Now that the holidays are in full swing, the struggle to keep our nutrition and fitness center workouts in line is bound to get challenging. Meal planning and prepping are key to maintaining progress toward fitness goals through this season, since how we eat most of the time has the greatest impact on our body composition. Having covered meal planning and shopping, let’s look at some tips for effective meal prepping to help it all come together and keep you lean and mean through the holidays.

1. Know how much time you have (and need) to prep meals, and plan accordingly.

Knowing what you’re eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all week saves time in and of itself, but if you’re planning to eat “real” unprocessed food, it will also require some advanced prep time. First, look at your meals and calculate the time commitment they require – no prep time, ten minutes of prep time, one hour, etc. Then look at your schedule and decide which days and meals you will or won’t have the time for prepping. For instance, you may not have any time to prepare dinner one night, but a whole hour the next. This will determine which meals and ingredients you’ll need to prepare in advance.

2. Pick a prep day and make it fun!

Seasoned meal preppers have learned it works well to pick a day (Sunday is the most popular) to do all their chopping, cooking, portioning, and freezing for the week. It’s more time-efficient to cook up large batches of key ingredients (chicken breast, sweet potatoes, etc.) than to cook each meal separately. Instead of looking at prepping as a tedious way to spend a Sunday afternoon, why not invite your fellow meal-prepping fitness gym friends to join you or turn on some dance music to get in a fun workout?

3. Pre-chop, pre-peel, and pre-portion.

If you know that a meal will require a lot of chopping and peeling, getting this task done ahead of time can make those busy nights go much smoother and eliminate the excuse to eat out. If you need to pre-chop veggies and fruits a few days in advance, freezing them will help preserve their freshness.

Many meal preppers also find that pre-portioning meals in disposable containers makes grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches that much easier. Using containers that are all the same size makes for easy labeling, stacking, and retrieval from the fridge.

4. Pre-cook and freeze ahead.

Pre-cooking and freezing meals is another weekend activity that can save even more time during the week. You might be surprised at just how many meals you can freeze – do a web search for “freezable healthy meals” and you’ll find plenty of ideas to get started.

5. Prep passively with crock pots and overnight oats.

Thanks to a few easy hacks and electronics, you can even prep meals while you sleep, work, or workout. Overnight oats (simply placing all the ingredients for your morning oatmeal in a mason jar overnight) is a hit when you don’t have time to cook them. Slow cookers make it easy to tenderize leaner cuts of meat and simmer healthy soups, vegetables, and much more — all while you’re at work. You can even hit the health club after, and still have a hot, nutritious meal waiting for you when you get home.

As you can see, meal prepping isn’t as difficult or as time-consuming as you might have thought. All it takes is a little planning ahead, a few tricks, and a determination to see your fitness goals through the hazards of the holiday season. You’ve got this!