The Best Meal Prep and Diet Plan for Weight Loss will not restrict you from enjoying life – in fact, it's all about being flexible and enjoying healthy eating as a lifestyle! I'll show you how to meal prep for weight loss without being on a strict diet.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor and in no way should this post be taken as complete fact or medical advice. Everyone's body and health needs are different and this is not a post detailing or advocating for extreme weight loss measures. If you have experienced body image issues and are conflicted about your reasons for losing weight, you may want to skip this post. I have tried to provide accurate sources and a general overview of how you can possibly achieve weight loss through meal prep. However, I am just a regular person who has lost a minor amount of weight through meal prep, healthy eating and exercise sharing my experience and what has worked for me in the past. What worked for me will not work for everybody!
Meal Prep for Weight Loss
When you're meal prepping for the first time, you may notice that you end up losing weight just because you're eating healthier and are more prepared for meal time. I've been meal prepping on and off for the past 5 years and it's been a key component of self care that has had some pretty amazing benefits.
I've saved so much money over the years by having healthy lunches prepared for the work week (read more about how to eat healthy on a budget), and as a result of being more organized with my meals, I've improved my overall health and have also lost some weight while doing it!
You can read more about my 25lb weight loss on my Start Here page – it will also help you to navigate the website so you can make the most out of all the healthy recipes and meal prep resources I have. There are so many helpful articles that should get you started with meal prep!
Is Meal Prepping Good for Weight Loss?
You can definitely meal prep and experience weight loss.
Whenever you stay organized and control your portions of food, you are helping yourself to eat healthier, and this may result in weight loss.
You are also more easily able to calculate the calorie count because you have cooked the food yourself and know how many portions are in a recipe and how to divide that recipe into the appropriate portion size. I have nutritional info on all of my recipes and most other food websites offer the same thing.
If you know exactly what you're eating and when, it will definitely help with any sort of weight loss plan. Plus, if you have food on hand that you have prepared for the week you are less likely to eat out at lunch or order takeout after work, and you are also less likely to snack because when you're hungry, the food is right there waiting for you!
If you're looking to get serious about meal prep, you HAVE to sign up for my free 5-day lunch challenge below! It's going to get you on the right path and give you the structure you need to meal prep like a pro!
Do You Have to Meal Prep to Lose Weight?
Now, I know I may have convinced you that meal prepping is THE way to lose weight, but you definitely don't have to meal prep to experience weight loss.
As long as you are experiencing some sort of calorie deficit, you will lose weight. Meal prep can help you control what you're eating and also keep you from being tempted to “cheat”, but as long as you are cooking healthy food and are tracking what you're eating, you will lose weight.
I will say that you do need to have some sort of goal in mind and a basic understanding of what calorie intake will be appropriate to achieve those goals.
How Many Calories Should You Eat?
So, we come to the age-old question then: how many calories should you eat?
Well, the answer is that it really depends. It's mostly based on your gender, height, weight, age and activity level – read more about calorie counting and weight loss here.
As a basic rule, you should eat between 1200-1700 calories a day in order to lose weight depending on the factors I listed above. If you are very active, then you should probably even be eating a little bit more. You can calculate the amount of calories you should be eating per day to maintain your weight and you can also calculate the calories for weight loss so you have an idea of how your body is functioning.
One of the most common misconceptions about weight loss is that you have to starve yourself or restrict what you're eating but sometimes this can disrupt your metabolism and cause your body to go into starvation mode and hold onto all the fat you're storing. You'll also likely be pretty miserable.
It's important that you feed yourself enough to be strong and have plenty of energy throughout the day. You'll also want to eat whole foods that you find delicious in order to experience weight loss in a healthy and pleasurable manner. If you take a realistic, sustainable approach then it's totally possible!
All of this said, I honestly don't put too much emphasis on calorie counting because it can be difficult to do – it's usually unsustainable in the long run and while it was something I did for a bit while I had a weight loss goal, I only really stuck to it for four months and after that I had a good estimate of the amount of calories I was eating each day. You will eventually be able to eyeball how much chicken you are eating, for instance, and how many calories each serving of food is.
Once I figured this all out, my emphasis became less on losing weight and counting calories and more on feeding myself healthy foods, eating mindfully and nourishing my body so that I can be strong, healthy and happy.
You also want to be careful with calorie counting and recognize if it is not helpful for you because it can sometimes cause you to form a bad relationship with food.
How Much Weight Will You Lose?
Again, this is hard to say but it depends on your goals!
For me personally, I just never feel as though it's a good idea going into meal prep with the idea that you're going to lose a TON of weight. I went from 140lbs to 115lbs, but I'm 5'2” and fairly petite. I am currently 122-125lbs depending on the day – this seems to be the normal range that my body likes to stay at and I have accepted this as being a good thing.
