Considering healthy eating but don’t know where to start? Feel like you’re stuck in a nutrition decline? It’s easy to find yourself confused and misinformed when it comes to clean eating. One day you’re super motivated, the next you’ve got no idea what to do next.

If you want to find triumph with your clean eating labors, you’ve got to embrace meal planning and prepping food in advance. To help you get started, here are 5 steps to make it happen as swiftly and proficiently as possible.

Step 1: Plan Your Menu

This fundamental step is probably one of the most essential parts of meal prepping. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll be lost. You know the idiom, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” This phrase never held so much accuracy than when it comes to nutrition and clean eating. Take some time to put together a provisional meal plan of what you’d like to eat throughout the week for meals and snacks. Don’t think of this meal plan as the end-all, be-all because it’s not – there can always be adjustments and will most likely be times where you have to make last minute modifications. That’s totally ok. This meal plan is supposed to work as your outline and standard.

Step 2: Grocery Shop

Using your fresh meal plan, construct a grocery list. Go to the store and get everything you need for the week. Having all the fit foods you want in your house leaves no excuse to grab fast food or reach for the cookies you have hidden in the back of your pantry.

Step 3: Cook

Choose one day during the week to cook and concoct the foods that will make up your meals and snacks. Most often Sunday is a good day for this because it’s commonly not a workday and it’s the day before the start of a new week, so your food will have less of a chance of ruining before you eat it. Fire up your grill (or oven) and cook up a bunch of chicken breast, steak, fish, burgers or whatever lean protein source you desire. Boil a huge pot of hardboiled eggs to stockpile in the fridge and peel as you need them. Make a huge pot of brown rice, quinoa or whole-wheat pasta to ration out for your meals. Clean and cut fresh fruits and veggies. You can do all of these takes concurrently. Boiling water for eggs and rice can be done in two separate pots at the same time while your steak and chicken cook on the grill. Find ways to save time and multi-task.

Step 4: Portion and Pack

Get yourself a lined tote or lunch box and some plastic dishes that aren’t too big or too small, but just the accurate size to fit your meals and snacks. Freezer and sandwich bags work well too for excess food you won’t require until later in the week. Spend some time dividing out meals and snacks for Monday through Friday in your containers and plastic bags. Put Monday-Wednesday meals and snacks in the fridge and preserve Thursday and Friday in the freezer. When Wednesday rolls around, transfer Thursday and Friday meals from the freezer to the fridge to defrost. If you prepare and bundle everything in advance, it will be easy to grab-&-go everything you need to eat for the day before leaving for work. If you have these foods with you all day, you’ll have no reason to eat out, saving calories and money.

Step 5: Pack Extra

Sometimes you get held at work or worse, stuck in traffic just at that instant when your stomach begins to growl. This is where those “just-in-case” added snacks you packed in your lunchbox will come in handy. Carry additional pieces of fruit, bags of baby carrots, packs of diversified nuts or almonds, and protein bars with you, and more often than not, you’ll be relieved you did. If you’re not equipped for the worst, you’ll end up falling off the wagon and decelerating your progress. Think ahead and plan for your entire day whether you’re going to work that day or not.

Building a meal plan for yourself is simpler than you think. But if you’re still a bit unconfident, here’s a mockup meal plan to get you started. Fine-tune this one to work for you and your routine or try it the way it is.

Simple Meal Plan:

  • Breakfast: 2 hardboiled eggs with 2 slices of toast and 1 cup berries
  • Snack: 6 ounces plain nonfat Greek style yogurt with 1 100-calorie pack almonds
  • Lunch: Large salad topped with 4 ounces grilled lean protein, 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese, 1 tablespoon dried cranberries, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. On the side, 1 100-calorie pack of hummus with sliced baby carrots, cucumber, red pepper and celery sticks.
  • Snack: Protein bar
  • Dinner: 1-cup brown rice or other complex carb with 4 ounces lean protein and 1-cup steamed broccoli or other green vegetable
  • PM Snack: 1 cup sliced strawberries with whipped cream
  • Extra “Just-in-case” snack: 1 apple or banana and 1 protein bar
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