Low calorie meal prep can sound like something out of a fairytale. How can we prepare great-tasting food to enjoy later that also helps us lose weight?
In this blog, we’ll provide you with your new low calorie meal prep plan. ThinkFit has you covered with a scientific and joyful mindset, healthy eating habits, recipes and resources to have you feeling - and eating - your best.
Are you a scientist?
Okay, well… neither are most of us at ThinkFit. But we all know what a calorie is, right? It’s something we learned way back when in our middle school biology classes.
A calorie is a unit of energy within foods. Specifically, a calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of a kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius. Just like the things that make up our bodies, food is also composed of science!
It’s important to understand calories, the basis of what makes up our food.
Different foods and drinks you consume are composed of different amounts of calories, and thus, energy!
Similarly, you also burn or expend energy throughout the day. This is known as calorie expenditure. This action can be as simple as moving your jaw to talk, walking to the office or even doing household chores. However, this expenditure is heavily increased as you work out and “burn calories”. Your body also uses calories physiologically through breathing, blood circulation, metabolizing food, etc.
Everyone’s body is different and requires a varying amount of calories to support its energy usage. If you give your body too much energy, your body opts to store it for later usage as fat with a calorie surplus. Similarly, if you give your body less food, your body runs through that energy more quickly creating a calorie deficit.
So how can I use this information to lose weight?
We’re so glad you asked!
If you pursue a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, your body will lose weight. It will use the energy it set aside for later, resulting in a noticeable difference after consistent monthly low calorie eating.
Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, a nutritional biochemist, said this:
“Weight loss is generally 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise.”
If this is the general rule to losing weight, low calorie meal prep should be the easy, obvious solution to the ThinkFit family and beyond.
Alright. You’re picking up what we’re putting down. So, now…
How many calories do I need per day?
Like we said, everyone is different. However, we want to figure out the best plan for you that is also healthy and sustainable!
ThinkFit recommends that you check out this Body Weight Planner from the National Institute of Health. It uses your weight, sex, age, height and amount of physical activity to then evaluate your weight goal. Once you estimate changes you’ll make to your physical activity levels, this calculator will tell you how many calories you need to reach your goal weight and how many you need to maintain that weight. However, that’s just a general guess. For a more accurate number…
Observe your caloric intake for 10 days.
If your weight remains generally stable over this time period, this is probably near that calorie maintenance we just mentioned.
Now, divide your total caloric intake from the 10 day period by 10. This is your average daily calorie intake, which you’ll then need to subtract 500 calories from. This is your new daily intake goal to create a deficit, and thus, meal prep!
However, you’ll need a way to keep track of your progress on a daily and weekly basis. Our free ThinkFit Nutrition Tracker is the perfect solution. As we always say: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. That’s why we want you to be able to easily view your nutrition and diet!
Our free printable nutrition tracker is located at the bottom of this post, so keep reading!
In the meantime, check out our other downloadable checklist blog posts, such as the ThinkFit Meal Prep Calendar and Guide! Now, where were we?
You’ll have to keep adjusting your calories.
As you begin to lose weight with low calorie meal prep, your number of calories to maintain that weight will decrease. That means you’ll have to re-adjust your calorie intake with our equation once again.
However, ThinkFit wants you to pursue healthy weight loss!
To all our female readers, please do not consume less than 1,200 calories per day. For men, this line is drawn at 1,500 calories. Weight loss aside, you need to ensure you are consuming an appropriate number of nutrients throughout your day!
Consuming too few calories can result in an extreme loss of energy and potentially throwing your body into “starvation mode” which can lower your metabolism and keep your body in a state that is working against your weight loss goals.
Creating a calorie deficit can be done in a healthy way. Just as it takes time to gain weight, it takes time to lose weight so be patient with yourself and celebrate your success, even if it’s just a pound a week.
You’ll definitely want to be moving.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults to engage in 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. We’re talking about walking, jogging, bicycling, etc.
Exercises such as those that focus on muscle will also help your body prioritize using its stored fat for energy rather than destroying that muscle mass you’re so proud of.
Here’s the thing: exercise doesn’t always burn as many calories as you think, and that’s why it’s so important that you stick with a low calorie meal prep plan.
How do you create this plan?
Choosing whole, nutrient-dense foods is so important when you opt to create a calorie deficit. This way, you can feel more full and satisfied than empty and struggling with thoughts of airy doughnuts and cheese puffs from Costco.
You’ll also want to eat foods you enjoy. Losing weight is hard enough on its own, so don’t force brussel sprouts down your throat if that isn’t your thing! However, this is a great time to experiment with foods you normally wouldn’t eat.
Need some ideas?
Here are a few of our favorite lighter, nutritious foods for low calorie meal prep:
Meat and Poultry:
-Eye of Round steak-Chicken breast (skinned)
Legumes, Nuts and Seeds:
-Chestnuts-Unsweetened almond milk
-Eggs-Low-Fat cottage cheese
-Skim milk-Plain non-fat yogurt
-Air-Popped popcorn-Shirataki noodles
After looking at these items and your personal favorites, begin thinking about what meals you can make with these. Oatmeal, fruit and nut butter is a great pairing for breakfast to keep you satisfied for hours with less calories. You can also combine quinoa, veggies and black beans for scrumptious low calorie meal prep bowls! This is also a great option for those who are looking to partake in low calorie meal prep vegetarian options.
Whatever will satisfy you that can be packed into our fabulous meal prep containers - that’s what you should be going for to begin (or restart) your weight loss journey.
