Weekly meal planner with calendar to help with weight management

The benefits of meal planning and prepping for successful weight management

Written on April 19, 2023 by Theresa Vuskovich, DMD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

Meal planning and prepping is an effective strategy for weight management.[1,2] Whether you meal prep for weight loss or weight gain, meal prepping offers many benefits. This article discusses the benefits of meal planning and prepping for successful weight loss and tips to help you get started.

Saves time

Having meals planned and prepared in advance can help you save time when you have a busy week. A meal plan outlines what you'll eat for each meal during the day. Meal planning and batch cooking on one day when you have extra time can ensure you have healthy meals throughout the week.

Batch cooking is also called advance quantity meal preparation, or “AQMP.”[1] You can save time by avoiding multiple grocery and restaurant trips with AQMP. If you lack cooking skills, participating in healthy cooking classes, either live or virtually, can help you gain the confidence to batch cook effectively. Once you have cooking skills, having the right kitchen tools can make batch cooking easier and help you save time.

You can simplify batch cooking by following these tips [2]:

  • Create a plan: If you are new to batch cooking, many resources and recipes are online to help you get started. Prepare a grocery list and stick to it as much as possible. If you feel overwhelmed by the process, you don't need to plan the whole week. Start by batch cooking and preparing meals for two to three days.
  • Establish a process: After you have purchased your groceries, establish a streamlined process to make batch cooking easier. Having the right kitchen equipment can help you create a streamlined process. Large sheet pans are great for roasting various vegetables, and a slow cooker allows you to cook in bulk without constantly monitoring the food. If you find a recipe you like, you can double or triple the recipe to ensure you have enough for the week.
  • Repurpose: After you have batch-cooked healthy foods, you can repurpose them for different meals throughout the week. For example, you can batch-cook quinoa for lunch and dinner for a few days. You can also freeze leftovers to use later. Several studies have demonstrated that some fruits and vegetables retain their vitamin content even after freezing.[3,4]

Reduces stress

Meal planning and prepping can help alleviate stress by minimizing the number of decisions you must make, making choosing healthy food options easier.[5] Decision fatigue can impact one's ability to select nutritious food options. Meal planning and prepping can help you avoid decision fatigue, which is more common during stressful times.

Stress can negatively impact parents' health behaviors, adversely affecting their children's health.[5] As a parent, planning and preparing healthy meals for your children can help reduce some of your stress. You can help your children avoid ultra-processed food by keeping clean, cut fruits and vegetables in your home.

Improves eating habits

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2020-2025, only 59% of Americans aged 31-59 adhere to healthy dietary patterns.[6]

In a study of 40,554 participating French citizens, researchers found individuals who plan meals are less likely to be obese.[7] Although the study does not prove meal planning reduces obesity, it suggests meal planning might help to improve eating habits.[7]

According to the study, people who plan meals improve their eating habits by consuming higher-quality food, adhering to dietary guidelines, and enjoying a wider variety of foods.[7] The American Diabetes Association (ADA) describes a healthy diet as plant-based and minimally processed.[8]

As recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2020–2025, a healthy meal plan should include the following [6]:

  • Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
  • A variety of foods rich in protein, including seafood, lean meats, eggs, beans, soy products, and nuts
  • Limited added sugars, sodium, cholesterol, trans fats
  • Staying within your daily calorie budget

Allows for better portion control

You can also control your portions by meal planning and prepping. It is common for restaurants to serve large portions of calorically dense food. You have greater control over each ingredient when you cook at home, and you can ensure the meal is nutritious and within your daily calorie limit.

For weight management, a food scale is helpful for meal planning and batch cooking. Using a scale, you can ensure you stay within the recommended serving size. When preparing meals for the on-the-go, pack a container with the appropriate serving sizes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following service sizes for a 9-inch dinner plate [9]:

  • Fill half of the plate with non-starchy greens such as leafy greens, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
  • Fill one-quarter of the plate with lean proteins such as chicken, turkey, beans, tofu, or eggs.
  • The remaining quarter should be filled with carbohydrate-containing foods. Grains, starchy vegetables (such as potatoes and peas), rice, pasta, beans, fruit, and yogurt are high in carbs. Milk counts as a carbohydrate food as well.
  • Drink water or unsweetened iced tea with your meal to reduce calories.

