These days, meal prep companies are popping up everywhere, providing you with convenient options for building a personalized diet plan complete with your choice of macronutrients. We sure have come a long way since the inception of frozen-ready meals! But despite the convenience, you may still choose to go it alone. Wondering how to structure a meal prep plan that is right for you? Follow these easy steps.
Step 1 – Build Yourself a Menu
This is the fun part. Just because you’re following a meal plan, it doesn’t mean it needs to be boring or repetitive. Choose from a variety of healthy recipes from the endless amount that is already out there on blogs— or even on this site. Not sure if it fits your macros and calories? Use an app to build the recipe from a food database and determine the calories and macros if it isn’t already provided. Start by building a one-week plan, including everything from breakfast through dinner and including snacks. You should have about three main meals and two to three smaller meals/snacks depending on your needs. Fill in the plan using the recipes you select. Over time, you will start to develop your own tried-and-tested favorite recipes or meals and can use them for future meal plans.
Step 2 – Short List Your Ingredients
From the recipes you select, make a short list of ingredients for your trip to the grocery store. To make things easy and keep your budget down, be sure to use similar ingredients and spices. Your list of ingredients shouldn’t exceed about 20 items when you count everything from your proteins, carbs, vegetables, fruit, and your seasoning and spices. Also remember that the majority of your recipes should only contain fresh, natural whole foods. Choose recipes that provide the nutritional breakdown. If not, make sure to use an app that you can use to store your recipes and that will count the calories. This way, you can be sure you have all the information you need to count your calories.
Step 3 – Calculate Your Calories and Macros
Calories can be calculated using the standard Mifflin Equation. As follows:
For women: (10 x w) + (6.25 x h) – (5 x a) – 161
In this equation, w = your weight in kilos, h = your height in cm and a = your age. This number will give you your RMR— the resting metabolic rate or the amount of calories you need to function. Then take this number and multiply by your activity factor. That is 1.2 if you don’t exercise, 1.4 if you do light activity one to three times per week, 1.55 if you are moderately active performing three to five workouts per week or 1.7 if you’re very active performing six to seven days of activity weekly. If you perform a physical job and work out hard daily, then use the activity factor 1.9.
Once you have this number, break down your calories into your macros. If you’re trying to stay lean and trim, your diet should consist of about 40 percent protein and 30 percent of each fat and carbs. Trying to drop a few pounds, drop your percent of carbs and up your protein and fats. Multiply your calories by each macro percent, then multiply by four for both carbs and protein, and nine for fat to give you the amount of grams you will need to eat daily.
Step 4 – Grocery Shop and Cook-Off
Now that you have your recipes, your menu and the amount of food you need to eat daily, you can create a grocery shopping list, buy the things you need and plan your cook-off. Try to cook your food about two times per week for fresh, and about once per week if you decide to freeze it. After you have cooked off your menu, portion off each item using a digital scale. Place into containers, and chill or freeze for the week.
Step 5 – Evaluate and Enjoy
Enjoy your meals, but evaluate if the calories you calculated work for you, if you enjoy the recipes you chose, if they were easy to make and if you will continue to use them. Did your calories and macros give you enough energy, did you lose weight, gain weight, or was your goal to maintain? Continue to make adjustments, and keep track of the recipes you liked so that you can make your meal plan and prep even easier the next week.