Meal Planning Vs Meal Prepping: Your Guide to Healthy Eating

Meal Planning Vs. Meal Prepping: Yes, There's a Difference

06 Oct 2023


Meal Planning Vs. Meal Prepping: Yes, There's a Difference

When life pulls you in all directions at once - as in, most of the time - basic necessities can fall by the wayside. You might cut back on sleep, see friends less often, or skip the grocery store and live on takeout. That last one, though, is especially ill-advised. Takeout is rarely healthy, filling, or all that tasty, and its costs sure add up quickly. That's why meal planning and meal prepping are so popular among Americans - and yes, the two are different. Learn more about the meal planning vs. meal prepping divide below.

Defining meal planning vs. meal prepping

Meal planning comes before meal prepping - think of planning as your route from point A to point B and prepping as the drive itself.

What is meal planning?

Meal planning is the process of deciding your meals for the week and when you'll eat them. The meal planning process can involve assembling a grocery list based on a rotation of your favorite meals and making time to shop for ingredients. It can also involve setting aside certain days to order fresh-cooked, affordable meals from a local meal cooking and delivery service.

That last part is key - you might have the urge to eliminate takeout full-stop, but you might not have time to cook every meal. Finding ways to semi-occasionally get a cooked meal that's higher-quality and more affordable can thus be key to meal planning.

What is meal prepping?

Meal prepping, also known as just meal prep, is the process of actually making the meals in your plan. For example, you might batch-cook or prepare all your meals for the workweek on a Sunday night. You might store the food you've made in one container or fill several meal-sized containers with a small amount of the whole batch. In either case, the steps involved in meal prepping are chopping, cutting, cooking, and washing dishes - but there are other options.

Meal prepping can also encompass ordering meals ahead of time. This doesn't mean takeout, which often gets soggy after just a day in the fridge or upon thawing from the freezer. It instead means ordering fresh, ready-to-go meals for delivery at a time that lines up with your meal plan. Same-day delivery or batch delivery ahead of time are both options for getting your meal deliveries on schedule.

How does meal planning help you cook healthy meals?

Meal planning may well be the simplest way to approach cooking healthy meals since it's how you:

  • Determine your meals ahead of time. Let's say your current dietary restrictions encompass eating keto. This takes a lot of food options off your plate, making it tougher to stick to your dietary goals. With a plan in place to get ingredients and eat certain meals at certain times, you're much likelier to follow your specific dietary guidelines.
  • Shop for groceries effectively. Supermarket aisles are filled with options, and that can be overwhelming when you go in without a plan. If you instead know exactly what meals you're prepping and what you need for them, you'll be in and out of the grocery store. That means you'll head home without any unhealthy extra items in your bag.
  • Eat all your leftovers. The leftovers from a healthy meal are just as healthy as the original meal. With ample leftovers due to your meal planning, you get several healthy meals rather than gaps you might feel compelled to fill with takeout.
  • Set aside clear times for meal delivery. Fresh, ready-to-eat meals made locally, with locally sourced ingredients, are a great alternative to takeout. They're also an inevitability in meal planning since time for cooking isn't infinite. Meal planning can help you decide which full meals to buy and when to have them delivered.

How does meal prepping help you eat well?

Meal prep is key to eating well since it:

  • Saves a lot of time. Unhealthy meals - say, the fast-food chain that's on your commute home - are an easy trap to fall into when you're at your busiest. When you take time ahead of your most hectic days to prepare your food, you can pull out healthy, prepared meals at any time.
  • Gives you full control. You can cook your meals exactly how you want when meal prepping. You get to decide how much seasoning and spices to add, and you can remove ingredients that don't fit your diet or taste. This can bring joy to cooking that makes you increasingly likely to prepare healthy meals time and again.
  • Incorporates smarter meal delivery options. Meal prep can also involve delivering fresh, ready-to-go meals at the optimal time for meeting your plan. These delivered meals are significantly healthier than takeout - they're not overly greasy, and their nutritional content is higher given their freshness. When you meal-prep the right way, you stick to your dietary goals while still cutting down on cooking labor just a bit.

Meal prepping vs. meal planning: Which is right for you?

While meal planning and prepping often go together, you can also focus on just one or the two. Meal planning might be better for you if you're especially short on time since it gives you more space to incorporate home-delivered fresh meals. Meal prep might be more up your alley if you like cooking and getting creative in the kitchen. It might also be the smarter choice if you're on a highly specific diet that you just aren't seeing reflected on grocery menus.

One option that makes a great full-on substitute for both planning and prep is ordering fresh, heat-and-eat meals cooked and sourced locally. You can easily lay out a schedule for ordering and eating as many meals as you need. That's the planning aspect of things - the prep portion is actually adding meals to your cart and scheduling delivery. It's easiest with a user-friendly delivery service that offers nutritious, delicious meals every day of the week.

