10 Meal Prep Containers for Busy Personal Trainers

By Alex Hoffmann on January, 10 2021
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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

You need to take care of yourself as much as your clients and every detail, down to the meal prep containers you use, can make a difference in how easy it is to do so, despite a busy schedule.

This is especially true in 2021, when you may be running around even more as you find ways to support your clients while staying within the CDC recommended guidelines for COVID. For example, outdoor workouts increased by 400 percent, according to a recent ClassPass survey, which allowed personal trainers to lead classes while maintaining social distance. 

However, now that 2021 is here, ClassPass estimates 92 percent of trainers will resume onsite services once they and their clients feel it’s safe to—but you may also still be hosting outdoor classes in addition to online classes to ensure all clients feel safe, regardless of their risk and precaution levels.

This year will be a busy one for fitness professionals like yourself, which means you need as much efficiency and convenience in your schedule as possible. Get the right meal prep containers to make sure that you’re able to fuel your body, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.

Keep Reading: Overtraining Recovery and Avoidance: How to Support Your Clients

What to Look for in a Meal Prep Container

The kind of meal prep containers that work best for you is a matter of preference and the meals you choose. These basic considerations, from Kayla Itsines, certified personal trainer and nutrition expert, should also be taken into account:

  • Material: Choose a material that is durable, reusable and eco-friendly—glass, silicone, metal or BPA-free plastic are all suitable choices.
  • Shape and size: Choose a shape and size that is able to hold substantial amounts of food, but is also compact enough to store and transport.   
  • Safety: Choose a container that is freezer- and microwave-safe. For extra convenience, find an option that is dishwasher-safe too.
  • Spill-proof: Choose a design with leak-proof and airtight lids to avoid spills and maximize the overall freshness of your lunch.    


Types of Meal Prep Containers for On-the-Go

From smoothies and juices to grain bowls and salads, there’s an option for you. Each of these meal prep containers is ideal for a busy personal trainer who needs a quick and simple lunchtime routine, so choose one or a few options that best fit your schedule and lunch preferences.


Mason Jar Containers

For liquids that do not require insulation such as juices or smoothies, screw-top mason jars can double as meal prep containers. Just blend the smoothie ingredients ahead of time, pour into a mason jar, stash it in the freezer, and remove a few hours before you plan to drink so it’s thawed out by lunchtime. 

You can also make overnight oats or chia pudding in a mason jar. Store your meal in the refrigerator for a protein-rich breakfast the next morning. Even salad components can be layered in a mason jar, but remember to pour the dressing in first, then add the greens last to prevent them from wilting. 

For example: Ball Wide-Mouth 16oz Mason Jars

Keep Reading: 5 Tips for Salad Meal Prep


Split Portion Containers

When you want to manage portion sizes or keep certain food items separate, a meal prep container is with built-in dividers is a functional solution. Each individual section ensures that some foods don’t become too soggy from condiments or sauces, and the differently sized compartments make it easy to allocate healthy, balanced portions. Store vegetables, fruits and lean proteins in the larger compartments, and reserve the smaller compartments for yogurt, nuts, granola or a dark chocolate square. If you have dietary restrictions or need to limit certain food groups, this split portion container makes it easy. 

For example: Go Green Lunch Box Sex


Collapsible Silicone Containers

If you don’t have much room in the kitchen for storage, the answer to your space-saving needs is a collapsible silicone container. The flexible material folds into itself once you’re done eating, so an entire stack of these containers can be stored in a tight drawer or cabinet after use. 

With its compact and pliable design, you can even stash this container in a tote bag for those hectic afternoons when you are not at home or in the fitness studio for lunch. However, when choosing a silicone container, make sure that it’s “food-grade,” the FDA recommends, which means the material does not use any chemical fillers.

For example: Life Proof Lab Easy Food Containers


Multiple Tier Containers

Multi-tier containers feature multiple containers in one, allowing you to fit different items in their own separate compartments while still keeping it all together. For example, in the WORTHBY Stainless Steel Thermal Lunch Box, three round canisters snap onto each other for transport and storage and then come apart when you lift the side hinges. 