Looking for some recipes?
Don’t worry - we have what you need. Here are seven easy low calorie meal prep recipes, all of which are around 400 calories!
We cannot think of a better way to begin your day than with Pumpkin Pie Overnight Chia Oats! At 274 calories with 14 grams of protein, you truly cannot go wrong. It’s also nutritionally sound, and can be made the night before or a few days before you dig in! Greek yogurt keeps the oats creamy and delicious.
This Turmeric Scrambled Eggs recipe is only 302 calories, and makes 2 servings for you and a friend to share. Eggs, lean sausage and veggies, such as broccoli, are a simple way to start your morning off well. Turmeric and parsley adds the extra kick of flavor the ThinkFit family is searching for.
A delicious, bright and light lunch composed of 309 calories and 39 grams of protein - we present to you the Grilled Lemon-Herb Chicken and Avocado Salad. Barley, chicken broth and - our favorite - avocado are paired with healthy greens and veggies and topped with an herby, and flavorful dressing that makes and keeps you full and happy. These low calorie meal prep bowls are for everyone.
Have you ever heard of zoodles? We have, and they’re the basis of this Turkey Meatballs with Zucchini Noodles low calorie meal prep recipe. This is an amazing option for those of you who love pasta as much as we do at 393 calories! Plus, we promise this zucchini and marinara pairing will last alllll week.
You have to try this low calorie meal prep dish. The beautifully plated Garlic Shrimp and Quinoa meal is only 250 calories and just SO tasty. Rinsed quinoa, delicate shrimp, lemon juice and fresh parsley combine quickly and perfectly.
The finished product?
In the words of Stevie Wonder, “isn’t she lovely?”
Here’s another one for you to try!
Similar to dishes found in our Indian meal prep blog (check this out here), we love this Coconut Chickpea Curry for a light and delicious meal at 225 calories. It’s such a simple dish, but is amplified with coconut milk, lime, cloves and garam masala. Spices of Indian food are just so delicious and definitely satisfy for hours - perfect for weight loss!
Last but not least for a low calorie meal prep dinner are these 20-Minute Chicken Enchiladas! 374 calories means that everyone in your family can feel full with a healthy, light and tasty option. If you don’t finish all of the meal, use it as leftovers or build nachos for an additional light option! It’s just another way you can utilize meal prep.
How can I do it all?
It’s a question we’ve all had over the courses of our life while deciding how much, what or when to eat. We know that this ThinkFit blog has given you a lot of information, and thus, a lot to think about. Please know this - we are on your side and rooting for you! Feel free to contact us at any time with questions or concerns.
In the meantime, though, we want to leave you with some of our favorite tricks to maintain your low calorie meal prep plan:
- Eat your calories - don’t drink them. It’s easy for sugary coffee drinks, alcohol, sodas and juices to sneak into your diet and take away from what you would normally enjoy at a meal. Not only are these not nutritionally sound, but they’re packed with empty calories and don’t keep you full.
- Cook at home. This can go without saying for low calorie meal prep, but we really want to stress it for the ThinkFit family. By cooking at home every night, you’ll eat around 150 less calories per day than those who don’t. Plus, portion size, more fruits and veggies, you get to see what’s going in your food… we all know that meal prep benefits are endless.
- Set realistic expectations. You might have an off day or meal when pursuing a caloric deficit, and that is normal! Don’t beat yourself up over it or think you have to start all over again. Forgive yourself, drink some water, and continue to pursue healthy choices throughout the day. And please - don’t just eat plain kale… unless you actually enjoy it.
- Meal prep some snacks. In order to avoid overeating at meals, make sure you allocate calories for snacks in between. Small portions of Greek yogurt, popcorn, carrots or grapefruit are great options to tie yourself over. Just remember to take these things out of the container beforehand to avoid mindless eating.
- You can still indulge. 200 calories of green beans and 200 calories of a brownie are both 200 calories. It’s okay to eat either while pursuing a caloric deficit! However, keep in mind that green beans will definitely make you feel more full for longer than a brownie will. But don’t deprive yourself of things you love.
I might need some more guidance.
ThinkFit is on the same page as you: extra help is always appreciated.
Our favorite low calorie meal prep cookbook is Damn Delicious Meal Prep by Chungah Rhee. Described as “115 easy recipes for low-calorie, high-energy living,” this book is packed with flavorful favorites that comfort and slim.
Do you prefer the online route?
Good thing that we’ve also raved about Rhee’s website, Damn Delicious, in our Top 10 Best Meal Prep Websites blog post. Similar to her physical cookbook, this is packed with meal prep recipes. It also has tips, tricks, and an alphabetized index. What’s not to love?
You can also follow #mealpreponfleek on Instagram to find daily inspiration and fresh ideas all in portion-controlled containers. Both beginners and professional influencers use this hashtag, so you’re sure to find something that fits your taste.
Low calorie meal prep might be based in science, but it’s all about flavor and results. Make sure to keep in touch with the ThinkFit family to share your progress in a caloric deficit and maintenance!
As promised, check out our free downloadable and printable nutrition planner and tracker below. This is a simple tool to use on a daily and weekly basis to not only plan for the day, but to also keep track of how it actually went. This is a perfect way to manage your low calorie meal prep success!
Do you love our new post? Have you ever tried to lose weight through a caloric deficit, or have you found success in alternative means? Are there additional tips or low calorie meal prep resources you love?
Connect and share with us below and be sure to bookmark our post so you always have access to our top meal prep resource lists.