What do you think of when you hear the term “meal prep?” Most of us think of neat rows of containers, all with the same 1-2 meals inside. This looks neat and organized, but it can also look overwhelming. For some, it may even look boring and repetitive. Some people love the consistency that meal prep brings and have no problem eating the same meals regularly. If this is you, that’s great! There’s nothing wrong with practicing a habit that helps you stay on track. For many of us however, meal prep seems like a task that is just too difficult to tackle.
How to meal prep
The good news is that meal prep can look however you want it to. You can decide what meals you have, how often you have them, and how much you prep ahead of time. Whether you want a neat row of pre-planned meals or just a few items cooked in bulk and ready in the fridge, you can make meal prepping work for you. To get started, here are 3 steps to make meal prep a little easier:
1) Make a grocery list with a few meals in mind
Think ahead about what you want to eat this week. You don’t have to decide on a specific recipe, just get a general idea of what types of food you might want. Do you want chicken or seafood? Rice or pasta? Salad or roasted vegetables? Start with prepping 3-4 meals rather than an entire week’s worth.
If you start with 1-2 proteins, 2-3 different vegetables, and a couple of starch choices, you will have a few base components to create your meals with.
2) Decide what items you want to prep ahead of time
You can go ahead and prepare all your meals for the week if you want, but it's usually easier to focus on a few ingredients that usually take more time and effort to prepare. This is usually the protein and sometimes the vegetables depending on how you want them prepared.
By preparing the items that take more time to cook beforehand, you save yourself a lot of time when it comes to preparing dinner.
For example: If you have grilled chicken and roasted vegetables prepped, then you just have to take the time to prepare some brown rice to go with it.
3) Cook in bulk
Once you decide what you will be prepping, make sure to cook enough to last several meals. If you cook the items with basic seasonings, it makes it easier to add them to other dishes you prepare throughout the week. To add variety, add additional seasonings or sauces right before you heat up your meals.
One example of how to do this is to cook a sheet pan full of chicken with some basic seasonings like salt, pepper, and onion powder. Once you have that chicken cooked off, it’s easy to add that chicken to soups, salads, pastas, wraps, sandwiches, or casseroles —or freeze half for later!
4) Go for convenience
You don’t have to cook every part of your meal! You can buy precut vegetables, frozen vegetables, salad mixes, cooked chicken, cans of beans and tuna, and microwaveable brown rice and quinoa.
Convenience can also mean washing and chopping your vegetables in one go, so you can throw them into whatever you’re planning to cook. Or perhaps you’d like to have fruit throughout the week – it can be helpful to spend 20 minutes prepping on Sunday so it’s ready to go for the week.
An example of meal prep for this week:
Meal 1: Sheet pan chicken fajitas
- On 1 sheet tray, add chicken thighs and fajita vegetables (peppers, onions) with fajita seasoning.
- On another sheet tray, add pre-cut broccoli, brussels sprouts, and chopped carrots; mix with salt + pepper, garlic, onion powder
- Bake both at 400F for 20-30 minutes.
- The chicken and roasted vegetables can be added to other meals, like a quick whole grain pasta dish or stir-fried with your favorite sauce.
Meal 2: Kale quinoa salad
- Make a big batch of quinoa and cut up your kale. Set aside some quinoa for other meals.
- Make your favorite version of this salad and top with protein of choice (hard boiled eggs, a can of beans, rotisserie chicken, salmon). Kale is a great meal prep vegetable because it’s sturdy and will stay good for a few days.
- Make extra salad dressing for another day.
Meal prep can be a great tool to make your week less stressful and help you achieve your goals, whether it’s to have protein at every meal or 3 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Just don’t let the meal prepping itself cause you extra stress! Start small and pick one item that you want to try prepping – maybe it’s a batch of overnight oats or hard boiled eggs. Then, as you feel more comfortable, add other meal components to your prepping routine. A little bit of prep truly goes a long way, so I encourage you to go ahead and give it a try!
If you’d like to start meal prepping and need some extra guidance, book a consultation with your Sequence dietitian by messaging your Care Team.