9 Scientific Benefits of Meal Prepping
You’ve saved a picture of those perfectly prepped, healthy meals all lined up in glass containers – but have you actually given meal prepping a try?
It’s one thing to swipe through the millions of examples on social media, but it’s a total game-changer to open up your fridge and pull out one of those containers!
Meal prepping can save you time and money while also prioritizing your health. Seriously, how much better can that get?
The benefits of meal prep are real! All it takes is a *little* bit of planning on your part to get a TON of health benefits and lifestyle advantages in return.
Here are nine reasons to start prepping your meals ahead of time.
1. You’ll improve the quality and variety of your diet.
If you’re planning meals in advance, then you’re likely making smart choices instead of letting your hungry stomach choose to pilfer the pantry or order takeout. You’ve heard that a trip to the grocery store while hungry is dangerous for your diet and your bank account – the same holds true for choosing what to eat when the hungry monster is in charge!
Research1 shows that meal planners are more likely to make smarter meal choices. And, of course, this leads to improved health and weight loss (but more on that below). Preppers tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, including salads. If you’re trying to make healthy eating a priority, planning and preparing your meals when you aren’t starving will help you have meals on hand that align with your goals so you can avoid fast food and snack.
Meal plans are also a great opportunity for trying new recipes and ingredients. Picking a theme for the week, like “Mediterranean Diet” or “International Cuisines,” will take the work out of planning a menu and can help you try new foods.
2. You’re more likely to reach your dietary goals.
Having meals on hand when you need them will not only keep those hangries away, but will also reduce the temptation to eat out or to pull a processed, pre-packaged meal from the freezer. If you have any healthy eating goals you’re trying to reach, using sheer willpower when you’re hungry is a brutal way to try to reach those goals.
Home Cooked meals typically have less sugar, sodium, and saturated fat than purchased meals. And by having good choices ready to go, you’re more likely to make the right choice instead of testing the strength of your willpower.
Whether you’re trying to build muscle, lose weight, or improve your diet, meal prepping makes those goals more attainable and sustainable!
3. You’ll prevent overeating.
If portion control is what you need, prepped meals are an easy way to get on top of this! Make your meal ahead of time and then dish a single portion size into each container. When it comes time to eat, you just pop one container in the microwave, and you’re good to go.
Also, who likes to cook when they come home at night starving? Not me! Prepping food when you’re tired and hungry means you’re more likely to either snack while you cook or you’ll dish a massive amount of food when it’s finally ready. Sound familiar? When you’ve got meals prepared ahead of time, you can satisfy your hunger more quickly with the right amount of food – and overeating will become a thing of the past.
4. You’ll become more informed about nutrition.
People who meal plan tend to look up meal ideas and even research nutritional facts about potential recipes. If you look up your meal info, you’ll learn as you go and become more informed about your food choices over time.
The more you learn about the power of food for energy and nutrition, the more likely you are to stay committed to your healthy meal choices.
5. You’ll lose weight and prevent obesity.
Have you ever looked up the calorie count on your favorite takeout meal? YIKES! Most restaurants care way more about getting you addicted to their food (think sugar, sugar, and more sugar) than how that food may impact your long-term health. Restaurant portions are also way larger than typically recommended for one person. You know the “Super Size Me” effect that comes with eating out, so it’s no surprise that making meals at home is the way to achieve a healthy weight.
Not only does research link eating out to obesity, but studies2 show that meal prepping can help conquer the takeout temptation and get your weight in control. In one study3, participants in a pilot program met each Sunday afternoon for six weeks to prepare healthy meals for that week. This one simple change (which you could easily adopt) led participants to lose an average of 3 pounds by the end of the pilot AND helped them create lasting habits and cooking skills.
Besides avoiding takeout, all of the health benefits of meal prepping listed above also work in your favor for weight loss and obesity prevention. When you are in control of your own meal planning and prepping, you’re making decisions that are best for your own waistline and not some restaurant’s bottom line!
6. You’ll save money.
Eating out every once in a while is certainly not the end of the world, but eating out is definitely getting a bad rap on this list for a good reason. Not only is the calorie count higher than a healthy meal you prepare at home, but the cost can also be way higher. Meal prepping saves money by helping you avoid the costs of eating out.
Also, it’s definitely a myth that healthy eating needs to be expensive. Meal prepping is the perfect way to make sure your healthy meals don’t break the bank. When you go to the store with a plan, you can avoid impulse buys and you can also buy in bulk for added cost savings.
7. You’ll save time.
This is a big one. If saving time isn’t one of your top motivations for meal prepping, it’s definitely one we can all benefit from. It may seem odd that cooking the same number of meals can save time when you cook them all in one day, but the math completely adds up. When you move your meal prepping to a single day, you can batch cook a single ingredient or side dish for multiple meals, cut down on grocery runs midweek, and you only have to clean up after cooking once. For many, meal prepping can cut down on hours of time chasing down ingredients, cooking, and cleaning during the week. And you know what that means? More weekday time to work out, spend with your family, or even unwind with some guilt-free downtime.
8. You’ll reduce food waste.
When you grocery shop with a plan, then every item you purchase has a purpose. Meal prepping helps you get organized before you hit the grocery store. This cuts down on food waste because you use the ingredients before they spoil. (Alert: huge money saver here as well when you don’t waste food!)
According to a report by the National Resources Defense Council4, Americans toss nearly a fourth of all the food and drink they buy. Meal prepping can help break this cycle by reducing the issues that lead us to throw things away, like food spoilage, impulse buying, lack of planning, and uneaten leftovers.
Fresh fruits and veggies can spoil quickly. But whether we’re prepping food for entire meals or simply washing and cutting those fruits and veggies for easy snacking, planning ahead helps us use produce before we lose it.
Another waste-reduction benefit is that meal planning helps cut back on all the packaging used for takeout meals. So, one more environmentally-friendly reason to meal prep.
9. You’ll improve your emotional and mental health.
Planning your meals EVERY. DAY. becomes exhausting for most people. The last thing you want to do after a long day of work is to think about what to make for dinner. You can reduce stress by avoiding this daily question with meal prepping. Not only will you have a plan, but your meal will be only a few minutes away from hitting your plate!
In addition to the convenience of meal prepping, studies5 have repeatedly linked healthy meal choices to lower stress, better daily moods, and a positive overall impact on our mental health. Our bodies and minds are just happier when we give them the nutrients they need.
Give it a try and you might surprise yourself!
Meal prepping doesn’t have to be scary. It may take you time to try different approaches before you settle into a routine that’s right for you, but don’t give up too quickly because the benefits are undeniable.
Not only could meal prepping be key in helping you achieve your goals, but you never know who you’re going to inspire to make needed changes in their lives as well.
If you need help getting started, go ahead and pull up some of those pins you’ve already saved. Or you can check out some of our helpful meal prep tips on getting started meal prepping chicken here.