These four steps to easy meal prep are going to make dinner a simpler task and help you have meals ready faster than you can say, “one-leg Romanian deadlifts.”
Choose one day of the week to prepare as many ingredients as possible for the next week’s worth of meals.
For each meal, choose a lean protein, high-fiber slow-digesting carb, vegetable, and fruit.
As a lean protein, consider salmon or other fish, red or black beans, quinoa, organic chicken or turkey, lean grass-fed beef, or baked tofu. Protein helps you build your fat-burning furnace–i.e., muscle–and keeps you feeling full.
Sweet potatoes provide a punch of flavor to mundane meals, and their natural fiber will keep you sated longer while helping maintain healthy blood-sugar levels. They’re a great choice for your high-fiber slow-digesting carb. Not a fan of sweet potatoes? Add a glass of soy milk with your dinner for an alternative slow-burning carb.
Choose fresh vegetables when possible. Buy local, organic zucchini, peppers, tomatoes…whatever is in season and whatever is fresh. Frozen vegetables are the next best alternative when fresh local vegetables are not available.
Fruits like prunes, apples, and pears are great choices for high-fiber sources and their flavors meld well in various food combinations.
Try a mixture of leafy greens like kale, cabbage, or bok choy to form a vegetable base for your meals. Consider raw mushrooms for a nutritional boost with a mild taste that “plays well with others.”
BONUS TIP: Use a grocery app on your smartphone to house a list of all your ingredients so you remember to grab everything. (Added bonus: As long as you have your phone, you won’t forget your list!)
EASY MEAL PREP STEP 2: Steam, Slice, Store
Avoid using butters and oils by steaming instead of sautéing lean meats. This quick cooking method cuts calories and eliminates added fats. But if you just can’t stand steamed meat, feel free to use a small amount of olive oil in place of butter when you sauté, grill, or sear your meat. Whichever method you choose, prepare your meat or protein of choice on your designated day or evening. Keep it stored in your refrigerator, ready to use when needed.
Chop your vegetables and fruit ahead of time. Store and refrigerate. If you’d rather eat your vegetables cooked, cut them into cubes, parboil them, then store them for when you’re ready to cook completely.
Mixed greens can be kept in one container. Fresh strawberries added to leafy greens, when stored together, make a tasty base for this next step.
EASY MEAL PREP STEP 3: Mix for Magic
Now it’s time to get creative (but remember your proper portion sizes).
Add pieces of cooked lean meat to that leafy green/strawberries mixture and drizzle with a bit of vinaigrette.
Create a new taste (and a new meal) using the same strawberry-infused leafy greens by adding quinoa as your protein instead of chicken. Add a small amount of one of these healthy dressings varieties and a handful of slivered almonds.
Serve stir-fry using those chopped mushrooms and other fresh vegetables. Add a lean meat of choice (or toss in the baked tofu). Add some Asian flare to your stir-fry before serving by quickly mixing together two tablespoons of sesame oil, two tablespoons of honey, and a bit of grated ginger to taste.
Make a hefty, quick meal using sweet potatoes mixed with black beans in a quesadilla with a sprinkle of fontina or Parmesan cheese inside or out. A side salad of leafy greens and chopped mixed vegetables will round it out nicely.
EASY MEAL PREP STEP 4: Package for Convenience
Once you’ve prepared your dinners for the next week, it’s time to perfect the art of packaging those meals. Use sectioned containers to separate servings while keeping a full meal in a single container, perfect for heating up after you’ve had a tough day at work.
If parts of your meals aren’t microwavable, store them in containers big enough for the number of portions you’ll need for each night.
Layering is fun, too. Store some greens, mushrooms, chopped hard-boiled egg, black beans, and chicken morsels all layered in a Mason jar for another quick meal to grab on your way out the door. You can even give each family member their own Mason jar for a new twist on meal presentation. Offer various healthy dressings to suit everyone’s taste.
BONUS TIP: Sectioned containers are also handy for storing grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches. Whether you pack them a week in advance or the night before, you’ll save money and time by not making any additional stops on the way to work or during your lunchbreak.
Do you already have a system for your own easy meal prep? We want to hear it! The team at Cause and Effects Fitness is always looking for new ideas on how to make life easier, healthier, and much more fun.