daily californian logo


Meal prep guide

article image



We're an independent student-run newspaper, and need your support to maintain our coverage.

OCTOBER 20, 2023

Bodybuilders and gym bros can come off as meatheads.

But they’re actually geniuses. At least when it comes to food. Specifically, when it comes to meal prepping.

Meal prepping, as the name implies, is the practice of preparing multiple meals in advance. In fact, I consider it the art of preparing multiple meals in advance.

And while the stereotype is attributed to jacked protein-maximizing gym goers who eat chicken, rice and broccoli, I believe it is useful for everyone.

Meal prepping is cheap, fun, a good skill to learn and it can be healthy if done right. Here’s a very quick guide to meal prepping.

First, the theoretical:

  1. Equipment

Yes, I know I said it’s cheap and thus ideal for college students. But this isn’t bad, and it’s a one-time upfront cost.

Meal prep containers are a must. In fact, this is the only must on this list. How else are you going to store them? You can get a cheap pack of these on Amazon or Walmart.

A rice cooker is strongly recommended. Cooking rice the old-fashioned way is more time-consuming, inconsistent and messier. Rice will be your main source of carbs, but more on that later.

A multi-setting dual-zone air fryer. Recommended, but not required.

  1. Protein

This is the main event. Protein for your meal is a must. It’s filling, healthy and relatively cheap. If you’re into exercise, this is what will help you grow muscle and become stronger.

Chicken is the obvious choice. It is one of the cheapest to purchase in bulk and easy to prepare. But ground beef works fine. So do fish such as salmon or tilapia.

You can bake, grill or pressure cook your meat (or tofu). There are so many ways to prepare protein ingredients; find one that works for you.

  1. Carbs

This is your fuel. An in-depth discussion on carbs warrants another article. But most people eat carbs just fine.

Rice is the worldwide staple of carbs. It does not get simpler than preparing some rice multiplied by the number of portions you’d like to make. This is what the rice cooker is for. If you don’t have one, you can cook rice the old fashioned way on the stove.

Potatoes or pasta also work fine occasionally to mix it up. But rice is the cheapest and easiest for most people.

  1. Sides

This is where your nutrients will come from. The reason why bodybuilders eat broccoli with their chicken and rice is because those little trees have all (well, a lot of) the vitamins and minerals you could want.

Choose one or two vegetables to prepare. This is why I recommend a dual-zone air fryer. You can make two sides for your meal. Maybe a green vegetable and then another one.

If you don’t have an air fryer or a similar appliance, cooking veggies in the oven is great. But there are those prepackaged microwave-friendly veggies that also work like a charm!

That’s it for theory. If you’re like me, you learn from watching and doing. Here’s what I do:

        Four 5-ounce filets of salmon in the oven on top of an aluminum-foil wrapped metal tray. Individually wrapped salmon filets are available at many commercial grocery stores. Cook for 12 minutes at 350 F, then broil on high for 5 minutes.

        1-1.5 cups of rice in the pressure cooker. Literally just pour in the right amount of water and click the “Rice” button.

        Asparagus on one side of the air fryer for 20 minutes at 375 F.

        Bell peppers or carrots on the other side of the air fryer for roughly the same time and heat. Sometimes I use the roast setting instead of the air fry setting.

Including chopping, seasoning, cleaning, etc. all this takes me less than an hour. I make them and store them in the fridge. All this produces four meals, which means two days of no cooking, and I get to hit my goal protein intake.

It’s cheap too, and that’s even when using salmon instead of tilapia or chicken. Isn’t that sweet? I bench 225 lbs for reps by the way. I also squat 315 lbs.

The best part about this algorithmic meal prep guide is that it’s easy to replace with whatever you want.

If I’m making tilapia, I still bake the protein, but with less time in the oven. Or I can grill some chicken breast this week.

Not feeling bell peppers? Okay, this week I can have a radish for my secondary side. Want to spice up the rice a little? Pour in a little soy sauce, or some lime juice on it before cooking.

Meal prepping is great. Once you learn it, it becomes second nature. You can also bring your friends into it, maybe split a Costco membership among your roommates.

You’ll slowly find yourself preparing more meals at a time because of how convenient and delicious they are.

Goodbye UberEats and Doordash!

Contact Rafael Arbex-Murut at 


OCTOBER 20, 2023