Studies have shown that failing to prepare meals at home is one of the main reasons why most people struggle to reach their health goals. Preparing meals from scratch at home gives you greater control over what goes into your food, allowing you to make healthier choices.
Picking the right container size plays a key role in achieving optimal portion control, particularly when you choose container sizes that align with your dietary goals. It helps prevent overindulgence while promoting mindful eating and bringing ease and efficiency to meal planning.
This article can help you find the perfect meal prep container size for your needs.
Why Container Size Matters
Picking the right container size can do more for your health and eating habits than you probably think. Yes, a meal prep container allows you to prepare and store your meals, especially in bulk, but it goes way beyond mere storage. It significantly impacts your eating habits.
Eating junk food isn’t the only stumbling block to a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes, it’s possible to eat healthy food, but you struggle to see its effect on your body when you overindulge. It all boils down to how many calories you pack. Eating the right food but too much of it can still undermine your efforts.
That is where a meal prep container size comes in – allowing you to eat healthy meals but also in the right quantities. Of course, different people have varying needs when it comes to portion sizes, but using the wrong container size is not advisable. Containers too large can make you eat more than you should, while smaller ones will leave you unsatisfied and craving more food.
The only way to avoid eating too much or too little is to find the right balance between both extremes with optimal food portion control. Container size is strongly connected to portion control and can affect your health and weight management.
As indicated, you can end up with more than you should or too little, depending on the size of your prepping container. The former can quickly lead to unhealthy weight gain, even if you’re consuming a balanced diet. The latter will cause cravings, and you’ll likely reach for unhealthy snacks to make you feel more satisfied, also leading to unhealthy weight gain.
Keep in mind that eating healthy food alone is no guarantee that you’ll manage your weight effectively. Eating too many calories from any nutrient can lead to weight gain. If you want to ensure effective weight management, you must find a good balance regarding portions, and the right container size will help you achieve that. It will also provide a visual cue for portion sizes, prompting mindfulness when preparing your meals. It can also help you remain more disciplined with your food quantity, as you’ll know your serving limits.
Choosing the Right Container Size
Hopefully, you can now appreciate how a prep container size is connected with weight management and healthy eating. But the most important question still remains- how do you choose the right container size? Before answering this question, it’s important to explore the different types of prepping containers available. A quick search online or a visit to your local will show they come in a wide range of sizes. The right option will depend on your lifestyle and healthy eating needs or goals. It also plays a crucial role in proper food storage and safety.
When it comes to container types, you’ll find glass, plastic, and stainless steel options. Plastic containers are the most common type. They are lightweight, convenient, and available in various sizes to suit different lifestyles. They‘re great for short-term storage and for carrying food around. Glass containers are comparatively heavier and less portable than plastic options.
However, they’re mostly chemical-free, so they offer better food protection. The comparison between glass and plastic containers will be explored further in this article. But glass containers work well if you want to package or store your food for longer without carrying it around. Stainless steel containers are probably the most durable and perfect for an active lifestyle. Most come with smaller compartments for effective food organization.
While prep containers come in different types and sizes, each is perfectly suited for specific meals or food types. You’ll find most containers in varying sizes, but you can categorize them into small, medium, and large sizes – of course, there are different sizes in between. It’s also worth noting that different sizes suit different meals.
For example, what will work for salads might not be ideal for soups. Likewise, smaller containers are excellent for storing snacks and sides, but they come in specific sizes and varying volumes or capacities. Medium containers are perfect for main dishes, with different size ranges suiting different foods. For example, liquid-based foods like soups are best stored in medium-sized containers but with deeper bases. Larger containers work best for bulk preparations and salads. The latter will need shallow containers to help preserve a salad’s leafy ingredients for longer.
The right container size will also facilitate proper and efficient food storage, especially in the freezer or refrigerator. Ideally, you should arrange the smaller containers on the larger ones for better efficiency. But you should also eliminate clutter for easier access.
Understanding Meal Prep Container Sizes
If you’ve read this far, you can appreciate why different container sizes suit different meal prep needs. However, some container sizes are more common than others and best suited for specific purposes.
For example, the common size range for larger containers is between 4 to 6 cups in terms of storage capacity and is best suited for stews, salads with many toppings, and other hearty, large meals like casseroles. The most common sizes available for medium-sized containers range from 2 to 3 cups. They’re perfect for storing dishes like pasta, grilled or fried chicken with sides, and other main courses.
Smaller meal prep containers typically fall within 1 to 2 cups of storage capacity. They can hold your side dishes, snacks, and desserts. You can also use them for smaller meals like roasted vegetables and yogurt with toppings. Ultimately, what size to use depends on your needs and what meals you’re preparing. It’s best to have as many container sizes available so you can find the perfect fit for any meal you prepare.
