Essential Meal Planning Guide for Beginners

Learn to meal prep like a pro!

This Essential Meal Planning Guide for Beginners will help you eat healthy every day of the week!

Wanting to become a meal planning professional, but not sure where to start? Here’s a simple and essential meal planning guide for beginners– but experts may still gain some pointers, too! There are so many benefits that come with meal-prepping, and it’s actually very simple to do! Check it out.

Benefits of Meal Planning 

Meal prepping ahead of time makes meal time easier than ever!

Planning your meals can make a world of difference when it comes to reaching your health goals. This is particularly true in today’s busy world! Anything you can do ahead of time, will save you even more time later on. From having each of the ingredients that you need to create healthy meals ready to go, to knowing exactly what you’ll be grabbing when you get to the kitchen, meal planning is a great way to be prepared to hit your fitness targets. 

Become a Meal Planning Pro

When meal planning, choose your protein first and then build the meal around it!

Even if you’re a beginner, there’s a few simple tips and tricks to use to become a professional meal planner. We’ll go over each of the 3 main components at a time, below.

Start with Your Proteins

It can be so hard to know where to start when it comes to planning your meals throughout the week. Here’s the secret: start with your protein. The healthiest way to build a meal is to build it around your protein source, as it ensures that you are getting as many fulfilling, muscle-boosting nutrients as possible. It’s also important to choose these first because you’ll want to plan around your fresh foods that only last a few days, in order to reduce food waste.

To begin, choose 1 to 3 proteins you’ll want to add to your meals. This can be meat, poultry, seafood, and even eggs, beans, tofu, or tempeh for vegetarian and vegan options. From there, search up some recipes that contain your protein and pick your favorites! Remember, we have plenty of options on the site. Search for a recipe you’re craving using the search bar (there’s a good chance we have a healthier version), or browse our database for delicious and nutritious ideas!

Here are some protein-rich ideas to inspire you:

Another helpful tip: I find it helpful to choose recipes that have similar vegetables and starches (such as pasta, rice, potatoes, or corn) for budgeting and easy prepping. Cook them together but then add different seasonings, sauces, and dressings to switch things up!

Do this for whichever meals that you want to plan for. It could be one dinner recipe that you prep for the whole week, a few different recipes to swap in and out, or every meal if you want to be really prepared!

Plan Your Leftovers

Once you’ve got your main meals down, you can plan for leftovers. I find that leftovers are great for easy lunches or busy weeknights and try to plan and bulk cook for those. Make sure you grab enough ingredients and portion correctly if you are planning to have leftovers as one (or more) of your meals! Take other that are in your household into account, as well! The last thing you want is to plan for leftovers only to find out someone else gobbled them up!

To make things even easier, store your leftovers in individual, portioned-out containers for easy grab, pack, and go access!

Fill in the Rest

From there, you can prep for things like breakfast, snacks, and flavor enhancers like soy sauce and ketchup (if you haven’t already). Generally, I find it’s best to grab a couple options in each category (one sweet snack, one savory snack, 1 to 2 breakfast options). 

Overnight oats and Egg Muffins are two of our favorite meal prep breakfast ideas!

And you can make your own healthy, homemade snacks or purchase things like cheese, jerky, fruits, veggies, or nuts. Buy some sandwich or snack baggies and portion them out into individual servings. That way, you can grab them and go, just like your lunch or dinner options!

With just a few steps and extra planning you can become a meal planning expert quite easily! Keep in mind that everyone’s meal planning needs are different, so there’s no right or wrong way to do it. A suggestion for all of you beginners, start with meal planning 1 to 2 meals a week and then build from there to lessen the stress and create a long lasting habit!

Enjoyed this essential guide to meal planning for beginners? Let us know what you think in the comments!

You can also check out many more healthy lifestyle tips, nutrient-rich recipes, and awesome workouts on our Facebook and Pinterest pages. Or, subscribe to our eNewsletter to be sure to stay up to date on all of our tastiest recipes!

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Kelsey Butler, MS, RDN

Kelsey Butler is a Registered Dietitian and recipe developer. From a young age, Kelsey found a love for creating delicious recipes. Now, with a Master's in Nutritional Sciences, Kelsey uses her culinary skills to create healthy and unique recipes for many different diets. She is passionate about creating a healthy relationship with all foods and recipes that everyone can enjoy. Kelsey has a passion for cooking, but she also enjoys the outdoors, staying active, and traveling. She is currently living with her partner in New Zealand.

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