by Rachel Stuck, RDN & Nicole Parolisi
Most people know what a balanced meal looks like, but the struggles arise when it comes time to prepare or better yet be prepared.
If you’ve mastered meal prep, even just for one day, you know how beneficial it is, and if you haven’t, it isn’t hard to imagine how helpful it can be. Having healthy meals on hand will help you stay on track and save time during a busy work week. All it takes is a little effort, a few time-saving tips, and a plan.
Meal prep is of course all about planning, but it doesn’t have to be so complex. Setting aside just one hour to cook at home can make a big difference in the choices you make throughout the week. Meal prep can happen at all times of the week by taking advantage of extra minutes in the evening. Simple efforts to utilize a warm oven or chop a few extra servings of vegetables goes a long way! Below you’ll find tips to help you master meal prep without spending countless hours in the kitchen.
Small changes to your mealtime routine can make a big impact on the health of your meals and eating habits.
Starting your day right is always a good move. Fuel up with protein, vegetables, and healthy fat to ensure mental clarity first thing in the morning. Eggs paired with vegetables are a nutrient-dense addition to breakfast that can be prepared in a variety of ways.
Hard-boiled eggs, breakfast wraps, and premade omelet cups are a simple addition to your daily eating plan and are a breeze to prepare. Consider adding one of the following egg-cellent breakfast choices to your breakfast routine.
Place egg(s) in a deep pot and add enough cold water to cover eggs with about 1 inch of water. Cover pot with lid. Heat water over medium heat until 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 hot water and place in a large bowl of ice water and let cool for at least 5 minutes. Store in 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.
Eggs, spinach, onions, ½ teaspoon pesto, and ¼ avocado
Eggs, red pepper, kale, feta, and kalamata olives
Eggs, 3 ounces turkey sausage, red pepper, and broccoli
Eggs, asparagus, spinach, and tomatoes
Leftovers are a great addition when prepping meals. Extra servings of protein, vegetables, and starches make it easy to create wraps, salads, and power bowls that taste great, keep you feeling satisfied, and save time and money. Don’t over complicate your lunch menu by coming up with 5 separate recipes for each day of the week, instead think about the foods that you are preparing for dinner and get creative with simple sides, sauces, and additions you can add. Consider adding leftover chicken and roasted vegetables to a wrap with avocado or over a bed of greens with a squeeze of lemon and dash of olive oil.
Leftover vegetables and meat can also be added to omelets, stir-fries, and soups to help save on prep time. Keep simple, yet flavorful additions on hand like pesto, dijon mustard, nuts, seeds, salsa, dried cranberries, and citrus like lemons and limes for a low-calorie flavor addition.
Dust off your crockpot, stock up on marinades, and clear out the leftovers in your freezer. Meal prep doesn’t have to be complicated, instead consider starting with recipes that you know you like and have already mastered or look in your pantry for whole grains, spices, and sauces you already have on hand. Then, build your shopping list around the meal components you already have. Below are a few ways to simplify meal prep and utilize pantry staples.
The grocery store is full of convenience foods that aren’t full of added sugar, salt, and fat. Skip frozen dinners and add foods to your shopping list that cut down on prep time without sacrificing flavor and freshness. There is no shame in buying pre-chopped vegetables or salad kits if you know it will assist you in adding extra vegetables to your meals. Canned beans and tomatoes are an easy addition 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 like broccoli, green beans, spinach, berries, and tart cherries. Frozen vegetables can easily be added to smoothies and stir-fries or quickly steamed for a simple low carb side.
Once you’ve got your menu planned for the week, consider swapping ingredients for a healthier alternative. Simple swaps can 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:
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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