5 Tips for Mastering Meal Prep

by Rachel Stuck, RDN & Nicole Parolisi

Most people know what a balanced meal looks like, but preparation can be a struggle. If you’ve tried meal prep, even just for one day, you know how beneficial it is. Having healthy meals on hand will help you stay on track with your nutrition goals and save you time during the busy workweek. All it takes is a little effort, a few time-saving tips, and a plan. 

Meal prep is all about planning, but it doesn’t have to be complex. Setting aside just one hour to cook can make a big difference in the choices you make throughout the week. Simple efforts to utilize a warm oven or chop a few extra servings of vegetables go a long way! Below you’ll find tips to help you become a meal prep pro without spending countless hours in the kitchen. 

Making small changes to your mealtime routine can make a big impact on your eating habits and the nutritional content of your meals.

Tip #1: Make your Mornings EGG-cellent

Start your day right and ensure mental clarity with protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. Eggs combined with vegetables is a nutrient-dense breakfast that can be prepared in a variety of ways.  

Hard-boiled eggs, premade omelet cups, and breakfast wraps are simple, easy-to-prepare breakfasts. Consider adding one of the following egg-cellent choices to your breakfast routine.  

1. Hard-boiled eggs:

Place eggs in a deep pot and add enough cold water to cover them by about 1 inch. Cover the pot with a lid and heat over medium heat until the water boils. Boil for 6–7 minutes to fully cook the yolk or boil for 4 minutes for soft-boiled eggs. Finally, using a slotted spoon, remove eggs from the hot water and place them in a large bowl of ice water. Allow them to cool for at least 5 minutes. Hard-boiled eggs can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.

Pair hard-boiled eggs with a piece of sprouted grain bread, spinach, and mashed avocado, or eat chilled with a piece of fruit and a small handful of almonds.

2. Check out our Omelet Cups recipe.

3. Choose from the options below to add to a whole-grain wrap and 2 scrambled eggs:

  • Spinach, onions, ½ teaspoon pesto, and ¼ avocado
  • Red pepper, kale, feta, and kalamata olives
  • 3 ounces turkey sausage, red bell pepper, and broccoli
  • Asparagus, spinach, and tomatoes

Tip #2: Transform your Leftovers for Lunch

Leftovers are a great addition to prepped meals. While you are preparing dinner, cook a few extra servings of protein, vegetables, and starches. This allows you to quickly and easily make wraps, salads, and power bowls that taste great, keep you feeling satisfied, and save time and money. Don’t overcomplicate your lunch menu by coming up with five different recipes for each day of the week. Instead, think about the foods you are preparing for dinner and get creative with simple sides, sauces, and toppings to change up the flavors. Consider adding leftover chicken and roasted vegetables to a wrap with avocado or serve them over a bed of greens with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of olive oil.  

Leftover vegetables and meat can also be added to omelets, stir-fries, and soups to save on prep time. Keep simple yet flavorful ingredients like pesto, Dijon mustard, nuts, seeds, salsa, dried cranberries, and lemons and limes on hand for low-calorie flavor additions.  

Tip #3: Embrace (Healthy) Convenience Foods

The grocery store is full of convenience foods that aren’t full of added sugar, salt, and fat. Skip frozen dinners and purchase foods that will reduce your prep time without sacrificing flavor and freshness. There is no shame in buying chopped vegetables or salad kits if you know it will help you add extra vegetables to your meals. Canned beans and tomatoes are easy additions to soups, stir-fries, and grain bowls, and you don’t have to worry about them spoiling. It is also a good idea to keep a few bags of frozen fruits and vegetables on hand for smoothies, stir-fries, or simple low-carb sides.

Tip #4: Get Resourceful

Dust off your crockpot, make a few homemade marinades, and clear out your freezer. Meal prep doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with recipes you know you like and have already mastered. Look in your pantry for whole grains, spices, and sauces you already have on hand and then build your shopping list around those ingredients. Below are a few ways to simplify meal prep and utilize pantry staples.

  • Add roasted chicken breast and sautéed vegetables, like carrots, celery, onions, peppers, and sweet potatoes, to bone broth instead of making a full batch of soup from scratch.
  • Sauté onions with a can of chickpeas and a can of diced tomatoes for a chunky chickpea ragù. Serve the sauce over a protein of choice and steamed broccoli and top with shredded Parmesan cheese.
  • Add frozen spinach and a tablespoon of pesto to 4 cups of grains or whole-grain pasta for extra nutrients and flavor.
  • Cook one cup of store-bought salsa, one cup of water, and two tablespoons of taco seasoning with four chicken breasts in a crockpot for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low for Mexican-style pulled chicken.
  • Sauté 1 pound of cubed chicken with frozen stir-fry mix. Add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. Top with hot sauce and chopped peanuts.

Tip #5: Keep Healthy Swaps on Hand

Once you have planned your weekly menu, consider swapping traditional ingredients for healthier alternatives. Simple swaps add additional nutrients or protein to your meal or even reduce the amount of sugar, fat, or sodium included in the original recipe. Below is a list of healthy swaps to consider:

Ready to start improving your gut health? Purchase Ixcela today for access to our recipe, mindfulness, and fitness libraries that will help you implement your Ixcela personalized nutrition, supplement, mindfulness, and fitness recommendations. For more free, gut-healthy tips, tricks, and recipes, go to Ixcela Resources, check out our snacking article, and visit Ixcela on Facebook and Instagram.

How do you know what to cook for dinner if you want to improve your gastrointestinal fitness? How about your immuno fitness?

Did you know Ixcela customers receive access to our library of over 200 gut-healthy recipes? The easy-to-use filters allow you to find dishes to support your personal gut health and align with your dietary preferences. The Ixcela recipe library has something for every chef’s skill level and features ingredients that are readily available at most grocery stores.

Ready to start improving your gut health? Purchase Ixcela today for access to our recipe, mindfulness, and fitness libraries that will help you implement your Ixcela personalized nutrition, supplement, mindfulness, and fitness recommendations.

About the Author

Photo: Rachel Stuck, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Rachel Stuck has a background in culinary arts and nutrition counseling. Rachel takes a positive approach to nutrition: she avoids recommending restrictive diets and instead focuses on helping people choose foods that promote health and well-being. She is passionate about empowering and assisting Ixcela members as they develop their unique, gut-healthy lifestyles.

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Interested in learning more about Ixcela? Check out Ixcela’s microbiome test, personalized nutrition and fitness plans, and other tools to help you optimize your health.