Note: This is a long post, almost 3000 words. It may take you a bit to read
One popular form of content on Youtube channels or if you are trying to work out and gain size or lose weight is to do what is called food prepping. Food prepping involves preparing multiple dishes to have during the week to control your food intake. Some people will prepare 3 meals a day for 5 days. Others will food prep their lunches and breakfasts for the week. The main point it to keep you from eating out, control your calorie intake and make sure you are eating good food.
But every time I used to watch one of these things I would be confused. How did you figure out how much food. How did you figure out the portions. When I started losing weight, I started to pre-cook food and measure out everything, so I wanted to share how you can get started doing food Prep at home.
What is your caloric intake?
The very first thing you need to figure out, is how much is your calorie intake? And we normally do this by figuring it out with a calculator. I have linked to one below. And in it, it will show me needing 2,580 calories a day to maintain my weight. If I go down to 2,080 calories a day, I will lose 1 pound a week.
Once we have figured out what our calories should be, we can start figuring out, our portions. In this case I will calculate 2,080 calories a day to drop the 10 pounds I think I need to drop. So when it comes to food prepping, you can go to extremes. Some people plan every single meal out. For me, I don’t prep my breakfasts because I have the exact same breakfast every morning. I also have the same snack every night. So given this, let’s do some more calculations.
- 2 hard Boiled Eggs (156 calories)
- 1 Cup Of Oatmeal (158 calories)
- ¼ teaspoon of maple syrup (~20)
- 1 Banana (105 calories)
Total of 439 calories
This leaves me 1,611 calories. Let’s figure out our snacks. In the evening I normally have some fruit and a tablespoon of peanut butter.
- 10 Grapes (20 calories)
- 1 TBSP Peanut Butter (188 calories)
Total of 208 calories.
So I have to remove another 208 calories which leaves me 1,403 calories for both lunch and dinner. So I have a choice of splitting that evenly at around 700 calories per meal, or I could make my lunch at 600 calories and my dinner at 800 calories. For ease, let’s say I want to split it evenly, and want to prep 700 calories for lunches.
The hardest part is done now. That is determining how many calories I have to spend per meal on food preparations. From there I can start figuring out proteins I can use, starches I can use and vegetables to add to it. And if you do it right, you even have extra to snack on over time.
There is not a lot of extra equipment, tools or other extras you need to do your food prepping. First, you need a food scale. You need a food scale because you are literally going to weigh everything that goes into your lunch. This allows us to get the exact amount we add to each container, which tells us the exact calories we are consuming.
Your scale only needs to have a tare function and the ability to switch between grams/kg and ounces. 16 ounces are in 1 pound. I like the one above because it uses normal AAA batteries and you don’t need a screw driver to change the batteries.
The only other thing you need are storage containers. I try and avoid uni-taskers and the ones below I use for a variety of things. I store frozen rice in the freezer, left overs as well as food prepping. These are the same things many restaurants use for take out. And if you are prepping for more then one, have extras is key. These are dishwasher safe, freezer safe and are BPA free. If you are concerned about plastic, then look at Pyrex containers.
Those two things are all you need to get started. At the bottom of the post I have left a whole listing of products I use in my food prep if you are just starting out.
So what do we cook?
Let’s figure out proteins first. Because if you are in a calorie deficit, it will determine what proteins you can have. For example rib eye will be out, since that cut has much more fat and significantly more calories compared to a sirloin or NY strip. Shrimp is a great protein and done right works great for reheating. While scallops have about double the calories. It is why you see a lot of body builders eat chicken breasts instead of chicken thighs. I prefer chicken thighs but if you are right on calories, you save about 15 calories with chicken breasts. A 4 ounce Mahi Mahi filet has about 123 calories.
- NY Strip
- Lean Hamburger Meat
- Wild Caught Fish Filet
- Chicken Thighs
- Chicken Breasts
- Sweet potato
- Cauliflower rice
- Brown Rice
- Idaho Potato
- Mixed veggies
Next are your starches. If you are doing Keto or Paleo you have to adjust what you are doing. But most people stick with Sweet Potato since 5 ounces of sweet potato only has about 100 calories. You have to be careful with rice as a cup of rice will have over 200 calories. One trick I have created is using Cauliflower rice which I stir fry with butter and pecorino romano cheese.
Finally are vegetables. Any green vegetable with do. If you talk to body builders you hear them getting sick of Chicken Breasts and Broccoli, but a cup of broccoli only has 30 calories. Green peas have 125 calories per cup. A huge difference. A cup of uncooked spinach has only 7 calories. Carrots have 52 calories per cup. So if you have room, you can add them in for a snack mid day.
