This is a special blog series from Erin Stimac, an Iron Tribe Fitness coach in Louisville, Ky. Erin swears by prepping her meals beforehand to get the most out of her workouts. Follow Erin on Instagram to see what she’s making each week!

The Ultimate Guide to Meal Prepping: Part 1

A huge part of establishing a healthy lifestyle includes preparation, right? We don’t just wake up one morning and randomly go to the gym. Usually, this requires scheduling time, preparing yourself (laying your clothes out the night before, hopefully getting to bed at a decent time, setting your alarm, etc.)

When most people think about improving their health, the first thing that comes to mind is increasing activity. That part is very important, but there is another BIG piece to the fitness puzzle, and that’s planning your meals.

The first step in planning your meals is to have the basics on hand.

This requires a trip to the grocery store, and that can be an intimidating and overwhelming place if you don’t have specific items on your list. Hopefully, this grocery list will help you plan your next trip so you will have a great start in making some improvements to your nutrition!

Here’s what I recommend you fill your cart with:

1. Non-Starchy Veggies

These type of vegetables are often (but not always) green, offer fiber, and are typically high in vitamins and minerals, but low in calories.

What does this mean?

It means they offer a lot of bang for your nutritional buck! Every meal should have plenty of non-starchy veggies because they help you to feel full, bulk up your meals, and they offer a ton of variety and texture, flavor, color, etc. More often than not, you can eat non-starchy veggies in high volume because their nutrient content is high and calories are low. There are SO many to choose from! This list is not complete but it should give you some great ideas.

  • Green Beans
  • kale
  • spinach
  • lettuce
  • cabbage/cole slaw mix
  • mixed greens
  • zucchini
  • yellow squash
  • asparagus
  • onions
  • brussel sprouts
  • peppers
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • eggplant
  • celery

2. Fruits

One of the biggest misconceptions I see with fruit is that people see fruit and vegetables as interchangeable. Fruits are much higher in sugar content than non-starchy vegetables, and should be eaten with portion control depending on your activity level and body composition goals. The vitamins and minerals found in fruits are often found in vegetables as well with less sugar and calories overall.

  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • black berries (all relatively low in sugar)
  • Higher in sugar-bananas, grapes, apples, oranges, etc.

3. Lean Proteins

Proteins are the building blocks of every tissue in our body, including muscle. Choosing lean proteins will help keep energy balance in control and allow you to add in some healthy fats to your meals if you’d like.

  • boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • Pork tenderloin
  • flank steak
  • beef roasts (top round, bottom round, etc.)
  • lean ground chicken, turkey, or beef (92% lean or higher)
  • eggs (white)
  • lean fish such as cod, tilapia, flounder, etc.
  • on occasion fattier fishes such as salmon, and mackerel can be very healthy as well

If you tolerate dairy well, reduced fat or fat free dairy can be helpful as protein sources as well. Things such as non fat yogurt, high quality whey protein powder, reduced fat cheese, etc.

4. Starches/Grains, etc.

Starches and grains are one of the more controversial food groups. They can be extremely healthy and beneficial to most people’s diet, however we need to watch portions based on our body composition goals and activity level. A hard-charging athlete will require more starches in their diet to fuel performance and recovery than someone who is working out a few times a week with weight loss being their primary goal.

  • sweet potatoes
  • white potatoes
  • oats, rice, rice noodles, spaghetti squash, carrots, parsnips, quinoa, whole grain bread, wraps, buns, or tortillas, etc.

5. Fats

This is where a lot of people get confused. Fats are NOT bad. They are, however, OVER twice as calorie dense per gram than proteins or carbohydrates. So, choose your fats carefully and know that when your diet is balanced, you will include some healthy fats in your diet but it is the easiest thing to cut back on when trying to lose weight because your meals can usually stay a similar size while still cutting back calories.

  • olive oil
  • coconut oil
  • grass fed butter or ghee
  • nuts
  • nut butter
  • seeds
  • avocado,
  • egg yolks
  • fattier fish (fish oil)
  • high quality full fat dairy (if you tolerate it well)

Stay tunes for more meal prepping tips in Part 2!