Plan your meals and skip the prep with Meal Village

With Meal Village, the only prep work you have to do is hitting the order button. Before that, only meal planning - deciding what to eat and when - comes into play. Plus, all Meal Village meals are made in a Chicagoland kitchen with locally-sourced ingredients, resulting in meals as high-quality and healthy as they are delicious. Order now online or via phone to handle meal planning and meal prepping in one fell swoop.

That last part is key - you might have the urge to eliminate takeout full-stop, but you might not have time to cook every meal. Finding ways to semi-occasionally get a cooked meal that's higher-quality and more affordable can thus be key to meal planning.

Enjoy fresh, delicious ready-to-eat meals delivered to your home.


Healthy Eating and Your Health

The foods you consume have a direct impact on your physical, mental and emotional health.

For example, studies show a link between a diet high in sugar and an increased risk of death from heart disease, even among people who are not overweight. This is in part because sugar is a calorie-dense food that does not contain beneficial nutrients like the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function. When you eat a diet high in sugary foods and drinks, these "empty calories" can take the place of more nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables. In turn, you end up overeating to make up for the discrepancy in nutrition.

In addition, other studies have found a link between eating a well-rounded diet that meets the daily requirements of essential nutrients and improved mental health. The essential nutrients include the three macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fat, as well as micronutrients, which are the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to operate and thrive like calcium, iron and magnesium.

Unhealthy eating habits can lead to weight gain and obesity, which is a leading factor in many chronic and fatal conditions, including type two diabetes, cancer, stroke, and heart disease. This is why it is essential to make healthy eating a habit.

What Are Healthy Eating Habits?

If youre looking to clean up your diet and transform unhealthy eating into habits that support a well-balanced, energetic lifestyle, there are some steps you can take.

Here are four healthy eating habits to work into your daily routine:

1. Start your day with a savory meal

Instead of sugary breakfast cereals, pastries or flavored yogurt, opt for a savory breakfast. Savory morning meals can be just as delicious as a sweeter alternative and in many cases, more satisfying.

When you start your day with sugar, youre more likely to crash in the mid-morning and grow hungry before lunch, which can lead to overeating. Likewise, eating sugar can have an addictive effect, so you may be more likely to eat more sugar later in the day.
Healthy breakfast ideas include:

  • Scrambled eggs and toast
  • Savory oatmeal
  • A breakfast burrito or taco with a whole wheat tortilla and beans

2. Drink plenty of water

Ditch sugar-sweetened beverages for good old-fashioned water. Not only will you reduce your sugar intake, but youll also better hydrate yourself. Proper hydration is essential for digestion, immunity, and overall metabolic functioning.

Men should aim to drink about 3.7 liters of water a day and women should aim for 2.7 liters. If you exercise regularly or live in a warm climate, youll need to drink more water to account for sweat loss.

3. Snack smart

Instead of reaching for convenience foods when the afternoon slump hits, choose a snack that contains a healthy balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates. This is more likely to keep you satisfied so you dont need another snack an hour later.

Some healthy and easy snack ideas that will keep you satisfied include:

  • An apple or banana with peanut or almond butter
  • Carrot or celery sticks with hummus
  • Plain (unsweetened) Greek yogurt with nuts or seeds

4. Stop eating after dinner

Make dinner your final meal of the day. That means no snacking before bed. Late at night, youre more likely to give in to unhealthy cravings.

In addition, your body does not want to have to digest food while you sleep. Sleep is the time when your metabolism gets to rest and recover, much like the rest of your body. So when you eat right before bed, you can disrupt your natural sleep cycle and have trouble digesting. Fatigue from lack of sleep can actually lead you to make unhealthy choices the next day, creating a bad cycle.

How Long Does it Take to Develop Healthy Eating Habits?

Everyone is different when it comes to developing healthy eating habits. The most important thing you can do to help yourself stick to, and even enjoy, your new way of eating, is to maintain consistency.

That doesn't mean you can never enjoy your favorite soda or a slice of cake again. But save these treats for a special occasion. And on a day-to-day basis, even on the weekends, try to adhere to your new healthy eating habits. Eventually, theyll become second nature and youll love the way you feel so much you wont want to go back to your old ways.

The other essential step to take when developing new, healthier eating habits is to find delicious and nutritious foods that you love. Healthy meals can be just as tasty as the food you used to eat, plus they'll have you feeling much better.

With Meal Village, you can make healthy eating not only something to look forward to, but also incredibly convenient. All of our meals are made from premium all-natural ingredients sourced locally from the Chicago area. They are crafted by our culinary team to nourish your body and delight your taste buds. And best of all, they are conveniently delivered straight to your door every week. We take the guesswork out of dinner so you can simply enjoy healthy, well-balanced meals from the comfort of your home.

Enjoy fresh, delicious ready-to-eat meals delivered to your home.


Start Your Meal Delivery in Chicago Today

Now that you're on board with the many delicious, healthy and convenient benefits of meal delivery services, do yourself a favor and try our ultra-fresh chef-prepared meals today. There's no subscription or commitment required, and we're always here for you with daily delivery.

And our menu is always changing, so be sure to check out what's cooking this week.

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