What about Sneaky Calories
Sneaky calories are those things that you either forget to cook, or don’t pay attention to. The biggest one is salad dressing since we tend not to measure salad dressing and even two tablespoons of salad dressing can have between 80 and 140 calories. 2 Tablespoons is not much.
As long as you are cautious about how much you are using, I don’t tend to count butter or oil I use to saute but I am cautious about how much I use. I also am cautious about what fats I use. The less processed the better. For the most part I use Butter, Ghee, Olive Oil and in some cases coconut oil. For butter I use Grass fed european butters. They have more test and higher fat contents than the inexpensive grocery store butters you normally buy.
Downside to meal prepping
The biggest downsides to meal prepping are both boredom and waste. Most guys I know can eat the same thing every day for weeks at a time. But my wife, nope, she needs to mix it up. So if you keep things to static, it doesn’t get eaten and then gets thrown away. Which leads to waste. If you forget to take things to work, forget it is in the fridge or just don’t have the will power, you can see waste by the end of the weak.
To fight this you need to mix up your food to give variety. You also have to be better with your calendar so that if you have a lot of lunch meetings, you are scaling back how much you eat. Finally, for at least proteins and starches, some of those extras translate into dinner of left overs at least once a week.
Preparing for your food prep
Choose a day during the week when you will food prep. Most of you, this will be Sunday afternoons or even morning. Some of you may start your prep a little early if your grocery stores are closed on specific days. You may need to shop on Saturdays, or at the least, start thawing things in the fridge on Saturday morning so they are ready to cook on Sunday.
Let’s pretend we are doing our grocery shopping on Sunday morning. For me that would be a stop at up to three store. Either Costco or Sams Club where I can get meat and fish and maybe some veggies. And then a stop at one or more grocery stores. I like Whole Foods for frozen veggies and shrimp, and cheese for snacks if I want it. Regular grocery stores for just about everything else. This would include spices, oil, and anything else I might need.
- Warehouse store
- Chicken thighs
- Chicken Breasts
- Wild Caught Mahi Mahi
- Prepackaged Basil Pesto
- Bottled Carbonated water (I don’t drink soda anymore)
- Pecorino Romano Cheese
- Whole Foods
- Wild Caught Gold Shrimp
- Imported Swiss Cheese
- Frozen Broccoli
- Frozen Corn
- Frozen Cauliflower Rice
- Regular Store
- Garlic Salt
- Kosher Salt
- Peanut butter
Let the Cooking Begin
You gotta determine how you are going to be cooking most of this. Much of this will be prepared either in the oven, or if you are like me, on the gas grill. What I like about the grill is it makes food taste good and the clean up is easy. Some of this will be cooked on the stove top as well.
My advice would be to take all your proteins out of the fridge to let them come to room temperature. Proteins normally do a better job of cooking when they start at room temperature instead of cold from the fridge.
Get out all your equipment
You need to get out a good sized cutting board, a sharp knife, bowls for your food to go into and sheet pans to hold everything.
Once your work space is ready, we have to prepare our proteins for cooking. This means cleaning and trimming first. So the shrimp gets de-veined and peeled except for the tails. Those then get put in the bowl with a couple table spoons of the pesto sauce. You can also put BBQ sauce or just grill them with salt and pepper and a little cayenne. Place to those the side to cook.
Beef is easy, pat dry, kosher salt, pepper and garlic powder. Make sure both sides are dry by using paper towels to pay dry. Then place to the side for cooking later.
Chicken is next. For chicken thighs, I do those simply with Kosher Salt and Pepper and some different spices. Some might have cumin, others dried oregano and mint, others might have something spicey. Spices are your friend and if you season with different things you get different combinations to mix things up.
Chicken breasts are harder because it is very easy to for those to dry out due to lack of fat. So I have a recipe you can download below which uses coconut oil, egg, salt, pepper, cumin and paprika that I then pan fry in coconut oil. You cut up the pieces into bite sizes which makes it very easy to portion control, and it heats up well in the microwave.
For fish, I clean and pat dry, add salt and pepper and place to the side. I make a sauce that goes with it after it cooks that is super simple.
Most times I bake the sweet potatoes whole. I see a lot of people will cut them into cubes but I found that when baked they dry out something fierce. Cooking them whole keeps them from drying out and you can portion control by cutting large pieces. They also warm up better in the microwave.
Grilling is easy, you put all your large proteins on the grill and cook till they are done. For chicken, I would cook to about 150 or higher. For steak I stop at 125 – 130. Even if you like steak more well done, cook it rare for food prepping since it will cook more in the microwave. Shrimp takes no time at all and is great on the grill. If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, I would recommend getting one as they come in real handy. The one below is what I have.