Weight loss can be just as much mental as it is physical so you have to prepare yourself for the fact that you are still going to likely sit within a certain range of weight and that's okay! Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes so it's important to recognize that as you are setting your goals.
I think that whenever you set a weight loss goal, you need to be realistic about how much weight you think you can lose and how much is necessary. At the end of the day, weight loss should be more for health reasons than vanity purposes and you should always try to focus on eating mindfully and listening to your body. That's where you are going to have the most success.
The longer that you stick with a routine that enables to you cook more at home and make more healthy meals that focus on whole food ingredients, the more weight you will be able to lose – and again, this really depends on how much weight you feel you have to lose to begin with.
In my own case, I didn't feel as though I had to lose much weight. I wasn't even overweight. I was just a bit heavier than I normally am and my focus on a healthy diet and fitness had waned while I was in school. I wanted to get back to a healthier lifestyle and initially set a weight loss goal of 20lbs. I feel as though I was able to lose that weight in a super healthy way and once I achieved that goal I was happy to just maintain my weight without focusing on eating a lower calorie diet but still eating healthy foods.
I should AGAIN mention that I am not a doctor. I am just an ordinary person sharing what worked for me when I lost 25lbs (read more about my personal experience here). You should always consult a doctor or dietician when it comes to your weight loss goals, especially if you are looking to lose a larger amount of weight. You can read more about determining how much weight you think you should lose here.
How Long Does Food Stay Good When You Meal Prep?
Most of the meal prep recipes you'll find listed below will last in the fridge for 4-6 days.
That's the perfect amount of time for you to take all your lunches to work each day of the work week as well as enjoy some leftovers on days when you're too busy to cook!
You can also sometimes extend the shelf life of your food by meal prepping separate ingredients or chopping veggies and meat separately then cooking fresh. You will find what works for you over time as you continue to meal prep and see what you need to make ahead versus what you would rather enjoy fresh.
What About Freezer Meals?
Freezer meal prep recipes will last even longer – up to 3 months or more! The key with freezer meal prep is finding recipes that will freeze and then reheat well. It's more difficult to freeze cooked veggies and chicken and still get the same taste and quality as when it's a fresh meal.
Again, as mentioned before with prepping separate ingredients, you can also freeze fruits (or make smoothie packs!) and vegetables along with items like cooked rice and pasta to make your life a bit easier when you do go to cook fresh meals during the week.
How Do I Start a Meal Plan to Lose Weight?
Meal planning is actually very simple to do once you get started, and it's the key to meal prepping in an organized fashion. While you don't necessarily need to be on a diet plan for weight loss, it does help to plan out what you're going to be eating and when so that you have the right structure to stay on track. It will also really motivate you to achieve your goals!
If you'd like to learn more about meal planning, I have a super handy post where I detail my meal prep routine so that you can see how I organize my week ahead of time.
If you'd like even more help with meal planning, then you'll love my free 5-day meal prep challenge!
It's basically a free email course that will teach you how to meal prep and cook healthy meals at home with some PDF bonus materials. Over the course of the challenge, I'll send you a free meal planner and shopping list templates so that you stay on the right track with meal prep (plus more goodies of course!)
Sign up below, it's FREE! 🙂
Diet Plan for Weight Loss
I typically advocate for recipes to be in between 300 to 500 calories when you are looking to experience weight loss because they are suitable for a 1500-calorie a day diet. Again, this is just an approximate benchmark that will apply to many people, myself included, but definitely not all. You can read more on why a 1500 calorie a day diet usually works for weight loss here. You should be using the calculators mentioned above to help you determine how much weight you'd like to lose as well. Context is everything!
As an example, if we were following a 1500-calorie a day diet, then three meals a day at 400 calories each would equal 1200 calories, then you would have about 300 calories allotted for snacks throughout the day as well (let's say two snacks at 150 calories each). I would say you should still be eating about four or five times a day including your snacks but again, this particular diet plan is what worked best for me.
Any time you start a “diet”, you really should be factoring in what is realistic for your current lifestyle. I really encourage an overall lifestyle change in order to achieve long-lasting weight loss results – an emphasis on eating whole foods and healthy ingredients. Get rid of the packaged foods and cook healthy meals at home. This is where meal prep helps as part of a diet plan!
All of the above considered, here is a very simple outline of what a diet plan might look like for you in a day:
- Meal 1: 300-400 calorie breakfast. I will usually go with a slice of egg white frittata and half a bagel, or a sausage egg Mcmuffin
- Meal 2: 100 calorie snack, eaten in the morning. Usually a banana, half an apple & 1 tbsp of peanut butter, a mini Greek yogurt, or veggies and 2 tbsp hummus
- Meal 3: 400 calorie lunch. I love meal prep bowls like this Greek chicken or this buffalo chicken wrap
- Meal 4: 200 calorie snack, eaten in the afternoon. Maybe a protein bar (homemade like these protein bites or store-bought), s0me salted peanuts or almonds, cold cuts or turkey pepperettes, and more fruit & veggies
- Meal 5: 400 calorie dinner. I love this pesto chicken or these sheet pan chicken fajitas – both are simple meals that come together quickly but still pack a ton of flavour!
