Why Meal Prep?
Meal prepping is a trending behavior, and there are so many reasons why. Devoting time to prepping meals is a smart way to eat healthier, saving both time and money, and gaining control over what and how much you eat.
There is no silver bullet to meal prepping, so if you’re just getting started, sample different ideas to find an approach that feels right for you. Meal prepping can involve making multi-serving meals to portion and store so they’re ready to re-heat and eat. But meal prepping can also mean pre-cooking, or even just pre-preparing ingredients, so you don’t have to start cooking from scratch.
Prep on the Weekend
One savvy strategy that works for many people is to prep on the weekend for the coming week. This can be as simple as washing and chopping vegetables so they’re ready to cook, or pre-cooking a number of foods that can later be mixed and matched to create various meals.
3 Core Meal Component Groups
If you’re going to pre-cook several meal components, divide them into three key groups: vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy starches. Veggie prep can be as simple as purchasing ready-to-eat greens to stash in your fridge. You can also dress chilled vegetables or greens in herbed balsamic vinaigrette, pre-make healthy salad dressing so it’s ready to use, or sauté, grill, or oven roast a variety of vegetables to be re-heated when needed.
Prepping lean proteins can be as easy as stashing canned beans or wild salmon in the fridge, so they’re chilled and ready to add to salads. You can also cook and store hard boiled eggs, chicken breast, extra lean ground turkey, or seafood. Toss beans, chopped hard boiled eggs or canned salmon with jarred pesto, hummus, or seasoned tahini to pre-make quick protein salads. Or purchase a cooked rotisserie chicken for a meal prep super shortcut.
For starches, store pre-cooked whole grains, like brown or wild rice and quinoa, as well as starchy vegetables, including baked sweet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, and oven roasted butternut or spaghetti squash.
Mixing and Matching
When you have these components at the ready, all you need to do is decide how to put them together. For complete meals don’t forget to add a healthy fat, like extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) or EVOO-based pesto, olive tapenade, avocado, nuts, or seeds. For example, toss a generous portion of roasted or sautéed veggies with spaghetti squash and diced chicken breast, served over a bed of greens. Make a grain bowl by topping a small scoop of quinoa with greens, roasted or sautéed veggies, lentils, and drizzle with a spoonful of pesto. Pair a generous portion of grilled veggies with black beans, brown rice, and a side of avocado. Stir fry pre-cut veggies in vegetable broth, seasoned with ginger, garlic, and chili pepper, paired with steamed shrimp over wild rice, topped with sliced almonds.
Another way to meal prep is to make a second meal at dinner time and pack it for lunch the next day. These simple and practical meal prepping solutions can help you avoid poor eating pitfalls and give you the tools to eat healthfully for the long haul.
How do you Meal Prep?
Please share your own tips and tricks--as well as the meals from our website you like to make ahead--as part of your meal prep routine. Show us by tagging us on Instagram @naturesgreens and use #backtofresh. Your tip could be selected and featured on our account!