Supports your health goals

Whether you want to lose or gain weight, meal planning and prepping can help you achieve your health goals. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease, meal planning and prepping can help you follow your condition's dietary guidelines. One study found eating home-cooked meals often increased adherence to DASH and Mediterranean diets and improved fruit and vegetable intake.[10]

Everlywell Weight Loss Support

Saves money and reduces food waste

Having a meal plan and prepping your meals can help you spend less money eating out. Once you have a menu planned, stick to your grocery list and avoid unnecessary purchases. Planning your meals and prepping them will also help you reduce food waste, which will save you money in the long run. By not eating out, you not only save money but may also stay healthier. According to one recent study of 35,084 adults, eating out may increase your mortality risk.[11]

Helps with weight loss

Meal planning and prepping can help you on your weight loss journey. Some studies have found an association between home cooking and weight loss. According to one recent study of 11,396 people, individuals who cooked their meals at home had a greater chance of having a normal body mass index (BMI).[10] People who ate home-cooked meals were 28% less likely to have an overweight BMI.[10]

Weight management with Everlywell

If you are struggling with successful weight management, Everlywell's weight management program (Weight Care+) can help. Through this program, you can speak with a healthcare provider virtually about your weight management goals.

Managing weight is not a one-size-fits-all process.[12] The best weight loss and maintenance strategies are individualized.[12] Our weight management program is customized based on your unique goals and needs.

At your first visit, your provider will review your medical history and order any necessary lab tests to determine whether you are a good candidate for weight loss medication. Your provider will evaluate your test results, discuss your health goals and analyze your test results to design a personalized care plan.

The care plan may include prescription weight loss medications and lifestyle recommendations. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications based on their clinical judgment. Making your initial appointment is easy with our online weight loss scheduler.

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  1. Mendez S, Kubota J, Widaman AM, Gieng J. Advance Quantity Meal Preparation Pilot Program Improves Home-Cooked Meal Consumption, Cooking Attitudes, and Self-Efficacy. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 2021;53(7):608-613. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2020.12.014. URL
  2. Klein L, Parks K. Home Meal Preparation: A Powerful Medical Intervention. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2020 Mar 1;14(3):282-285. doi: 10.1177/1559827620907344. PMID: 32477029; PMCID: PMC7232892. URL
  3. Bouzari A, Holstege D, Barrett DM. Mineral, fiber, and total phenolic retention in eight fruits and vegetables: a comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage. J Agric Food Chem. 2015 Jan 28;63(3):951-6. doi: 10.1021/jf504890k. Epub 2015 Jan 13. PMID: 25525668. URL
  4. Bouzari A, Holstege D, Barrett DM. Vitamin retention in eight fruits and vegetables: a comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage. J Agric Food Chem. 2015 Jan 28;63(3):957-62. doi: 10.1021/jf5058793. Epub 2015 Jan 13. PMID: 25526594. URL
  5. Angoff HD, Dial LA, State F, Varga AV, Kamath S, Musher‐Eizenman D. Impact of stress and decision fatigue on parenting practices related to food and physical activity during COVID‐19. Child: Care, Health and Development. 2022;48(6):911-916. doi:10.1111/cch.13059. URL
  6. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. URL
  7. Ducrot P, Méjean C, Aroumougame V, et al. Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality, and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017;14(1):12. Published 2017 Feb 2. doi:10.1186/s12966-017-0461-7. URL
  8. Boucher JL. Mediterranean eating pattern. Diabetes Spectr. 2017;30(2):72-76. doi:10.2337/ds16-0074. URL
  9. CDC. Diabetes meal planning. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Published November 3, 2022. Accessed April 10, 2023.
  10. Mills S, Brown H, Wrieden W, White M, Adams J. Frequency of eating home-cooked meals and potential benefits for diet and health: cross-sectional analysis of a population-based cohort study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2017;14(1):109. Published 2017 Aug 17. doi:10.1186/s12966-017-0567-y. URL
  11. Du Y, Rong S, Sun Y, et al. Association between frequency of eating away-from-home meals and risk of all-cause and cause-specific mortality. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2021;121(9):1741-1749.e1. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2021.01.012. URL
  12. Kim JY. Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. J Obes Metab Syndr. 2021 Mar 30;30(1):20-31. doi:10.7570/jomes20065. PMID: 33107442; PMCID: PMC8017325. URL
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