If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know I’m an advocate of meal prepping. I know… “meal prepping” sounds a bit like a mom who stocks her freezer with a month’s worth of casseroles. (And before I get a lot of heat, my mom is a terrific cook who rarely made casseroles and never froze them.) But I like to imagine it’s a bit more glamorous than that—especially if you do it right.
Here’s the unfortunate truth: eating nutritious food usually isn’t as convenient as eating junk.
But prepping in advance makes piecing together a healthy meal much easier.
For me, meal prepping takes care of the never-ending chore of deciding what to eat. Not only is the cooking done, but I know it’s nutritious, balanced and tasty, and that it’s staying on track with my healthy eating goals. Plus, just knowing I have food sitting in my fridge makes me less likely to eat out—which also saves money.
Whatever your reasons may be, try it for a few weeks and see if your stress levels drop! Here’s how it goes down:
1. Shop for the Goods
My grocery list for the week covers all of the building blocks of delicious, healthy meals. Each combination typically includes a protein (like chicken, ground turkey and fish), vegetables (endless options, but my current favs are brussels sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower and butternut squash), and a carb (like potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, red lentil pasta, fruit, pita bread, etc.).
2. Prep the Veggies
I LOVE roasted vegetables. There are few more comforting tastes to me and I will never get sick of them. I wash the veggies, chop them, spray them with coconut oil spray and put them on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. I finish them off with a few minutes under the broiler because I love the char it gives. My favorite veggie seasonings right now are the Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning and garlic powder—absolutely delicious!
3. Cook the Protein
Whatever protein I choose, I cut it up into smaller pieces, season it, spray the pan with non-stick coconut oil spray and cook on medium heat. You can get really creative with seasonings. Try adding Trader Joe’s Soyaki to chicken for an Asian flair or taco seasoning to ground turkey for a more Mexican style. I also love adding Indian spices like saffron to chicken for a change-up. Meat is cheaper in bulk, so I typically buy a family pack of chicken breasts, use what I need and put the rest in the freezer. I also think it’s key to have some easy-to-grab protein sources—like my favorite ONE Bar flavors—that allow you to fill that macronutrient category without thought or preparation.
4. Carb Sources
If I’m being honest, most times I don’t include a carb source besides vegetables at lunch and save the carbs to eat later in the day. The reason for that is I prefer my post-workout meal to be higher in carbs to replenish glycogen (muscle fuel). Oatmeal and cream of wheat travel packets are so convenient to make at school with a scoop of protein mixed in. But if you prefer carbs with every meal or to have on hand, you could boil your rice, quinoa, pasta or fruit and then add it how you prefer. It’s all about balance. (But I want my protein ice cream toppings!)
5. Portion it Out
If you’re someone who counts macros (carbs, fats, and protein), then you probably weigh the portions so you’re consistent from day to day. I usually aim for 3 ounces protein and veggies per meal, but I’m not strict at all—I usually weigh it once and eyeball the other four meals for the week. Packaged foods are so easy in this way—you simply scan the barcode and pull up the Nutrition Facts panel.
Stick the containers in your fridge and you are prepped for a week! I’ll heat up any random assortment of these things with rice for Asian stir-fry, over a salad, on a FlatOut wrap with some cheese for a flatbread, or with some whole wheat pasta or zucchini noodles and for a veggie-packed spaghetti dish. Allow yourself to get creative with your staples and you won’t find it boring. I always pack a Greek yogurt snack (tip: add stevia or fruit to unflavored yogurts to avoid unnecessary carbs and sugars) and sometimes “protein brownies” if I have them on hand.
I hope some of these tips inspire you to try meal planning! Meal prepping doesn’t have to take hours and hours, take up your entire fridge or be completely bland or boring. Make things you enjoy and can piece together for different meals throughout the week. It’ll save you from grabbing things out of hunger that might not be as nutritious. Once it’s done and your kitchen is clean—it’s the best feeling. Just fill a plate, reheat and enjoy!