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The meal prep secret is out. Everywhere you look, chefs, dietitians, food bloggers and the Insta-famous have all embraced the #mealpreplife. After all, this ultimate healthy eating habit can save time and money, and with healthy food ready and accessible, you’re less likely to make a poor meal choice. If we don’t plan or prep, it’s much easier to fall into the rut of eating the same few things over and over or to become less mindful of our choices and how we enjoy the food.
Your weekly meal prep routine is also a great opportunity to rev up the nutritional profile of your meals, making it easier to stick to your health goals — whether that’s cutting back on sugar, calories or processed ingredients. If you’re making it at home, it’s already healthier than what you can buy out at a restaurant. You control each ingredient and can tailor your food to your preferences and restrictions. Ready to step up your meal prep to slim down your plate? Here are ten pro tips on how to meal prep for better health — and flavor — in every bite.
Create Healthier Dishes with These Meal Prep Tips
1. Mix and Match
Meal prep doesn’t have to mean prepping the same meal for the entire week. Instead, focusing your meal prep efforts on prepping the main elements of a meal — grains, protein, veggies, sauces — so you can mix and match ingredients and create well-balanced, nourishing dishes you’ll enjoy. This erases the boredom and burnout that many meal preppers report experiencing. I like to cook a big pot of beans and grains to throw into salads, wraps, and grain bowls all week. Stick to basics like brown rice and chickpeas, or cook a big batch of faro, wheatberries or barley. When you have these ready, you just might skip that store-bought mac and cheese or pre-made pizza.
2. Create Your Own Secret Sauce
Prepping a stash of versatile sauces too so you can create a completely different meal from the same stash of ingredients. You can drizzle sauce over pasta, salads, and stir-fries. One of the favorites? Pesto for drizzling on everything. Making a sauce at home also eliminates the extra ingredients in packaged sauces that often skyrocket the sugar and calorie count in a dish.
3. Swap Wheat for Veggies
Try replacing half of your white or brown rice with cauliflower or broccoli rice. Not only will you get more fiber and vitamins and minerals, but you’ll also save a few calories. Pasta, whether pasta salad or your favorite noodles with sauce, is a go-to meal prep option. However, next time you make it, opt for zucchini or sweet potato noodles. The veggie noodles will add more color and texture to keep your palette entertained, not to mention extra fiber and vitamins — and fewer calories too! A general rule: Focus less on limiting food groups and more on swapping out low nutrient-dense foods with those loaded with vitamins and minerals, You’ll eat healthier, still feel satisfied and most likely cut back on calories in the meantime.
4. Go Spice Crazy
Spices are every cook’s secret weapon. You can create an endless variety of good-for-you meals featuring a mix of different flavors. Look to international flavors for inspiration. If you take chicken, asparagus and sweet potato, you can make that an Indian-inspired dish by turning it into a curry or a Mexican-inspired dish by adding in cilantro, some jalapeños, and lime. The best part: Herbs and spices are shallow in calories. So while you up the flavor, you don’t get up the energy count.
5. Overload on Veggies
We all need to eat our veggies, right? So why not sneak in some extra into your prepped meals? You can typically eat a lot of it and not have to worry about packing in a lot of unwanted calories. Opt for sweet potatoes or cauliflower, which are both filling and nutrient-dense. Or swap cabbage into a hearty stew instead of noodles.
6. Pack for Portion Control
Not only do good food containers keep your refrigerator neat and organized, they can also keep you honest about portion sizes to help you avoid overeating. Glass Bentgo containers, which are divided into sections — one for your main meal and one for a side of veggies or fruit.
7. Make Your Appliances Work for You
Instant Pot, slow cooker, multi-cooker — chances are you have one (or all) of them in your cabinets. Instead of letting them collect dust, put them to use! Making a big batch up oatmeal in an Instant Pot spiked with fruit, spices, nuts, and seeds and you’ll have nourishing breakfast for the entire week. It’s a healthier choice than the pre-packaged, processed breakfast options out there.
8. Organize and Declutter
Decluttering can set up your environment for meal prepping and make for a more efficient process and make mealtimes less stressful. We can then enter a meal with a more positive or relaxed mindset and be more aware of hunger signals, making it less likely you’ll eat past the point of fullness. This is one of the things that supports a healthy, balanced relationship with food. So throw out or repurpose containers that don’t have matching lids. Invest in stackable containers and other commonly used items like a good chef’s knife and cutting board. And then get to prepping — your daily sugar and calorie counts might drop by your next meal time.
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