meal prep will become an essential habit to helping you eat healthier.
Do you have any “go-to” meal prep recipes you’d recommend to someone starting a weight loss journey?
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