If you're sticking to a calorie budget, you likely understand the importance of planning and prepping your meals. Starting the week with a fridge full of packed Tupperware can help you stick within your calorie range and prevent mealtimes from being stressful. But picking and choosing the best recipes to prep? Now that's where things get tricky.
It's also where we come in. This Power Hour plan is packed with lean proteins, fresh vegetables, and whole grains to create an entire week's worth of meals that all clock in at 1,500 calories a day or fewer — a common calorie goal for those looking to lose weight or consume fewer calories.
This meal prep plan will help you stay within your calorie budget without leaving you hangry. And you won't get bored, either — you can mix and match components to create a variety of tasty lunches, and every dinner is designed to be different.
Feel free to pair any lunch with any dinner, too. No matter how you switch it up, you'll stay below 1,500 calories.
Meal Prep Goals
- Breakfast: An easy, grab-and-go option packed with protein and carbs to power me through the morning and keep me full until lunch (five days).
- Lunch: Two base options that are high in protein but low enough in calories that they can be combined with other staples to make packable salads, grain bowls, and sandwiches. Also, a few low-cal snacks that can be enjoyed without hesitation (five days).
- Dinner: Mix-and-match proteins that can also be assembled in a few different ways throughout the week to create satisfying dinners rich in whole grains and vegetables (five days).
- Nutritional Goals: Wholesome, satisfying meals that clock in at a total of 1,500 calories a day or fewer.
Meal Prep Plan Snapshot
- Feeds: Two people
- Prep Time: About 2 hours
- Meals Covered: About 80% (no weekend meals)
- Weeknight Cooking Required? Minimal — five to 10 minutes of reheating and assembly to get dinner on the table.
- Spicy Salmon Black Bean Salad
- Hard-Boiled Eggs
- Mix-and-match components: Whole-wheat pita bread, cooked farro, salad greens, pesto
- Peaches, cut watermelon, cucumber sticks, and string cheese for snacking
- Turkey Meatballs
- Shredded rotisserie chicken
- Mix-and-match components: Fresh mozzarella, jar of marinara sauce, pesto, whole-wheat pita bread, cooked farro, salad greens
This week's shopping list is heavy on produce and lean proteins, both of which keep calories to a minimum. I'll also be relying on staples and condiments already in my pantry, like ghee, cooking oil, vinegar, and spices.
- Produce: 2 bananas, 1 avocado, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, 1 lime, 2 heads of lettuce, 1 bunch parsley, 1 onion, 1 head garlic, 1 large cucumber, pre-cut watermelon, 1 quart peaches
- Meat & Seafood: 4 ounces hot smoked salmon, 1 pound ground turkey, rotisserie chicken
- Refrigerated: Eggs, milk, Parmesan cheese, pesto, ball of fresh mozzarella, string cheese
- Pantry: Peanut butter, honey, rolled oats, unsweetened shredded coconut, 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, breadcrumbs, jar of marinara sauce, pearled farro
- Other: Whole-wheat pita (6 1/2-inch rounds), 2 (3.5-ounce) dark chocolate bars
Power Hour: How to Get the Prep Done
- Preheat oven.
- Cook farro and hard-boil eggs: I follow these guidelines for cooking 1 cup of farro. At the same time, I bring a second pot of water to a boil to cook 3 eggs.
- Prep and bake meatballs: While the farro simmers and the eggs boil, I prepare the turkey meatballs and bake them according to the recipe. When the farro is tender and the eggs are hard-boiled, I drain them both and spread the the farro on a baking sheet to let it cool completely (this prevents it from overcooking).
- Prep and bake oatmeal cups: While the meatballs bake, I prepare the oatmeal cups. The cups can be customized to your liking, but I like to use 2 mashed bananas, peanut butter, and maple syrup, and top them with unsweetened shredded coconut. After I pull the meatballs out of the oven, I reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake off the oatmeal cups.
- Make black bean salmon salad: While the oatmeal cups bake, I toss together the black bean salmon salad.
- Wash and prep lettuce and cucumber: I break down the heads of lettuce and cut the cucumber into sticks. I then wash the lettuce in a salad spinner, where it can also be stored for the week in the fridge.
- Shred chicken: I pull apart the the rotisserie chicken and shred the meat with my hands before discarding the carcass.
A Week of 1500-Calorie Days That Require Almost No Weeknight Cooking
Here's how all that prep turns into ready-to-eat breakfasts, grab-and-go lunches, and dinners that just need to be reheated or assembled.
Breakfast (250 Calories)
Take an oatmeal cup to go, or enjoy it warmed up in the toaster oven at home with your coffee. The recipe makes a dozen, so go ahead and freeze the remainder at the end of the week. These can be taken out in coming weeks for a quick breakfast — just let them defrost in the fridge overnight.
Lunch (300 to 420 Calories)
Monday and Wednesday (300 calories): Pack a third of the salmon black bean salad over 2 cups greens and bring along a quarter of a whole-wheat pita.
Tuesday (395 calories): Slice two hard-boiled eggs and tuck them into half a whole-wheat pita with 2 tablespoons pesto and 2 cups salad greens.
Thursday (420 calories): Slice the third hard-boiled egg and pack with 1 cup cooked farro tossed with 2 tablespoons pesto.
Friday (417 calories): Stuff the remaining third of the salmon black bean salad into half a whole-wheat pita.
Snacks (Choose 2 Each Day)
- 1 peach (60 calories)
- 1 cup cubed watermelon (46 calories)
- 1 cucumber, sliced (16 calories)
- 1 string cheese (80 calories)
Dinner (380 to 590 calories)
Monday, Turkey Meatballs over Farro (570 calories): Simmer 7 meatballs in 1/2 cup marinara sauce and serve over 1 cup farro.
Tuesday, Pesto Chicken Salad over Greens (380 calories): Toss 1 cup shredded chicken with 2 tablespoons pesto and serve over 2 cups salad greens.
Wednesday, Turkey Meatball Pita Pizza (590 calories): Spread 1/4 cup marinara sauce onto a whole-wheat pita, crumble 7 meatballs on top, tear one slice of fresh mozzarella on top, then bake at 400°F until toasted and melty.
Thursday, Chicken, Pesto, and Mozzarella Pita Sandwich (550 calories): Stuff 1 cup shredded chicken into half a whole-wheat pita with two slices fresh mozzarella and 1 tablespoon pesto.
Friday, Turkey Meatballs over Greens (385 calories): Simmer 7 meatballs in 1/2 cup marinara sauce and serve over 2 cups salad greens.
Dessert (155 Calories)
You'll got some calories to spare at the end of the day so break off a 1-ounce square of dark chocolate for dessert!
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I hope this is helpful to you! If you're on a calorie budget, it can be exhausting to do the math. This plan hopefully makes things a little easier.
If you're not specifically looking for low-calorie, you may still love this plan. Either way, there are even more Power Hours coming your way (see all the plans so far). Meanwhile, if you do rely on low-calorie recipes as an eating tool, I'd love to hear some of your own favorite meals and meal prep strategies.
Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.