Meal Prep versus Food Prep: What’s Best for You?

Meal prep and food prep may sound like the same thing, but there are slight differences between them. Depending on your environment, the busy-ness of your schedule, or the type of personality you have, one may work better for you than the other!

What’s meal prep?

meal prepMeal prep is the act of literally planning and preparing all your complete meals for the week (or whatever pre-determined amount of time) ahead of time. With meal prep, you plan out 1-3 dishes (one per meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner), and ration it for the number of days you’re preparing for. For example, if I were preparing for a work week’s worth of lunches, I’d make enough chicken thighs, broccoli and sweet potato for 5 days. I’d cook it all, then divide it evenly for each meal. Tada: my lunch is prepped for the next 5 days!

Who’s it for?

For a lot of people, this is the type of preparedness that their lives require. The work week is busy, and it’s easier to have their food portioned ahead of time, so they can just grab it and go when they leave the house. One major factor to consider: You have to be okay with eating the same thing for lunch for all 5 days, without it causing boredom or the “urge to splurge.”

What’s food prep?

food prepIf you read the above description and find yourself thinking “I can’t eat the same thing for 5 days, or I’ll end up eating all the candy in the break room,” or “I could do that, but I need some variety in my life,” enter: food prep.

Food prep is where you decide on a handful of choices: 2-3 proteins, 3-5 sides (could be vegetables, whole grains/legumes, or both) and maybe even a healthy fat or two, if needed. Once you’ve decided what those are going to be, prep them all in bulk style and store them each individually. When it comes to meal time, you can mix and match from the different foods you’ve prepared to create your meal for the day. To add in an extra boost of flavor and variety, try making your own sauces (pico de gallo, guacamole, chimichurri, etc.) and mix-and-match those as well. Rinse and repeat each day!

Food prep will take a little bit more time, since you’ll have to “make” your meals every day, but that’ll become faster as you do this more and get more comfortable with what different serving sizes look like in your containers.

Who’s it for?

Food prep is a great option for those of us (myself included) who need the illusion of variety throughout the week. This helps keep cravings at bay and allows you to be more creative with your food!

As you’re deciding which option may be better for you, maybe try them both. You’ll find out quickly which one’s going to fit best with your lifestyle. Keep in mind, too, that your needs can change from week-to-week with how busy you are; this week, meal prep may be exactly what you need, and next week food prep might be where it’s at. Be flexible with what works for you but know that being prepared one way or another is the key to success!


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