I cannot emphasize enough how important the practice of meal prep was to losing weight and working towards a healthier lifestyle. At the most basic level, meal prep is preparing meals in advance of when you eat them. For me this means preparing lunches for the week – specifically work lunch. When you are at work you don’t have a lot of time or ability to create a healthy meal on the spot. If you do the work in advance you can take comfort knowing that regardless of what else happens nutrition wise that day – you got lunch covered. I’ll go over a couple of simple tips then dive into a super basic meal I’ve done for almost a year.
To make this easier I highly recommend the following gear:
The containers are designed to take measuring out of prep. Just fill up each compartment and be done with it. The Instant Pot is a super easy to use pressure cooker which will speed up cooking of a whole host of things – for me I find it clutch with preparing things like lentils or black beans.
What foods should I eat though?
There is a whole helluva lot you can make but I found this guide early on and it has been a great source of help:
While I did not follow this plan to the letter I found it gave me a lot to work with. I try to follow the 4 hours between meals but I added a simple snack at the 2 hour mark. If you don’t like how this reads feel free to expand. Make the meal prep something you want – just be reasonable about nutritional content.
When you do meal prep, you are basically making a huge amount of food at once then dividing it up to access later. Since you are making so much and will need to do it every week you should make sure you pick something that is fairly simple and not a huge hassle to make. Of course that means the food itself will be simpler but as you progress in skill you can keep finding ways of jazzing it up. I’m gonna say it again though: keep it simple. Make sure the ingredients you use are easy to get each week and more importantly you kitchen tools are always available on your meal prep days. That last point is critical: do not let anything be held ‘hostage’ by the dishwasher.
Captain Browns’s Baked Chicken and Lentils
- 3 lb (ish) of skinless chicken breast with rib meat (I’ll often try to get as close to 3 lbs with a 4 breast packet as I can)
- 1 lb packet of Brown Lentils
- 5-6 Vegetable Medley Bags (10oz per bag)
- Salt, Pepper, and any rub you think looks good (just explore your spice cabinet)
This will make six meals.
- Preheat oven to 350 F
- Place some foil on a pan and spray some oil on it. Place the chicken on the pan.
- OPTIONAL: using a Ziploc bag with a little oil in it, pound the chicken breasts to an event size. This is messy and kind of pain if you haven’t done it before so maybe skip the first time.
- Put spices in a cup and place it next to the pan. Pour or spray a little oil (you won’t need to if you pounded it flat) and rub it on the chicken. Generously cover the chicken in the spice mix you made. Try to keep one hand clean and handling spice and one dirty which is handling the chicken. Do both sides.
- Place chicken into the oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the chicken reaches about 165 F internally
- Get another pan(s) and put foil down and spray some oil. Pour all the veggies onto the pan(s) and then spray lightly on the top. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on them. Place them in the oven as well for about 40-50 minutes.
- Wash off the lentils and place them into the instant pot along with 2 cups of water. You may feel free to add spices here. Lentils are highly absorbent and will take on the flavors just be generous with the amount you put in to make sure it shows up.
- Set Instant Pot to high pressure for 15 minutes and seal.
- Let Instant Pot run its course and then do a ‘natural release’ for 10 minutes – that means don’t touch anything when it is done until the timer goes from 15 -> 0 -> 10. At that time, put on a cooking mitt and release the pressure (watch out for the steam!)
- Turn off the instant pot and open that sucker up.
- Remove the inner pot and place it on towel on the counter. Lightly stir to help heat release and aid in cooling down. Don’t over do it or else you will mash your precious lentils.
- When the chicken is done, pull it out and set it on the stove to rest for about 10 minutes to reabsorb some of the juices.
- Pull the veggies out when they are ready (keep an eye on em, don’t let em get too burnt).
- Once the chicken is rested, get out a cutting board and start hacking it up and putting it into each container. I like to take one breast for 2 containers and split it up. Since I usually buy 4 breasts and am working with 6 containers I will have the 4th breast be the ‘back fill’ and even out the others.
- Put lentils in the containers.
- Fill each container with as many veggies as you can. Remember that veggies are more or less free when it comes to calories. PACK IN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!
I make this on Sundays and will take 3 of the meals and put them in fridge and other 3 in the freezer.
When I eat this meal, I microwave it for about 4 minutes and prepare a simple dressing with 1/2 an avocado, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, ground mustard, and sriracha. It adds more calories but makes the veggies a lot more enjoyable. I recommend starting by making a simple vinaigrette and then experimenting form there.
That is it! If you have any basic cooking skills this should be laughable. If you were like me and the idea of baking chicken was scary just know you can do this and the more you unlock in the kitchen, the easier this is going to be and the more you are going to enjoy it.
My final advice with Meal Prep is not fear the kitchen. Taking that first step will always be a challenge. Keep pushing that goal post forward. Go forth and fear no darkness!