meal prep vs food prep

Meal Prep vs Food Prep: Is there any difference?

May 28. 2021

How many times have you run into those meal prep ideas and photos of beautifully arranged boxes of meals in someone else’s fridge? Have you thought about doing it yourself, or perhaps even tried? Well, since we don’t always feel like spending hours in the kitchen but don’t want to give up on eating healthy and delicious home food, it’s time to get more familiar with the phenomena of meal prep vs food prep! If you’re a newbie here, you may be wondering what could possibly differentiate these two terms. Well, stay tuned because we’re going to break down both of them, explain what makes them different, and show you how to get the best out of each (or both).

What is meal prep?

Meal prep is, as you probably assume, preparing your meals in advance. That way, when the time comes for you to have lunch (or any other meal of the day), you can grab that pre-made meal and eat it as it is. It’s a convenient way of having homemade food even when you’re at work, and it prevents you from being tempted to grab some junk food on the run. Also, suppose you’re following a specific diet (low carb or low-calorie diets, such as the hCG diet). In that case, it can be pretty challenging to maintain the desired carb or calorie intake if you’re ordering from restaurants that don’t provide the nutritional value of their meals. Meal prep can also be done two ways: you can fully prepare and cook a specific meal, and eat it as is, or warm it before lunchtime, or you can prepare all the ingredients in advance, and then cook the meal when you decide to have it.
However, some meal prep features may not be suitable for everyone. Because you’re preparing full meals and trying to save time, it wouldn’t be quite realistic to make five or more different ones and get a new meal every day. That is unless you want to spend a whole Sunday preparing them. On the other hand, it’s reasonable for us, humans, to feel saturated after having the same meal day after day and eventually losing interest and grabbing a pizza or a burger at a nearby restaurant.

Meal prep tips:

    1. Plan your meals ahead of time, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks included.
    2. Go grocery shopping.
    3. Prepare your meals before the week begins, and portion them in glass containers in your fridge.
    4. Focus on cooking simple and quick dinners during the week, using the groceries you’ve already bought.

What is food prep?

Food prep may sound like a meal prep synonym, but once you know that food prep is also known as ingredient prep, it makes things a bit more clear. Therefore, food prep means preparing different ingredients in advance, so you can, later on, assemble them into a meal you want to have. This can include chopping fruit and veggies, cooking protein (for example, ground beef, chicken breast, eggs, etc.), shredding cheese, and cooking carbs (such as rice and quinoa). It may also include prepping some salad dressing, pestos, or salsas. Once you prepare them all, you can keep them in glass containers in your fridge and make all sorts of different dishes during the week by simply combining the ingredients you have. This option might be more suitable for people who get saturated more quickly and have other meals every day.
A possible downside of this option can be that you can’t just pick a box with shredded peppers and have that for lunch. You will need to plan your meals and portions to put a dish together and have a nutritious meal in no time.

Food prep tips:

    1. Plan what protein, carbs, and fats you want to have on hand during the week.
    2. Go grocery shopping.
    3. Cook your carbs and protein ahead of time, and place them in airtight containers in your fridge. 
    4. Wash and cut your fruit and veggies, once again putting them in containers and storing them in your fridge.
    5. Each morning (or the night before, depending on your schedule), select which proteins, carbs, and fats you want to have that day and assemble them to make a nutritionally balanced meal. 

Meal prep vs Food prep: what to choose?

To avoid wasting a whole Sunday (possibly even a weekend), we advise you to try out both these methods before opting for one of them. Moreover, you might be better off constantly switching between them, depending on your needs. Although the process of preparing your ingredients and meals in advance seems like a difficult task to accomplish and get used to, it really doesn’t take too much effort to nail it. Since there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this, it would be best if you considered your dietary habits, goals, and needs and then compiled a perfect solution for yourself. For example, you may fully prepare one or two meals in advance, and while preparing them, cut some fruits and veggies so you can mix them up with some protein later on during the week. It’s important to understand that every bit counts and adds up later on, so when you feel like having a salad on a Wednesday night, you’ll be happy to know that you deseeded some pomegranate, and you can add it to your simple salad to make it joyful. 

Final thoughts

We strongly believe that the meal prep vs food prep debate doesn’t have to end with a winner. Instead, you can see that both options provide specific pros and cons and switch between the two depending on your needs and mood. Also, some people will find one option more suitable than the other, but one thing is sure – they both significantly lower the time we spend in the kitchen and get that what-shall-I-cook-today weight off our shoulders in the middle of a busy week. If you need additional meal prep or food prep guidelines, feel free to contact our weight loss clinic Chicago.

Nurse Walton


Nurse Walton

Born and raised in Chicago, IL, Chanay received her Practical Nurse licensure and went to work in clinical specialties such as Home Health, Assisted Living, Long-Term Care and Dialysis Centers. Through this work, she realized the importance of diet, nutrition and weight loss among her patients. This led her to open A Better Weigh, Inc. Medical Weight Loss Center in 2009.

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