You’ve saved an image of those perfectly prepared, healthy meals all lined up in glass containers — but have you actually tried meal prepping?
It’s one thing swiping through the millions of examples on social media, but opening your fridge and pulling out one of these containers is a total game changer!
Meal prepping can save you time and money while putting your health first. Seriously, how much better can this get?
The benefits of meal prep are real! All it takes is a *little* bit of planning on your part to reap a TON of health and lifestyle benefits in return.
Here are nine reasons why you should prepare your meals in advance.
1. You improve the quality and variety of your diet.
By planning your meals in advance, you’re probably making a wise choice rather than letting your hungry stomach decide whether to raid the pantry or order takeout. You’ve heard that going to the grocery store hungry is dangerous for your diet and your bank account – as is choosing what to eat when the hungry monster is in charge!
research1 shows that meal planners are more likely to choose smarter meals. And of course, this leads to improved health and weight loss (but more on that below). Preppers tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, including salads. If you’re trying to make healthy eating a priority, planning and preparing your meals when you’re not starving will help you have meals on hand that align with your goals so you can avoid fast food and snacking.
Meal plans are also a great opportunity to try new recipes and ingredients. Choosing a theme for the week, like Mediterranean Diet or International Cuisine, makes planning a menu easier and can help you try new foods.
2. You are more likely to achieve your nutritional goals.
Having meals on hand when you need them will not only keep those hangers at bay, but will also reduce the temptation to eat out or grab a processed, pre-packaged meal from the freezer. If you have any healthy eating goals you want to achieve, using sheer willpower when you’re hungry is a brutal way to try to achieve those goals.
Homemade meals are typically lower in sugar, sodium, and saturated fat than store-bought meals. And when you have good choices ready, you are more likely to make the right choice than to test the strength of your willpower.
Whether you’re trying to gain muscle, lose weight, or improve your diet, meal prepping makes those goals more achievable and sustainable!
3. You will prevent overeating.
If portion control is what you need, ready meals are a great choice simply way to get over it! Prepare your meal ahead of time, then place a single serving size in each container. When it’s time to eat, simply pop a container in the microwave and you’re good to go.
And who likes to cook when they come home starving in the evening? Not me! Preparing food when you’re tired and hungry means either grabbing a snack while you’re cooking or putting a massive amount of food on the table when it’s finally ready. Sound familiar? Preparing your meals ahead of time means you can satisfy your hunger faster with the right amount — and overeating is a thing of the past.
4. You will become better informed about nutrition.
People creating a meal plan tend to look up meal ideas and even research nutritional information on potential recipes. As you look up your food information, you will learn over time and become better informed about your food choices over time.
The more you learn about the energy and nutritional power of food, the more likely you are to continue making healthy eating choices.
5. You will lose weight and prevent obesity.
Have you ever looked up the calorie content of your favorite takeout meal? Oops! Most restaurants care far more about making you addicted to their food (think sugar, sugar and more sugar) than how that food may affect your long-term health. The portions in the restaurant are also much larger than what is normally recommended for one person. You know the “Super Size Me” effect that comes with eating out, so it’s no surprise that preparing meals at home is the way to achieve a healthy weight.
Not only does research link food to obesity, but studies do as well2 show that meal prepping can help overcome the temptation to take out and get your weight under control. In a study3, participants in a trial program met every Sunday afternoon for six weeks to prepare healthy meals for that week. This one simple change (which you could easily adopt) resulted in participants losing an average of 3 pounds by the end of the pilot AND helped them develop lasting habits and cooking skills.
Aside from avoiding takeout, all of the health benefits of meal preparation listed above also work in your favor for weight loss and obesity prevention. When you’re in control of your own meal planning and preparation, you’re making decisions that are best for your own waistline, not a restaurant’s bottom line!
6. You save money.
Eating out every once in a while is certainly not the end of the world, but food definitely gets a bad rap on this list, and for good reason. Not only is the calorie count higher than a healthy meal you prepare at home, but the cost can also be much higher. Meal prepping saves money by helping you avoid the expense of eating out at the restaurant.
Also, it’s definitely a myth that eating healthy has to be expensive. Meal prep is the perfect way to ensure your healthy meals don’t break the bank. Going to the store with a plan allows you to avoid impulse buying and also buy in bulk for additional cost savings.
7. You save time.
This is a big deal. If saving time isn’t one of your top meal prep motivations, we can definitely all benefit from it. It might seem strange that cooking the same number of meals can save time when you’re making them all in one day, but the math completely adds up. Delegating your meal prep to a single day allows you to batch prepare a single ingredient or side dish for multiple meals, reduce midweek grocery shopping, and clean up after cooking only once. For many, meal prep can save hours of time searching for ingredients, cooking, and cleaning during the week. And do you know what that means? During the weekdays, you have more time to exercise, spend time with your family, or unwind with a carefree break.
8. You will reduce food waste.
When you shop with a plan, every item you buy has a purpose. Meal prepping helps you get organized before you head to the grocery store. This reduces food waste as you use the ingredients before they spoil. (Warning: Again, you save a lot of money by not wasting food!)
That’s according to a report by the National Resources Defense Council4, Americans throw away almost a quarter of all the food and drink they buy. Meal prepping can help break this cycle by reducing the problems that lead us to throw things away, like food spoilage, impulse buying, lack of planning, and uneaten leftovers.
Fresh fruit and vegetables can spoil quickly. But whether we’re preparing food for whole meals or simply washing and slicing those fruits and veggies just to snack on, planning ahead helps us use products before we lose them.
Another benefit of reducing waste is that meal planning helps reduce all packaging for take-out meals. So another eco-friendly reason for meal prep.
9. You will improve your emotional and mental health.
Plan your meals EACH. DAY. becomes exhausting for most people. The last thing you want to do after a long day at work is think about what to cook for dinner. You can relieve stress by avoiding this daily question with Meal Prep. Not only do you have a plan, but your meal will be minutes away from hitting your plate!
In addition to the convenience of preparing meals, studies5 have repeatedly linked healthy meal choices to less stress, better daily moods, and an overall positive impact on our mental health. Our bodies and minds are just happier when we give them the nutrients they need.
Try it out and let yourself be surprised!
Meal prep doesn’t have to be scary. It may take time to try different approaches before you settle into a routine that’s right for you, but don’t give up too quickly as the benefits are undeniable.
Not only could meal preparation be the key to achieving your goals, but you never know who you’ll inspire to make the necessary changes in their lives.
If you need help getting started, you can retrieve some of the pins already saved. Or you can check out some of our helpful meal prep tips for getting started with meal prep chicken here.
Have fun preparing!