8 Weight Loss Meal Prep Ideas to Make in 10 Minutes or Less
Many of my followers are interested in experiencing healthy weight loss and then maintaining their best weight with the help of nutritionally balanced smoothies and solid food meals.
That’s what I’m all about.
This week, I want to give the best meal prep tips for weight loss that you can make in ten minutes or less. One of the biggest objections I hear around weight loss is the time it takes to make healthy, whole-food meals that don’t come out of a packaged box.
Which we all now know is the innocuous term used for food that usually contains unhealthy levels of added saturated fats, sugar, and salt. The food in these packages tends to be chemically processed to preserve them for longer periods. These foods also contain less dietary fiber and fewer vitamins than whole foods.
Before we dive in, let’s just be crystal clear about a couple of important factors like calories and the division of caloric intake over your day. I do a deep dive into this (and much more) in my 21-Day Smoothie Diet. I cover everything you need to know and make for rapid weight loss, increased energy, and incredible health.
What Do Calories Have to Do With Weight Loss?
It’s no longer a secret that you will gain weight if you eat more calories a day than you’re burning. If you eat fewer calories a day than you’re burning, you’ll lose weight. Simple.
So, how do you know how many calories a day you eat and how many you should eat to lose weight? The answer lies in the Harris Benedict formula. This formula calculates your BMR (basal metabolic rate) based on your age, gender, and current activity level.
Once you plug in your numbers, the calculator will spit out the number of calories you need to consume each day to maintain this weight. You then have an excellent idea of how many calories you want to consume to affect weight loss. Thankfully, this isn’t rocket science.
In my 21-Day Smoothie Diet, I base a daily caloric intake on between 1450 to 1500 calories each day. Once you’ve Harris-Benedicted yourself, you’ll know whether you’ll need to adjust this number up or down. If you’re a 6’8″ 52-year-old male who currently weighs 320 lbs, your number might be different from that of a 5’3″ 29-year-old female who weighs 165 lbs.
You’ll also want to factor in your current activity level. Again, I give you all the information you need in my 21-Day Smoothie Diet.
As to the division of calories over the course of a day, aim for something like this:
|450||Whole food lunch|
If it feels too daunting to have two smoothies for meals with one whole food meal, simply add 50 calories to your dinner allowance and make this meal whole foods rather than a smoothie.
A Calorie is Not Just a Calorie
Clearly, I’m not going to suggest that the right caloric number is all that’s important. You could easily fill up your calorie allowance with garbage food, and while you may have won a number’s game, your body will not respond in a healthy way.
It’s true that all calories have the same amount of energy. Every single dietary calorie contains 4,184 Joules of energy. In that respect, a calorie is a calorie.
But when it comes to your body, things are not that simple. The human body is “a highly complex biochemical system with elaborate processes that regulate energy balance.” The kinds of food you eat inform how healthy your body is in warding off viruses and diseases and a whole host of other benefits.
How Much Protein is the Right Amount of Protein
Protein is key for muscle repair, brain function, and many other things. The amount of protein you need per day is based on how active you are. I tell most people to start at about 50 grams per day.
Four ounces of chicken breast has about 35g of protein, so including a little lean protein with each meal and snack should make it easy to get what you need. This also helps keeps you satisfied longer.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is a little harder to get that amount of protein. A way to gauge your vegetarian or vegan intake is to remember that one cup of cooked beans has between 15-20 grams of protein.
Here are eight ways you can cut down on meal prep time before you even start cooking:
Tip #1 Plan Your Meals
A well-thought-out meal plan can help you improve your diet quality and save you time and money along the way. If you’re new to meal planning, give yourself at least 30 minutes to plan a week’s worth of meals. The more you meal plan, the faster you’ll get at doing it.
Your meal plan should line up with your week’s schedule. You might need to double up on a recipe to feed a crowd or have a meal made mostly ahead of time for the nights when one child has to go to baseball practice, and the other is off to dance lessons.
Find recipes that fit your criteria of whole foods that sit at the 450 calorie range per serving that can be made quickly. Save them through your favorite method, like Pinterest, Pocket, or a recipe keeper.
Tip #2: Keep Your Pantry Stocked
Maintaining a baseline stock of pantry staples is a great way to streamline your meal prep process and simplify menu creation. Keep these ingredients in your pantry, ready and easy to grab:
- Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, bulgur, whole-wheat pasta, and polenta.
- Canned or dried legumes like black beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, and lentils.
- Canned goods like low-sodium broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce, artichokes, olives, corn, salmon, tuna, and chicken.
- Oils like olive, avocado, and coconut.
- Baking essentials like baking powder, baking soda, almond flour, and cornstarch.
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
- Spices can make the difference between a meal that’s amazing and one that’s just alright. If you don’t have a solid stash of dried herbs and spices, just pick up a couple of new spice jars when you grocery shop.
- Others include almond, cashew, and natural peanut butter; unsweetened coconut flakes.
By keeping these basic essentials on hand, you’ll only need to remember to pick up fresh items as you need them.