You can use the oven in two different ways. You can use it to bake your chicken, or you can use the broiler to broil your shrimp and steak. During the winter the broiler can be a life saver. Just make sure you open up some windows because sometimes you can set off your smoke detector.
Chicken is either done at 350 for an hour and 15 minutes, or 400 for about 45 minutes. After the chicken is done, you can turn on the broiler and it is ready fast to broil your shrimp and your steak.
After food is done, it is best to let it rest on the countertop while you prepare the rest of your food. This will help let the juices redistribute as well as cook it down making it easier to handle. We will come back to this in a moment.
Fish is easy, I take a large fry pan like the one below, put it over medium heat, then add some olive oil and pan fry the fish for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Turn the heat to low, add lemon juice, butter and some capers, let it cook for about a minute, and boom you’re done. Put it to the side and wait.
I use a lot of frozen vegetables. They are easy to do in the microwave and speed up the process. If you have things like fresh broccoli, you can also stir fry or saute as well.
Putting it all together
Once food is ready to go, its time to get out your handy storage containers that you ordered from Amazon. You also want to get your scale out. Finally, get your phone or tablet out, since you will need to look up, how many calories at various weights. I use Noom (link below).
Let’s put our dishes together
One Chicken Thigh is 5 ounces. That comes out to 329 calories. 4 ounces of sweet potato is 102 calories. 1 Cup of broccoli is 55 calories. That gives me 486 calories. That means, I can have a snack of almonds or carrots in between as well.
Four ounces of NY Strip is 235 calories, a cup of brown rice is 218 calories and half cup of corn is 62 calories. That puts me at 515 calories. Again that leaves me room for carrots and celery in the middle of the day.
6 ounces of shrimp gives us 168 calories, one baked potato is 281 calories, and some grilled asparagus is 67 calories. This gives us 516 calories. Substitute the mahi mahi at 100 calories for four ounces, it is about the same.
As you can see the options are limitless. You can either have a larger dinner, or more filling snacks. I make carrots and celery but you can have beef jerky or nuts as well, those are just higher calorie items.
The Secret of Soup
Over time you will find your go to meals. Those that you keep going back to over and over. And the one I kept going back to was soup. Now, when I say soup, I don’t mean opening a can from the grocery store and throwing it in the pot on the stove. Stay away from premade soups. They are high in sodium, have additional additive to either make it shelf stable or give it a particular texture.
Instead, when you are food prepping, make soup. Whether that means Chicken Vegetable or Beef vegetable soup these soups have a calorie count of between 100 and 125 calories, and that is without the noodles. But the rendered fat makes the soup not only tasty, but fills you up and keeps you satisfied. You also have control of everything going into it.
Food Prepping doesn’t have to be hard. With just a little bit of analysis and the internet to help you, you took can be a food prepping king (or queen).
Track your food
The last thing you need to do, is actually track your food. Tracking your food will take you a long way and figuring out if you are over eating. That means if you have a brownie at the office or a piece of cake for a birthday, track it. If you put sugar and creamer in your coffee, track it.
The app I used for the longest time is one called Noom. It is paid and you can do a 14 week trial by clicking below. There are others but this is my go to app for food tracking, especially when I food prep.
Below this is a full listing of the various things I use in the kitchen for my food prepping. Feel free to pick and choose what you want. These can all be purchased from Amazon so its easy.
|Wood Cutting Board Large Maple 18x12 Inch Reversible with Handles and Juice Groove, Thick Butcher Block Chopping Board Carving Cheese Charcuterie Serving Handmade by AtoHom||Prime||Buy Now|
|Wusthof Classic 8-Inch Hollow Edge Wunder Knife||Prime||Buy Now|
|All-Clad HA1 Hard Anodized Nonstick Frying Pan with Lid, 12 Inch Pan Cookware, Medium Grey - 2100113224||Prime||Buy Now|
|Char-Broil 463377319 Performance 4-Burner Cart Style Liquid Propane Gas Grill, Stainless Steel||Prime||Buy Now|
|OXO Good Grips 4-Piece Glass Prep Bowl Set||Prime||Buy Now|
|Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup Set (3-Piece, Microwave and Oven Safe)||Prime||Buy Now|
|New Star Foodservice 42917 Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons and Measuring Cups Combo, Set of 8||Prime||Buy Now|
|2 Pack Black Kitchen Tongs, Premium Silicone BPA Free Non-Stick Stainless Steel BBQ Cooking Grilling Locking Food Tongs, 9-Inch & 12-Inch||Prime||Buy Now|