Fortunately, with the right tools in place, prepping meals to lose weight has never been easier!
The key is determining daily calorie allotments for weight loss, preparing weight loss meals ahead of time, properly packaging them, and refrigerating or freezing meals until you're ready to eat them.
How Many Calories and Macronutrients Should I Eat?
Daily weight loss calorie needs for men often range from 1,500 – 1,800 calories per day, based on a recommendation from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
You might require more calories than this if you’re very active, to lose weight at a rate of 1 – 2 pounds each week. Aim to eat about 500 to 1,000 fewer calories than your usual intake.
A good weight loss goal is to consume 4 – 6 smaller meals spaced evenly throughout your day if you can, totaling about 1,500 – 1,800 calories for the day. For example, you might choose:
- Five or six 300-calorie meals
- Five 350-calorie meals
- Four 400-calorie meals
When seeking meal prep ideas for weight loss, aim to eat about 350 calories at each meal depending on your meal plan and individual weight loss calorie needs.
Ways to Tally Calories
Counting calories may sound tedious, but using the right resources can help! Once you get used to counting calories as part of your meal prep weight loss routine, it gets easier and easier. Use the following free (or low-cost) calorie-counting online resources and apps to get started:
- Department of Agriculture food composition database
- WebMD food calculator
- Lose It!
You can also read nutrition labels on your favorite foods to track calories. Be sure to note the serving size on nutrition labels so you can count calorie correctly and avoid overindulging.
How to Count Macros
If counting macros (macronutrients) is more your style, use that method instead of tracking calories. Simply count the grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat you’re eating and stick within daily weight loss allotments. For a 1,600-calorie weight loss diet for men (containing 25% of the calories from protein, 30% from fat, and 45% from carbohydrates), you’d aim for daily totals of:
- 100 grams of protein
- 180 grams of carbohydrates
- 53 grams of fat
Use food labels, a food analysis app, or the USDA’s food composition database to track macronutrients for weight loss.
Reasons to Divide Your Plate
If you just don’t have time for counting calories or macronutrients, divide your plate instead! Fill each small plate (or food prep storage container) the following way:
- Half full of non-starchy vegetables
- One-fourth full of protein foods
- One-fourth full of starches
Examples of non-starchy vegetables include cucumbers, tomatoes, leafy greens, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, and zucchini.
Starches include peas, dried beans, lentils, other legumes, sweet potatoes, corn, quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice, wild rice, other whole grains, and fruit.
Healthy protein foods include lean meat, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, tofu, eggs, low-fat cottage cheese, nonfat Greek yogurt, reduced-fat cheese, plant milk, and protein powder.
Don’t forget to add heart-healthy fats to each meal! Examples include olive oil, other plant-oils, fish oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butters, and olives.
Sample Weight Loss Meal Ideas
The following examples include 350-calorie healthy meal ideas you can prep ahead of time to maintain healthy eating habits and achieve or maintain your goal weight:
Meal #1 (351 calories)
- 1 small sweet cooked potato: 100 calories
- 3 ounces of grilled chicken: 126 calories
- 1 1/2 cups of broccoli sautéed in olive oil: 125 calories
Meal #2 (338 calories)
- 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice: 124 calories
- 3 ounces of grilled or baked salmon: 155 calories
- 3 cups of leafy greens topped with 1 tablespoon of oil-based dressing: 51 calories
Meal #3 (351 calories)
- A 3-egg omelet made with 1 cup of mushrooms plus spinach leaves mixed in: 241 calories
- 1 medium banana: 105 calories
- 1 cup of black coffee: 5 calories
Meal #4 (334 calories)
- 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal: 150 calories
- 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese: 81 calories
- 1/2 cup of blueberries: 42 calories
- 1/3 ounce of walnuts: 61 calories
Meal #5 (351 calories)
- 3 ounces of grilled shrimp: 84 calories
- 3/4 cup of cooked quinoa: 167 calories
- 1 1/2 cups of cooked asparagus prepared with 1 teaspoon of olive oil: 100 calories
Meal #6 (350 calories)
- 3 cups of leafy greens topped with 1 tablespoon of oil-based dressing: 55 calories
- 2 ounces of grilled chicken strips: 84 calories
- 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced: 72 calories
- 1/4 cup of whole-grain croutons: 46 calories
- 1 small apple: 93 calories
Meal #7 (342 calories)
- 3 ounces of tuna steak: 156 calories
- 1/2 cup of cooked wild rice: 83 calories
- 1 1/2 cups of cooked cauliflower: 43 calories
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil: 60 calories
These sample meal prep ideas for weight loss give you an idea of what 350-calorie meals look like. You can increase or decrease portion sizes based on your total calorie needs for weight loss and the type of meal plan you’re using. Season foods with salt (use sparingly), pepper, herbs, and other seasonings of your choice.
Weight Loss Meal Prep Recipes
In addition to the sample 350-calorie weight loss meals above, numerous meal prep ideas for weight loss involve delicious recipes you can make over the weekend to prepare for the week ahead. Examples of weight loss recipes containing 300 – 350 calories per serving include:
#1 Mediterranean Tuna Antipasto Salad
This Mediterranean tuna antipasto salad recipe contains:
- 306 calories per serving
- 8 grams of fiber
- 28 grams of total carbs
- 15 grams of protein
- 16 grams of fat
The recipe is loaded with nutrient-dense foods including salad greens, chickpeas or other legumes, chunk light tuna, red bell peppers, onions, capers, fresh parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, and seasonings. Prepare this salad ahead of time, place it in an airtight container, and keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to enjoy it!