Meal prep, short for meal preparation, is the process of planning and preparing your meals ahead of time. You can meal prep one day ahead, or take one day to prepare lunch and/or dinner for an entire week. While most meal prep only one or two meals, you can easily meal prep breakfast, lunch and dinner, even snacks for the week ahead. It’s entirely up to you!
If you eat a carbohydrate-rich meal (lots of pasta, rice, bread, or French fries, for example), your body releases insulin to help with the influx of all this glucose into your blood. As well as regulating blood sugar levels, insulin does two things: It prevents your fat cells from releasing fat for the body to burn as fuel (because its priority is to burn off the glucose) and it creates more fat cells for storing everything that your body can’t burn off. The result is that you gain weight and your body now requires more fuel to burn, so you eat more. Since insulin only burns carbohydrates, you crave carbs and so begins a vicious cycle of consuming carbs and gaining weight. To lose weight, the reasoning goes, you need to break this cycle by reducing carbs.
It might seem like swapping regular products for “sugar-free,” “fat-free,” or “diet foods” is an easy fix. But they could do more harm than good. In fact, artificial sweeteners they could even cause weight gain, according to research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. As for fat-free foods, choosing the full-fat option will keep you fuller longer, according to Pashko. Steering clear of ravenous hunger will ensure you don’t overeat later.
Other factors that can influence your decision include the program’s overall cost and your budget, whether you prefer pre-packaged options or the flexibility to eat out and cook your own meals, and finally, the degree of community interaction. Multiple studies have found that weight loss and diet control are most successful when there’s a degree of accountability and peer support. Most diet plan programs have a wide range of interactive, community-building features that can also help you gage customer satisfaction with the diet plan.
While 1,200 may be the right number for some, it can be super restrictive for others, says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Try basing your meals and snacks off this plan and double up on veggies at any opportunity — more fruit at snack time works too! You can also add an extra ounce or two of protein at all meals if you find yourself feeling hungry. The combo of fiber from produce and lean protein makes this an adaptable strategy that’ll help you lose weight safely — one meal (and snack) at a time!