Meal Prep Strategies to Fit Your Life

Nature's Greens turnip greens meal prep horizontal.jpg

Meal prep: two little words that can bring up a lot of different feelings. Some people feel very strongly against meal prep or simply have zero interest. Others are totally passionate about meal prep and how much time it saves during the week. Then there are other people who see some benefits but do it more as a chore.

Honestly, I’ve felt all of those things before. You may have, too, and that’s okay! Before I had kids, even when I worked full time outside of the home, I just never saw the appeal of meal prep. I loved cooking, even after a long day at work. I didn’t even like to have leftovers!

Fast forward a couple of years and now I run my own business and, oh yeah, we’ve added two kids to the fam! My lifestyle has totally changed now compared to when it was just my husband and I, and I am 100% aboard the meal prep train now. Meal prepping is a simple habit that makes a huge, positive impact on decreasing the stress of my week, feeding my family nourishing foods, a positive impact on my budget, and allows me more time to spend on weeknights with my family.

Do you have to meal prep? Not at all. But as a registered dietitian, I work my hardest to empower my clients with strategies to create simple, healthy habits for a balanced lifestyle. And every week I hear more and more how meal prep is a strategy that allows many of my clients to continue to make healthy choices when they’re tired, busy, or when life just generally happens.

One key to meal prep? You have to find a strategy that works for you. That’s why some people are obsessed with identical meals for every day of the week but to others that feels like a foodie’s prison sentence. Check out six of my favorite meal prep strategies:

One Recipe Used Many Ways

I like to make easy recipes with simple ingredients that I can use for multiple meals. A couple of my favorites:

Lemon Garlic Turnip Greens

Lemon Garlic Turnip Greens

●     Lemon Garlic Turnip Greens: these turnip greens are simply sauteed and given a flavor boost in 15 minutes. And being such a simple recipe, they pair with a lot. I will grab a portion with some eggs and fruit for breakfast, throw in a wrap or tacos with some black beans or shredded chicken, and tomatoes and guac, stir in with some pasta and parmesan, or add as a leafy green side dish to a protein and complex carb.

●     Salsa Chicken: all you really need is chicken and salsa - that’s it! And it’s a versatile recipe that it can be prepared in the oven, on the stove, in a slow cooker, or (my personal favorite) in the Instant Pot. This can be used on salads, in tacos, burritos, grain bowls, in enchiladas, on sandwiches, and more!

DIY Freezer Meals

 My freezer is my BFF when it comes to meal prep. I’m definitely one of those people who doesn’t always love eating the same thing every day. One of my favorite meal prep strategies is to freeze the leftovers when I make things like soups, proteins, grains, etc. 

But I don’t just dump all of the leftovers into a single bag or container and pop it in the freezer. I’ve learned that I’m far less likely to use the leftovers this way. The key for me is to freeze leftovers in individual portions. This way I can grab portioned components from the freezer to quickly make my own freezer meal.

My current favorites? Cilantro lime quinoa with fajita chicken and vegetables. I use a general guideline of making half of my plate non-starchy vegetables, so I’ll usually round out the meal with something simple like raw veggies, bagged salad mix, or frozen vegetables steamed in the microwave.

Pre-Chop and Measure

If I have a specific recipe or two I want to make for the week but am not sure if I’ll have time to make the whole recipe the night of, I prep what I can in advance. This usually looks like chopping vegetables or proteins and pre-measuring ingredients.

Some favorite recipes to pre-chop and measure to have ready to make on a busy weeknight include:

●     Healthy Sweet and Sour Chicken

●     Adobo Lime Portobello Tacos

●     Sheet Pan Chicken and Vegetables

Prep Basic Meal Components

 One really popular meal prep strategy is component cooking. So this means preparing individual components that can be ready to use either in a recipe or a quick meal later in the week. Think like roasting vegetables, cooking spaghetti squash, making hard boiled eggs, preparing a batch of rice, or making salmon patties.

Shop Your Meal Prep

We all have those weeks where there’s no time (or even sometimes desire!) to meal prep, right? Try shopping for nourishing and convenient staples which can make a big difference in your healthy eating, budget, and time for the week.

Some of my favorite foods to shop and have meal ready include:

●     Rotisserie chicken

Nature’s Greens triple-washed leafy greens.

Nature’s Greens triple-washed leafy greens.

●     Pre-washed and chopped salad kits and leafy greens (like Nature’s Greens convenient bagged greens!)

●     Canned tuna

●     Canned beans (I buy no salt added and then still drain and rinse before using)

●     Frozen vegetables

●     Frozen fruit

●     Sauces, salsa, and salad dressings (look for lower sodium and lower added sugar options)

Pick and choose what’s worth it to you. Example: if you love butternut squash but have a terrible (and even unsafe) time trying to peel it and chop it, buy a bag of chopped butternut squash cubes that are ready to go.

Don’t Forget - Food Should Taste Good

One final meal prep reminder - don’t forget that your food should taste good! I find meal prep can often by synonymous with bland, boring, “diet food” but that doesn’t have to be the case at all! Don’t forget to either make or purchase things like fresh herbs, sauces, and salad dressings.

Here are some of my favorite sauces, dressings, and dips to prep for more enjoyable eating:

●     3-Ingredient Honey Mustard Dressing

●     4-Ingredient Garlic Ginger Sauce (for an easy stir fry)

●     Cilantro Lime Dressing

●     5-Minute Avocado Green Sauce

●     Orange Basil Pesto

●     Salted Caramel Honeycrisp Apple Butter(all fruit-sweetened/ no added sugar)

●     Nut-Free Romesco Sauce

●     3-Ingredient Spinach Artichoke Dip

Are you a meal prepper? Share with us your favorite meal prep strategies that help make your busy days more manageable!

This is a sponsored blog written by Lindsey Janeiro, RDN, LDN. All opinions are hers. Visit https://nutritiontofit.com for more of her work!