If you want a small dessert at the end of the day, shave some calories off of your meals (maybe eat 350 calorie meals instead of 400 calories or make breakfast lower in calories alone). You can also eat lower calorie snacks, or sub in dessert at the end of the day for your morning snack. You always have some wiggle room and flexibility even while following a diet plan.
The key is to not restrict yourself or develop an unhealthy obsession with food and counting calories. You should still be able to eat the foods you like in moderation and have fun at social gatherings! Always remember that starving yourself won't help with weight loss so get out there and continue to enjoy your life. Weight loss takes time, consistency, and a healthy mindset.
If you'd like more of a well-laid-out meal prep plan for weight loss, here is another awesome 7-day meal prep plan to help with your goals!
Meal Prep Recipes for Weight Loss
Here are some of my top meal prep recipes – they are all between 300-500 calories so you can ensure that they're healthy and will help you stick to whatever weight loss goals you have in mind.
I recommend starting with one or two of the following recipes and adding them to your meal plan. Once you're comfortable cooking more at home, you can always make more recipes and add more variety to your diet!
The Best Meal Prep Containers
These meal prep tools will get you started with meal prep and help you stay organized and motivated! It always helps to have the equipment to get the job done right! 😉
- Glass meal prep bowls are so great for microwaving and reheating your food safely
- Mason jars are perfect for salads since they keep lettuce separated from dressings
- My Rice Cooker saves me so much time in the meal prep process because I can cook my grains ahead of time
- These Bento box containers are perfect for packing snacks and lunches together!
- Restock your freezer with grass-fed beef and poultry from Butcher Box – this is the healthiest meat out there with no antibiotics and helps you with meal prep since your freezer will always be full
- I would be nowhere without my trusty Vitamix blender – it whips up giant batches of delicious sauces for my meal prep bowls in a hurry, and it's also a great way to make healthy smoothies!
Other Meal Prep Resources
If you're looking for more resources on healthy eating and meal prep, I've got a TON of other great resources (browse the archives here).
These are just some of my top posts that are a great way to get started with meal prep and hopefully they will assist you in learning how to cook healthier food at home, which may result in weight loss!
- Healthy Grab & Go Breakfast Ideas
- Delicious Meal Prep Bowls for Lunch
- Quick, Healthy Dinner Recipes
- The BEST Baked Chicken Breast Recipe + Marinades
- Healthy Meal Prep Snack Ideas
Meal Prep Challenge
Finally, if you're looking to get serious about meal prep, then you'll probably find my free 5-day meal prep challenge very helpful! It's going to get you on the right path and give you the structure you need to make more meals at home and I've even got some free meal planner and shopping list templates that I send so you can stay motivated!
Sign up below, it's FREE! 🙂
Some Final Thoughts About Weight Loss
Again, as we wrap up this post I really, really want to emphasis that I am NOT a doctor or dietician. You should not take any of the advice above verbatim. If you are wanting a super comprehensive diet plan or have health issues, you should consult a doctor or health care professional.
I eat a very generalized diet now and only counted calories for a period of four months. Over a period of about 8 months, I lost 25lbs through healthy eating, meal prep and a moderate amount of exercise (that's about 1.2lbs of weight loss per week). I am just a regular person who wanted to lose a MINOR amount of weight, and in this post I shared some basic info about weight loss and some strategies that worked for me. They will not work for everyone.
I don't write this post to encourage anyone and everyone to get out there and start losing weight. I could probably write a whole other post about body image and the pressures we face in our current society to look thin and beautiful at all times, but meal prep and weight loss (especially given my own story), is something I get asked about all the time.
I would obviously rather take a more conservative approach to weight loss and try to really educate people on how weight loss and calorie deficits work, as well as continue to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Part of that is EATING well, and eating ENOUGH. It's about enjoyment and achieving results in moderation. There is so much false information out there about how you can lose weight, and lose a lot of it fast, and the truth is, that's just not how it works.
At the end of the day, you need to get clear about why you're looking to lose weight and try to do it for the right reasons: so that you can be healthy and happy. That goes for physically and mentally. This is a long game, and eating healthy, whole foods is more of a lifestyle than a short-term diet plan. While you are losing weight, I encourage you to still see the beauty in yourself, no matter your size. Hopefully this article has given you a helpful foundation and some basic knowledge to help with your journey!