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How to Build a Balanced Meal Prep

There are many reasons for meal prep and nutrition is one of the biggest. Nutritionally balanced meal prep leaves you feeling better throughout the day with more energy and a clearer mind. Balancing a single meal or even an entire day can be fairly straightforward but once you start thinking bigger and planning for long term health goals, you’ll want to balance your entire meal prep routine. This is where it can start to get more complicated. We’re here to help. Our focus has always been to provide the best information on nutritional, easy, and affordable meal prep.

Nutritional Basics: Balanced Meal Prep

A nutritionally balanced meal prep can be as easy as setting your daily basic nutrient goals and then aiming to hit the same level everyday. First of all, that can get boring real quick. Second, not every day needs to be the same exact nutrients or foods. Mixing it up can keep you healthy and loving your meal prep rather than burning out worrying about vitamins and calories.

round plate with sliced pork tenderloin and diced butternut squash

If you’re new to meal prep or nutritional planning, keep it simple. Aim for specific nutrients that you want to focus on. Examples of this are high protein or low carbohydrate diets. These are easier to plan. Keep in mind that you still need to balance the rest of your nutrients. To start though, follow some basic guidelines for your weight, age, and any specific dietary needs that you have.

The “Plate” method can be helpful to get started. Simply fill half your plate with non starchy vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and one quarter with carbohydrate foods like whole grains, starchy vegetables, or fruit.

  • Lean Protein: Essential for muscle repair and growth. Sources include chicken, fish, beans, tofu, and eggs.
  • Carbohydrates: Provide energy. Opt for complex carbs like whole grains, sweet potatoes, and legumes.
  • Fats: Necessary for hormone production and brain health. Choose healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
  • Fiber: Important for digestive health. Found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Vital for various bodily functions. Aim for a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to cover your bases.

Again, don’t get overwhelmed. Focus on balancing each meal and day with these foods. Avoid overly processed, high sodium, or high sugar foods and you’ll be on a good path.

Portion Control

Balancing your meals with the right foods and nutrients is key and so is portion control. Just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean you can’t overdo it. This is especially true if you’re trying to lose weight. Managing your portion sizes is also important. Meal prep containers with separators are a great way to measure quickly although a food scale is a more accurate method.

Recommended Serving Sizes

  • Vegetables: Aim for 2-3 cups of vegetables per meal.
  • Fruits: One medium fruit or 1/2 cup of chopped fruit.
  • Proteins: About 3-4 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish (the size of a deck of cards).
  • Grains: 1/2 cup of cooked grains or pasta, or 1 slice of whole-grain bread.
  • Dairy: 1 cup of milk or yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of cheese.

How to Quick Portion Food

  • Protein: A palm-sized portion.
  • Vegetables: Two handfuls.
  • Carbohydrates: A cupped hand.
  • Fats: A thumb-sized portion.

Plan Your Balanced Meal Prep

Create a weekly menu that includes a variety of foods that balance the food types listed above. If you’re aiming for high protein and want to keep count, be sure to weigh your foods and take a minute to do the math at the beginning of the week to know how much of each food you need for each meal. If you’re taking a more zen approach, take an approach like the plate method to each meal and you’ll be fine. Let’s break the day down by meals.

  • Breakfasts:
  • Overnight oats with berries, chia seeds, and almond milk. These are good for fiber, vitamins, and carbohydrates. Early in the day this will help fuel your body and mind.
    • Veggie-packed egg muffins with spinach, bell peppers, and mushrooms. This is a great set of options for higher protein diets. If you plan to workout in the morning, this is a great place to start.

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  • Lunches:
    • Quinoa salad with chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta cheese. These foods are perfect for a light lunch that will pack in the vitamins and healthy fats while balancing the carbohydrates.
    • Grilled chicken breast with roasted sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli. The lean protein and carbohydrates are perfect for active lifestyles.
rectangle plate with corn, avocado, grilled chicken, cherries, cucumbers, and lettuce
  • Dinners:
    • Baked salmon with brown rice and a side of mixed vegetables. Finish the day out with lean protein, healthy carbs, and good fiber for a good night’s rest and gut health.
    • Stir-fried tofu with mixed vegetables and soba noodles. These are also great options for a balanced protein, carb, and fiber meals.
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  • Snacks:
    • Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts. The healthy fats and protein in the yogurt are great while also providing benefits to gut health.
    • Apple slices with peanut butter. This is a super simple snack option that’s not only tasty but also high in protein and vitamins.
round glass containers with yogurt topped with strawberries and mixed nuts

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