Each tier has its own leak-resistant lid to keep your meal fresh and prevent liquids from seeping out. This container can also keep food insulated for at least a few hours, so it’s ideal if you want to eat a warm lunch, but don’t always have access to a microwave. Pack your vegetables on the bottom tier, a protein in the middle tier, and a whole grain bread roll on the top tier for a nourishing meal that spans the three main food groups. 

For example: WORTHBY Stainless Steel Thermal Lunch Box

Keep Reading: Pre-Natal Nutrition for Active Women

Glass Lock Containers

Glass containers are 100 percent endlessly recyclable. In fact, each ton of recycled glass can help conserve more than a ton of raw natural resources and decrease energy consumption by 40 percent. For maximum sustainability and efficiency, glass is one of the best materials for meal prep containers you can choose. 

The secure airtight lock technology seals in freshness and protects your food from bacteria exposure. In addition, glass is also oven-safe, so when doing meal prep, you can roast vegetables or cook proteins and grains directly in this container for minimal clean-up afterward.

For example: Prep Naturals Glass Containers


Salad and Dressing Containers

There are many reasons to meal prep a salad for lunch—it’s nutritious, filling, and can be eaten anywhere. However, on the flip side, there’s nothing worse than salad greens wilted and soaked with dressing. This is where containers with a separate insert just for the dressing come in handy. 

Toss the greens and other salad fixings in the main part of the container and pour the dressing into its own compartment to drizzle on top of your salad when it’s time to eat. For extra health benefits, you can even make your own dressing with lemon, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of Himalayan salt. 

For example: Life Story To-Go Salad Bowl Containers


Insulated Containers 

Just like a thermos keeps coffee warm on your morning commute, a vacuum-insulated meal prep container will ensure that hot foods remain heated or cold foods remain chilled until it’s time to eat. This bowl-shaped container is perfect for stew, chili, or soup in the winter and smoothies, yogurt parfaits, or chia puddings in the summer. 

When you don’t have a microwave or refrigerator onsite, these meal prep containers make it simple to both store and enjoy temperature-regulated meals all year round. 

For example: S’well Blue Suede Eats

Keep Reading: Stress Management Tips and Techniques for Fitness Professionals


Small Condiment Containers

For those times when you just need a small container for a vinaigrette, mustard, pesto, guacamole, salsa, tahini or horseradish sauce, an individual condiment squeeze bottle has you covered. You can use this type of container to transport your favorite condiments from home, then add them to salads, burritos, grain bowls, sandwiches, and other lunch items. 

This container also makes it easy to bring your own homemade condiments to restaurants if you want a healthier alternative to the many of those sugar- and preservative-laden condiments you will find on menus. 

For example: Crate&Barrel To Go Salad Dressing Container


Bento Box Containers

Bento boxes originate from Japan, but this type of container is amazingly versatile for busy personal trainers. With multiple compartments, you can include an entree along with plenty of other side dishes to enjoy variety with each meal. Lean into the bento box’s Asian roots with sticky rice, ahi tuna and steamed vegetables. Opt for Mediterranean with marinated olives, baked pita triangles and hummus. Or if you need extra fuel for a particularly strenuous workout, make a protein box of almonds, hardboiled eggs, and celery with peanut butter.   

For example: Modetro Leak Proof Bento Box


Stainless Steel Containers

Because stainless steel is made from 60 percent of recycled materials, it’s another highly sustainable option if you’re choosing between a few different meal prep containers. Lightweight but durable, a stainless steel container is perfect for an on-the-go lifestyle and can store just about any lunch item, from raw carrot sticks to homemade granola bars to sliced fruit to sandwiches or wraps. 

In addition, stainless steel is low-maintenance to clean if you’re short on time and only requires a quick wipe-down with soap and water. It should be noted, however, that this metal is not safe for microwave use, so keep that in mind if you want to pack a warm lunch.   

For example: Monka Food Storage Container Set


Update Your Meal Prep Containers for a Busy Year

However you choose to reinvent your lunchtime routine this year, any of these meal prep containers can help streamline the process. Whether you hope to resume teaching at a studio or you plan to continue developing online fitness content—or some hybrid of both—your life will continue to be busy, and you need to fuel as you go. Prioritize nourishing meals, even if you’re not at home, with an efficient, portable container that you can count on.  

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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

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