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6 Easy Meal Prep Strategies for Weight Loss

The secret to successful, sustainable weight loss? Not trendy workouts. Definitely not those chalky protein shakes. It's a simple but powerful habit: preparation.

How hard you lift, how far you run and whether or not you reach for a bag of chips at 3 pm all comes down to what you do in your own kitchen. Fueling your body with healthy food has to be a habit. But in a world of long workdays, exhausting commutes and temptingly easy junk food, consistency can seem impossible to anyone without an iron will. That's why preparation is key to ultimate weight loss success.

"When it comes to mealtime, the better you plan, the better you do," says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life. Rather than leaving your nutrition up to chance, practice these weekly rituals to lose your gut and add calorie-torching muscle.

These six essential tips will make it easy to maintain a healthy diet even on the most stressful day of the week:


Plan Your Weekly Meals Ahead of Time

Sometimes it's not enough just to plan what you're going to eat for the week. Planning when you'll eat your healthy meals can also help with your weight loss efforts. By sticking to a schedule, you're less likely to get hungry enough to reach for anything in sight, making it less likely that you'll indulge in junk foods from the vending machine. "Plan what you'll eat as well as what time you'll eat it," says Trisha B. Stavinoha, RD, CSCS, a registered dietician and strength coach in the U.S. Army.

The fewer food choices you have on any given day, the better you will eat. "Research shows that people who eat the same breakfast every day, oatmeal and two eggs for example, tend to be healthy for life. Namely because they have removed the possibility of splurging on unhealthy food," says Wansink. Packing pre-planned meals for work is key in cutting out the opportunity to choose something unhealthy.


Make a Grocery List and Stick to It

Let's say you plan to eat six daily meals Monday through Saturday. If you're running to the store once per week, you'll need to pick up around 36 servings of lean protein, like eggs, chicken and fish. You'll also need about twice that amount of lower-starch carbs, like asparagus, broccoli and spinach, plus some high-star carbs, like bananas and yams.

"You shop smarter by planning ahead and limiting the variety of items that come in a box," says Stavinoha. You can make shopping even easier by stocking to the perimeter of the store where products are fresh and free of many additives you'll find in the inner aisles. The key is to invest in quality ingredients that you will use to prepare your food for the week.


Prepare Food Once or Twice a Week

If you plan on cooking only once a week, you'll cook all of your weekly meals over a few hours on Sunday afternoon. If you prefer to break it up into two sessions, try dividing the work between Sundays and Wednesdays.

Knowing how to prep is the first step to weight loss success. Generally speaking, to gain muscle without adding body fat or drop fat without losing too much muscle, you must determine your daily calorie needs. Then, cook your food according to what you'll need each day and how much you plan to exercise.

Induction stoves help you speed up cooking and save on your utility bill. They use electromagnetic energy to safely excite iron molecules in your pan. In other words, the cookware and its content heat up while the stovetop stays cool.


Have Quality Containers

If you want a kitchen that encourages fat loss and muscle gain, the solution is to keep healthy single-serving meals available in your refrigerator at all times, says Wansink. That way, you'll always have a healthy option and no excuse for turning to something fattening or sugar-laden. "An empty kitchen is problematic because, when you get hungry, you don't have any healthy options," says Wansink.

Stock up on quality container! Between meals and snacks, the number you'll need adds up quickly. But, trust us, it's less than buying food every time you're hungry and it's certainly better than sacrificing your health. Don't believe us? Check out the Eat This, Not That! Exclusive report on How Fast Food Makes You Poor.

If you're unhappy with your plastic containers, recycle them and replace them with stainless steel containers. If you're going to go plastic, choose BPA-free containers with lockable lids to prevent spilling.


Organize Your Fridge

Keep the healthiest foods at the front of your fridge, where you're most likely to see them. (The same goes for your cabinets, too.) "Seeing healthy food primes you to make good choices, in the same way seeing unhealthy food encourages you to make bad choices," says Dr. Wansink.

Ethylene gas is a naturally occurring plant hormone that speeds up the ripening process. To increase the shelf life of your produce and save money on grocery bills, separate ethylene-producers (like avocadoes, ripe bananas and tomatoes) from the veggies that are spoiled by the gas (broccoli, spinach and sweet potatoes).


Bring Meals With You

This is the easy part. You went to the store, pre-cooked and prepped your meals so that all you have to do is pack them in a bag to ensure a day of healthy eating. If you're worried about keeping things cold, there are containers with clip-in ice packs that you keep in the freezer until you need to grab and go.

Courtesy of Men's Fitness

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