Beginner Meal Prep Tips and Recipes
When it comes to meal prep you should know by now that preparation is the key to success.
You should know if you need to prep more protein, veggies, healthy carbs, fruits or complete dinners to make this plan work a little easier for you. You should also know which meals are harder for you to manage without a plan and which ones you have mastered the “grab and go standard for your taste buds and time” so that you don’t have to put too much effort into those anymore.
Luckily, planning and preparing some of these items ahead of time will make healthy choices a no-brainer. Instead of running to the deli for a cold cut calorie bomb, you’ll have a home cooked feast on hand that can be heated up faster than you can walk drive 2 miles. (Leaving you with more time to squeeze in your daily workout!) And hey, you’ll save money while you’re at it.
Plus, if you’re intimidated by cooking, there are tons of sneaky tricks that can help make assembling delicious meals a cinch. From easy breakfast options to methods for whipping up meals in bulk, I’ve got expert tips to set yourself up for a fuss-free and healthy week. Whip out your favorite plastic containers, mason jars or zip lock bags and lets get started. Remember, ALWAYS LOOK OVER THE INGREDIENTS FIRST TO SEE IF IT CAN BE USED FOR ONE OF YOUR MEALS THROUGHOUT THE DAY. IF NOT, TWEAK THE RECIPE AS NEEDED!
Don’t cheat yourself from having success!
1. Season meat three ways using just one pan.
If you’re sticking to lean meats like chicken, chowing down on the same flavors can get tedious after a while. Save time without boring your taste buds by preparing two or three variations of chicken at once, using aluminum foil dividers in your pan. Buffalo, BBQ, honey mustard — you can have it all as long as you use clean ingredients and seasonings. Three birds, one pan!
2. Hard-boil eggs
An excellent source of protein, vitamins A and B and healthy fat, eggs should be a staple snack for any form of healthy living. 2 eggs equals 1 red container so they are great to add to salads when you need them with a green container or eat them in the morning with salt and pepper for a quick red container on the go. For some fool proof ways to make hard boiled eggs you can click here:
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4. Chop or spiralize raw vegetables in advance.
Too hangry to make dinner at the end of a long day or do you find yourself needing to eat a vegetable for one of you meals but you simply don’t want take the time to cut anything up? Same for me. If you cut veggies in bulk ahead of time (or easier yet, purchase them pre-cut) you can avoid wasting precious minutes chopping during the work week. You can make this step a breeze with a simple Spiralizer to make Zucchini noodles (“zoodles”) that will stay fresh in the fridge for 3-5 days. Chopped vegetables like carrots, onion and pepper will last a week when refrigerated properly in a sealed plastic bag or container. You can find some amazing low-carb spiralizer recipes here.
5. Roast different vegetables with same cooking time.
Roasting vegetables is a great way to bring out their natural sweetness, but waiting 30 to 40 minutes for each pan of nutrient-rich goodness to cook can be time-consuming. To prep a large batch of veggies, try pairing them based on roasting time. Fast-cooking vegetables that can bake in the same pan include asparagus, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes; slow-roasting vegetables include carrots, cauliflower, onions, potatoes and parsnips. You can find a recipe for basic roasted vegetable recipes here. Fall Roasted Vegetables here.
Roasted Kale here. Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms here. Roasted Broccoli here.
6. Make portions crystal clear.
Guard against overeating by portioning your nuts, hummus, guacamole, veggies or favorite nibbles into plastic baggies or portable jars. It’s easy to mindlessly munch when you’ve got an entire bag sitting in front of you, but having just enough ready to go for lunch or a snack will keep you from going overboard.
7. Customize healthy oatmeal jars.
Fiber-rich foods like oatmeal are ideal for keeping you satiated until lunchtime, but most packets have lots of added sugar and unnatural preservatives. If you DIY and use portable glass jars, you’ll control exactly what and how much you’re eating. From “monkey mix” to “raspberries and dark chocolate,” these genius flavor combinations will keep your taste buds happy, too.
Pick a recipe or two that sound good and prep a few of these for the week to use as breakfast or a quick snack.
8. Use muffin tins for smarter breakfast frittatas.
You could enjoy a fancy frittata every morning of the week, and only turn your stove on once. The secret? Make-ahead egg muffins! Make several of these recipes in advance (you can store in the fridge for up to five days) so you don’t get bored throughout the week. Wrap them in a paper towel to microwave them so they won’t dry out. Mini Egg Cups recipe here. Savory Egg Muffin Cups here.
9. Always roll with some protein-rich snacks.
Protein is essential for muscle recovery after a tough workout and it also keeps hunger at bay — making it an A+ choice for snacks. Instead of reaching for a packaged protein bar that could have more than 400 calories and 28 grams of sugar, try making your own energy balls. Whip up a batch and store them in the fridge for up to six days.
Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Energy Balls
Apple Blondie Shakeology Balls
10. Pre-assemble jarred lunch salads.
Think salad from home is a no-go because it always gets soggy? Think again. Using a glass jar will save your veggies from getting mucky before lunchtime. Put your dressing at the bottom of the jar, layer sturdier produce like cucumbers and peppers. Then save any leafy greens or grains (we’re loving quinoa) up top. Put a paper towel square at the top to absorb moisture if you’re storing the salad for multiple days. Or, opt for a salad jar like this one — complete with a separate dressing compartment — for a mess-free solution. Make 4 on Sunday and your set for the week.
Veggie Salads in a Jar
Mustard Chicken and Spinach in a Mason Jar
Chickpea, Quinoa and Greens Salad in a Jar
11. Meal Prep Quinoa
Quinoa is far from new to the health food world — it’s been called “the world’s most popular superfood. It gets this attention for good reason, too. First, quinoa is higher in protein than rice or barley, which makes it a potential answer to food insecurity in many parts of the world and a great option for vegans and vegetarians, who get less animal protein. It’s also high in calcium, magnesium and manganese, which are all essential minerals. Quinoa is among the least allergenic of all the grains, making it a fantastic wheat-free choice.
Of course, health benefits are all well and good, but that’s not all quinoa has going for it. Quinoa has a sweet, nutty flavor, plus a delicate texture that’s less starchy than rice and other grains. It also cooks in just 20 minutes. But all of these accolades don’t mean every box of quinoa comes with free recipe inspiration included. If you’ve got a box that’s been collecting dust in the back of your cabinets, it’s time to bust it out.