Based on your menu planning, pick up these fresh items during your regularly scheduled grocery shop:
- Proteins like chicken breast, ground turkey, lean beef or pork, salmon, tilapia, shrimp, and eggs.
- Dairy like Greek yogurt, hard cheese (think Parmesan), and Feta cheese.
Tip #3: Batch Cook
One of the best ways to cut down your meal prep time is to batch cook. Batch cooking is when you prepare large quantities of individual foods. This lets you use them in different ways throughout the week or freeze or store them for a meal in a future week.
Try cooking a big batch of quinoa or rice and roasting a large tray of vegetables, tofu, or meat at the start of the week to use for salads, stir-fries, scrambles, or grain bowls.
You could also make a batch of chicken, tuna, or chickpea to add to salads.
A variation on the theme of batch cooking is to make double (or triple) recipes at the same time. Freeze or store the extras to have available for a future week. This can even cut your ten-minute meal prep time down to three minutes!
Athletes and fitness enthusiasts who closely track their intake of calories and nutrients often pre-portion their meals. This is also a great way to manage your caloric intake and is a great time saver.
Tip #4: The Right Storage Containers
After you’ve cooked your meal, portion individual servings into separate containers and store them in the fridge or freezer. When the next mealtime rolls around, just heat and eat.
The right food storage containers are the unsung meal prep tools. If you currently open your container cupboard and find it filled with mismatched containers that don’t have lids, you’ll probably find meal prep and batch or multiple cooking quite frustrating.
Now’s the time to invest in some high-quality containers. Before you go shopping, think about each container’s intended use. If you’ll be freezing, microwaving, or sticking them in a dishwasher, make sure you choose containers that can handle the heat or the freezing. It’s also handy to have a variety of sizes for different types of foods.
Tip #5: Choose “Passive Cooking” Techniques
Dishes that use the slow cooker, rice cooker, oven, Instant Pot, or air fryer are great because the machine does the work. You can just set it up and use that time to prep for the next meal or even give yourself a break.
Tip #6: Chop Ahead of Time
This meal-prepping tip will save you so much time when you get down to cooking. I have my knives all sharpened and ready to pre-chop the veggies on Saturday before I’ll be cooking them for a Tuesday meal.
If you’re not that great with a knife, choose recipes with easy-to-chop or even no-chopping-needed ingredients. You can even opt for the pre-chopped veggies found in your local grocery store. They cost a bit more, but they will pay for themselves with all the time you save from not having to chop.
Nowadays, you can find all kinds of frozen, pre-chopped veggies – broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, butternut squash, okra – so choose recipes that contain these ingredients or swap the fresh veggies in those recipes for these frozen shortcuts.
Tip #7: Choose Quick-Cooking Proteins and Veggies
Denser veggies and tougher meats take longer to cook. Don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients in a recipe for ones that cook faster, such as thin-cut meats or any of these veggies, proteins, or grains.
Some of the fastest-cooking proteins are:
- Seafood: shrimp, tilapia, sole, cod, scallops, and tuna.
- Land roaming: thin-cut steaks (flank, hangar, skirt), thin-cut pork loin chops, pre-cooked sausage, and chicken tenders.
- Vegetarian: tofu, tempeh, seitan, and canned beans.
Some of the fastest-cooking vegetables are:
- Raw: arugula, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, baby carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, lettuce/mixed greens, radishes, spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini.
- Less than 10 minutes: asparagus, bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, green beans, kale, mushrooms, snow peas, spinach, swiss chard, tomatoes, and zucchini.
Frozen veggies can be cooked from their frozen state in about the time it takes to boil the water.
Some of the fastest-cooking grains are:
- Less than 10 minutes: couscous, bulgar, and rolled oats.
- Pre-cooked and re-heated: brown rice and quinoa.
Tip #8: Have Some Go-To Leftover Recipes
Leftover recipes are meals that are pretty much a dump of all the remaining things that you have in your fridge. The last meal of the week is perfect for repurposing all of these leftovers and leftover ingredients.
What I Love About The Buddha Bowl
Whether or not you’re a fan of the Buddha, I’m a big fan of the Buddha bowl. The concept of this bowl hit pay dirt near the end of 2016, and it’s been going strong since.
There are various thoughts behind why this type of meal has attached itself to Buddha’s name, but it’s a nourishing meal that’s little bites of everything good and healthy. At its core, it’s about balancing the different types of food that you eat and not eating too much of any one thing.
This meal may be the poster child for weight loss meals you can make in under ten minutes. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, your basic bowl will be a mixture of:
Grain + Green + Bean
If you eat protein, your bowl will look like this:
Grain + Green + Bean + Protein
The exact ingredients in your bowl are limited only by your imagination. Garnishes, sauces, and dressings all add to the beauty and health of these bowls.
The Ultimate Dressing
Combine these ingredients and blend till smooth and creamy:
- 1 ½ cups vegetable oil (or replace with ¾ cup water for an oil-free dressing)
- ⅓ cup tamari soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp tahini
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 ½ Tbsp lemon juice
- ⅓ cup water
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Do you have any other weight loss meal prep ideas that I didn’t include above? Let me know, and I’ll be sure to post them for everyone else to see!