5 Ways an Instant Pot Can Streamline Your Meal Prep — and Help You Lose Weight

POPSUGAR Photography | Dominique Michelle Astorino
POPSUGAR Photography | Dominique Michelle Astorino

Meal prep is essential when you're trying to lose weight, but it can also be a time challenge. Among recipe research; grocery list planning and shopping; and all the chopping, cooking, and subdividing, prepping can eat up an entire day. And whether you're new to meal prep and cooking or a master of the culinary arts, not many of us are willing or able to give up a Sunday.

Fortunately, I started taking Instant Pot lessons with my mom last year (my cooking shaman) and was introduced to the infinite number of recipes this single appliance can conjure up. It's honestly mind-blowing and has taught me a lot about how to expedite meal prep.

Not only does the Instant Pot cut down on cook time, but in certain recipes (even simple ones!) it can yield better results (in my mother's words, "pressure-infusing maximum flavor and tenderness"), all while reducing cleanup (heck yeah) and allowing you to multitask more easily. So, I'm sharing the top five ways the two of us use the Instant Pot to prep healthy meals at home without sacrificing hours and hours every week. Try them for yourself, and see how much easier it is to stick to your plan and unlock your weight-loss goals.

Cook Your Grains

Cook Your Grains

Despite what current diet trends may lead you to believe, many dietitians agree that whole grains can be beneficial for weight loss. Protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich carbs all help keep you full between meals, which can prevent overeating.

The Instant Pot makes perfect, fluffy quinoa, as well as brown rice, farro, barley, and more. It also significantly reduces the time it takes to make staples like lentils. Cook a batch ahead, then add a grain to salads, serve them as a base for protein bowls, or craft a hearty breakfast with some fresh fruit.

Prep Some Oatmeal

Prep Some Oatmeal

Oatmeal is an excellent breakfast for weight loss, so refrigerate or freeze individual portions of steel-cut oats to reheat throughout the week. With the Instant Pot, you can cook oats in just five to 10 minutes, no soaking or stirring required.

Try a sweet oatmeal for breakfast or a savory oatmeal later in the day (or mix it up!). It'll help you stay full while you ditch processed food like doughnuts or fast food.

Make Hard-Boiled Eggs

Make Hard-Boiled Eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are the perfect protein-packed snack, but they're much more versatile than that. Split them in half and put them in a soup, plate them as a protein with grains and veggies, add them to a grain bowl, or dice them up into a salad. However you eat them, the satiating protein in eggs can help prevent cravings for less virtuous snacks.

Fun fact: an Instant Pot makes hard-boiled eggs easier to peel, and there's less cooking hassle because you don't have to watch a boiling pot of water. There's even an "egg" setting on the Instant Pot! All this goes down in about 15 minutes: five minutes of warmup time, five minutes of cook time, five minutes of cooldown.

Whip Up Soups

Whip Up Soups

Soups can add more plants to your diet, aid in digestion (hi, fiber!), and often feel more satisfying than a salad, helping you eat fewer calories overall. Not to mention they're convenient: you can take soups in jars to the office, heat them up at home, drink them for lunch and dinner — they're honestly the perfect weight-loss meal.

There are so many soups you can make in the Instant Pot, and to be honest, this is my favorite use of this popular kitchen appliance. My go-to is a carrot-ginger-turmeric blend I borrowed from a friend (who happens to be a French chef, no big), but you can try dozens if not hundreds of soup recipes, and then refrigerate a batch in mason jars or food storage containers for the rest of the week.

Mix Things Up

Mix Things Up

One of the downfalls new meal preppers face is boredom. Eating the same thing every day or every week — and getting sick of it — is like a Fastpass to Domino's. Or anything else that's quick, convenient, and more appealing than the same salad you had for the past six days.

As you've likely gathered by now, there are a zillion healthy recipes you can make in the Instant Pot, and you'll find that it's easier to try new dishes in the appliance than it would be without one. So, try mixing things up with one new recipe each week. You'll be less likely to ditch your diet and get takeout when you have something to look forward to.

One recipe that I love is one my mom taught me. If you eat meat, try these Asian Chicken Lettuce Cups, courtesy of Alicia.

Add to Instant Pot

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced ginger
  • pinch of five-spice powder (optional)

Cook on high pressure for six to eight minutes. When complete, manually vent the Instant Pot. While the chicken cooks, prepare vegetables and sauce.

For the Vegetables

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded or julienne cut
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, diced and seeds removed (optional)
  • 1 small can water chestnuts, diced (optional)

For the Dressing

If you don't want to make your own sauce or dressing, you can opt for your favorite premade dressing and skip this step! Otherwise, in a large bowl, whisk together:

  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Sambal Oelek or other chili paste (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

For the Toppings

  • Toasted cashews or almonds
  • Chopped green onion
  • Chopped cilantro or basil

Remove chicken from Instant Pot and discard liquid. Shred chicken. Add chicken and vegetables to bowl with sauce and toss to coat. Divide into five storage dishes.

Serve with three to four lettuce leaves per serving (iceberg, Boston, bibb, butter, or other favorite). Scoop mixture onto leaves and top with toasted nuts, onion, and herbs.