When it comes to making healthier food choices, cooking at home is where it’s at. Cooking gives you more control over ingredients, preparation methods, and portion size compared to restaurants or take-out.
Even while working from home, juggling family and exercise, most of us don’t have the time or energy to cook during the week. That’s where the idea of meal prep comes in – you carve out a few hours on the weekend or whenever you have time to do the bulk of your cooking so you have healthy meals ready to eat during the busy work week.
Sounds great, right? But in practice, it can not only be time-consuming but also BORING to eat the same thing day after day. Plus, the images of beautifully stacked Tupperware you see all over social media can be intimidating. Luckily meal prep does NOT have to look perfect or be repetitive to help you eat healthier.
Instead, rethink the concept and focus instead on batch cooking versatile, staple ingredients you can use in various ways throughout the week.
This allows you to save time, eat healthily, and enjoy a variety of foods. Here are some easy ideas to get started:
Roast a whole chicken in the oven or crock-pot, or buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken (no shame in convenience!)
Idea 1: Enjoy with roasted red, white or sweet potatoes, and broccoli
Idea 2: Top leafy green salad, add additional veggies and beans or quinoa for complex carbs
Idea 3: Make fajitas: Add seasoning, sauté onions and peppers; wrap in whole wheat tortillas
Dietitian Tip: Remove skin from chicken before eating to limit saturated fat – but cooking with it on keeps the chicken more moist and flavorful.
Think beyond turkey burgers. Buy ground turkey in bulk; separate, sauté and use in a variety of ways.
Idea 1: Stuffed Bell Pepper: Slice peppers in halves; fill with cooked ground meat plus prepared barley, farro or your favorite whole grain; sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese; roast in the oven
Idea 2: Turkey Tacos: Sauté meat with taco seasoning; fill corn tortillas or taco shells with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, peppers, and onions; sprinkle Mexican or cotija cheese; top with guacamole and/or plain Greek yogurt
Idea 3: Turkey Meatballs: Add diced peppers, carrots and onions; roll into balls and bake; enjoy over whole wheat spaghetti, spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. Boost volume and nutrition by adding extra veggies such as spinach or broccoli.
Dietitian Tip: Whether turkey or beef, look for the leanest version available (i.e. 97/3)
Hard Boiled Eggs
A quick and easy way to boost protein in your meals and snacks. Boil a large batch on the stove or instant pot, or purchase pre-boiled versions for added convenience.
Idea 1: Grab & Go Breakfast: Pair with instant oatmeal or a grain-based granola bar for a balanced breakfast when you’re on the run
Idea 2: Build a Protein-Packed Salad: Top leafy greens with hard-boiled eggs (or make it a Cobb salad with other protein sources) + veggies + olive oil based dressing
Idea 3: Hunger-Curbing Snack: Pair eggs with fruit for a snack that will sustain you through your workday and workout
Idea 4: Post-Workout Snack: Skip the supplements, each hard-boiled egg has 6 grams protein!
Dietitian Tip: While most of the protein is in the white, the yolk contains important nutrients including Vitamin D and Choline.
Whether enjoyed cooked or raw, dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale are packed with nutrients including fiber, antioxidants, and plant-based iron.
Idea 1: Salad: Use as the base for a green salad
Idea 2: Smoothie: Throw into a smoothie for added fiber and nutrients
Idea 3: Veggie side dish: Sautee with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper
Dietitian Tip: Pai greens with oil, nuts or avocado to enhance absorption of fat–soluble vitamins A and K.
These ideas will help you optimize your grocery shopping, spend less time in the kitchen, and make meal prep easier and more delicious.