The table below can help you understand meal sizes in relation to container volume. It can guide how you select container sizes for different meals.
|Prep container volume
|Smaller servings, snacks, side dishes
|1 to 2 cups
|Medium servings and main courses
|2 to 3 cups
|Large meal sizes
|4 to 6 cups
The table below shows what container sizes best suit what number of people. You can use it as your general guideline when preparing meals for different numbers of people.
|Prep container size
|Ideal number of people
|1 to 2 people
|2 to 4 people
|4 to 6
|6 people and above
Material Matters: Glass vs. Plastic Containers
This section will explore the pros and cons of glass vs. plastic containers, considering health and durability factors.
Glass containers mostly outperform their plastic counterparts regarding health implications and durability (well, in some ways). When you talk about durability, glass containers are resistant to scratches and stains, making them easier to clean and ensuring that they last longer than plastic containers. They also offer a better food-safety score, as they don’t contain toxic chemicals that can poison your food, especially during longer storage. Chemicals like BPA (mostly found in plastic containers) can slowly enter or leach into your food through a process known as migration, which is not what you want. Glass containers also offer better versatility – you can use them in the microwave, oven, freezer, or refrigerator without worrying about weakening the material quality.
The cons? They’re more prone to breaking than plastic containers. Plus, they’re heavier, making them less portable and not ideal when on the go. Glass prep containers are comparatively expensive, so they might not be your best option if you have a limited budget. Sure, you can purchase a couple. But if you need several in different sizes, you might want to look elsewhere – and by “elsewhere,” the focus is plastic prep containers.
Plastic containers’ main strengths are their lower costs, convenience level, durability (especially with falls), lightweight, and portability. They’re usually cheaper to manufacture, which is why they’re available in a wider variety than other container types. That’s also the main reason why they’re affordable. You can purchase as many sizes as possible, even on a tight budget, compared to glass and stainless steel containers.
Plastic containers are also super convenient. They combine their lightweight with portability, so you can easily carry them along if you’re always on the go.
However, they have their fair share of cons. They can easily scratch, stain, or discolor over time, particularly with regular use, potentially compromising their long-term quality. While they might not shatter as glass containers do after a fall, they can still break under significant force or pressure. As already mentioned, there’s also the small matter of BPA and potential chemical leaking, especially when containing acidic foods or exposed to heat. However, you can easily find BPA-free plastic containers, even though there’s no guarantee that they don’t contain additives.
That said, if you juxtapose the pros and cons (considering cost and convenience), plastic prep containers are always worth the investment.
Mistakes to Avoid in Meal Prep Portioning
Despite the many benefits of proper meal prep portioning with prep containers, you can easily undo all these benefits by making some avoidable mistakes. Here are some of those mistakes.
- Overfilling the containers: Doing this means putting more food than needed into one container. That affects the food storage quality, but even worse, it can lead to overeating, disrupting your healthy eating goals.
- Failing to balance different food groups: A balanced diet is essential to any healthy eating goal. Neglecting to balance different food groups can lead to insufficient nutrition, meaning you’ll not receive the energy boost from a well-rounded or balanced meal.
- Improper storage practices: Failing to properly seal the containers can compromise food quality and shorten storage life.
- Overlooking your unique dietary needs: People have different dietary preferences and needs. That’s why you should consider factors like your metabolism speed, activity levels, and personal taste when meal prepping. Overlooking your unique dietary needs means you might prepare unsatisfying and unenjoyable foods that don’t meet your healthy eating needs.
So, what are the solutions to the mistakes mentioned above?
- Always measure and estimate portion sizes: You don’t want to prepare and store more food than necessary in one container, so always estimate your portion sizes. If you already know your recommended servings, please stick to it. But if you don’t, now, you can always speak with a nutritionist or dietician. They can help you decide what portion sizes are ideal based on your healthy eating needs.
- Ensure food group balance: Each food should contain a balanced distribution of essential nutrients. So, ensure each food contains proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Adopt proper storage practices by sealing your containers and keeping them airtight.
- Pay attention to what you prefer: Healthy food does not have to be bland and torturous. It’s best to be mindful of what you prefer and incorporate your unique dietary needs when prepping your meals.
Using the right meal prep container sizes will do more for your healthy eating goals than you can imagine. It plays a crucial role in helping you maintain a healthy lifestyle by ensuring that you portion your meals the right way.
That means you won’t eat more than you should or less, which is important for maintaining a healthy weight. It can also help bring a better nutritional balance to your meals, filling your body with all the essential nutrients it needs. Try experimenting when determining what size meal prep containers should be.
Choose different prep container sizes that suit your healthy eating goals. But don’t forget to adjust them as your goals and needs evolve.
Can the same meal prep container size work for every meal of the day?
Because you’ll likely eat different meals in various sizes throughout the day, using the same meal prep container may not be ideal. Breakfasts and snacks will require smaller-sized containers, while lunch and dinner meals will need larger containers.
How do I choose the right size container for my diet?
To choose the right size container for your diet, think about what meals you typically eat daily, your calorie needs, and ideal portion sizes. Next, choose container sizes that match each meal. For example, smaller containers will suit snacks and lighter meals, medium-size containers will work well for main courses, and larger containers will be perfect for larger meals.