You’ve probably heard it a million times, but meal prep is the answer to all your fitness goals. But how do you master it? To help you get started, we’ve put together an essential grocery list to get you through your first week. But first, there are a few things you need to know.
Every grocery list starts with a menu plan and honestly, this takes a bit of skill. So don’t be afraid to consult a professional nutritionist to help you. We’re going to explain menu planning in very basic terms and how you should approach it.
It all starts with your fitness goal.
Step 1: Set Your Fitness Goal
Example: Lose 15 lbs in three months (½ lb/week); Exercise 45 minutes per day.
Once you set your fitness goal, you’ll be able to calculate how many calories you need to eat in a day to achieve your goal.
Step 2: Sign Up with an Online Fitness Tracker
Example: MyFitnessPal, SuperTracker (USDA), SparkPeople
Once you enter your fitness goal into your fitness tracker, you’ll have an exact number of calories you need to eat each day. More importantly, you’ll have a breakdown of your macronutrients for the day. This is how your daily calories break down into carbs, fats, and proteins.
To get to your target daily calorie intake, a fitness tracker will ask you certain other factors like age, gender, lifestyle, and activity level. All of these will determine how much to eat every day. The only tricky part is figuring out what your macronutrient split should be.
Most fitness trackers have a pre-set breakdown that is typically 50% carbs, 30% fats, and 20% protein. This is not an ideal split for losing weight. Lowering your carbs to 40% and upping your protein to 30% is a better place to start; however, everyone is different. So this is something you need to work out with a professional.
Step 3: Design Your Menu Plan
How many carbs, fats and proteins will you need for a week?
Your menu plan should look like this:
Monday – Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Snack
Tuesday – Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Snack
Wednesday – Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Snack
You get the idea. So you need to decide what to eat for each meal – that’s six meals per day for seven days per week. For each meal you’ll need a carb, a fat and a protein. In addition, you’ll need lots of fruits and veggies.
You know what your preferences are and what you like to eat, but here’s an overview:
Tip: Keep it simple at first until you get the hang of it.
Proteins: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, milk products like almond milk, protein powder
Carbs: oats, red potatoes, whole wheat bread, brown rice
Fats: peanut butter, almond butter, avocado, flax seed, almonds, walnuts, pecans, extra virgin olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil
Fruits: berries, apples, oranges, bananas
Veggies: green peas, green beans, kale, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, onions
To get to know your macronutrients well, breakdown your grocery list into proteins, carbs, and fats. This will help you cover your bases. Once you’ve compiled a list of all your favorite things to eat that are healthy and within your nutritional goals, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to eat at each meal.
Step 4: Create Meal Ideas
What are you going to eat each day?
Meal 1: Breakfast Protein Smoothie
- Non-fat yogurt
- Almond milk
- Protein powder
Meal 2: Snack
- Poached eggs
- Cherry tomatoes
Meal 3: Lunch
- Chicken and rice salad with red pepper, grilled asparagus, sliced almonds and olive oil
Meal 4: Snack
- Hummus and veggies
Meal 6: Snack
- i won! organic protein chips
Meal 5: Dinner
- Grilled or baked chicken breast with green beans and red potato
1 square of 85% dark chocolate
Step 5: Create Your Grocery List
What ingredients will you need to reach your goal?
Use your meal plan to help you create your grocery list. So, for example, a grocery list for the menu plan we just put together would look like this:
Carbs: oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice, red potato
Proteins: non-fat yogurt, almond milk, protein powder, eggs, chicken (skinless), hummus, i won! organic protein chips
Fats: extra virgin olive oil, almonds, avocado, 85% dark chocolate
Fruits and Veggies: banana, cherry tomatoes, red pepper, asparagus, veggies for dipping, green beans
Condiments: cinnamon, seasonings
And there you have it. The essential meal prep grocery list. When you prep your food ahead of time, there’s all sorts of ways you can create healthy meals. So get prepping!