Why You Should Meal Prep and Four Must-Have Tips
Starting and staying on your health journey is not easy. But what if you could save time in your busy schedule, save money in your budget, and simply eat better with less work? Meal prepping is a great solution to making your life easier while making strides towards your health goals. We know the idea of cooking a week’s worth of food at one time can be a bit daunting but trust us, it doesn’t have to be that way! Meal prepping is designed to be quick, easy, sustainable and best of all, it gets easier over time. Portion control and ensuring a well-balanced meal are some of the great benefits of prepping your weekly meals. In addition, food that’s already prepared and ready for you to grab and go sets you up for success. We’ve come up with a few tips and tricks to meal prepping and an easy-to-follow recipe for five simple meals. All you need is 40 minutes!
Tip 1: Make sure you have enough containers
It might sound a little silly but it’s hard to stock your fridge with delicious meals for the week if you don’t have enough food storage containers. We recommend using glass over plastic for a few reasons – it’s better for the environment and for your health! When you choose plastic containers, you’re exposing yourself to chemicals in the plastic that can migrate into your food during microwaving. Plus, glass lasts longer and won’t stain.
Tip 2: Be open to Trying Different Vegetables
Yes, you might run into some vegetables that you aren’t too keen on but you will likely find some unexpected new vegetables that you love, which will help expand your taste buds and keep you from getting bored. Broccoli, cauliflower, and squash are all great vegetables with amazing nutrient profiles so, be open to trying different foods and just remember, you can tweak recipes to control what goes in them!
Tip 3: Find a Protein Source That Works for You
Whether you eat meat or not, protein is an integral part of fueling your body and keeping your bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood strong and healthy. There are many different foods that you can get protein from but remember, not all proteins are created equal. Here is a great chart to keep handy, not only to see the nutrient profiles, but to also check out where else you can get protein from!
Side note for meat eaters: Boneless, skinless chicken breast maybe lower in fat but tends to dry out very easily in the fridge. I have tried it with every sauce and seasoning known to exist and it’s still dry and lack-luster. For this reason, I almost exclusively use boneless chicken thighs. The fat content is a little bit higher, but this allows it to keep in the fridge for multiple days without becoming cardboard. Remember, you’ve got to enjoy what you eat, otherwise you’ll go looking for something else. This is also beneficial for keto-friendly diet plans.
Tip 4: Switch Up Your Carbohydrate Sources
Carbs are an important energy source in most balanced diets but it’s important to know the quality of your carbs. Opt for complex carbs such as beans, whole grains, and vegetables and in general try not to overdo it. Nutritional apps like MyFitnessPal are a great way to keep track of your carb intake but don’t forget to listen to your body and notice which complex carbs may be working better for you. Everyone is different!
Now that we’ve gone over a few important points for meal prepping, let’s dive into an easy-to-use, delicious recipe for a week-long lunch or dinner meal prep!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
- 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs or 10 pieces (Vegetarian? Omit the chicken all together and add more vegetables or try a mock meat alternative such as tempeh.)
- 4 cups of broccoli
- 5 medium red potatoes
- ½ cup your choice of BBQ sauce (Primal Kitchen’s Classic BBQ Sauce is a great low-sugar alternative or make your own!)
- ½ cup ketchup (for a low-sugar alternative, omit the ketchup all together)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Clean - Start off by cleaning all your chicken thighs of any large chunks of fat. Remember that thighs have a higher fat content so cleaning off the obvious pieces of fat will help to mitigate that. I like to use poultry or kitchen shears – it’s easier to clip the pieces of fat off and finish quicker.
- Marinate - Place your cleaned chicken thighs in a large bowl and add the BBQ sauce, ketchup and olive oil. Combine until the sauce completely coats the chicken. Set aside to marinate. If you’re trying tempeh, slice your tempeh into smaller pieces and marinate as well (the longer the better).
Oven or Grill? - Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit or turn on your grill to medium-high heat and allow to warm up. I love a good char on my food – I could eat something off the grill for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you don’t have a grill, the same thing can be achieved in an oven at high heat. The sugars in the ketchup and BBQ sauce will caramelize and brown to get that nice charred flavor. If you don’t prefer to char your food, lower your oven temperature to 425 degrees.
For the vegetarian alternative, preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add tempeh and reserve any leftover marinade to coat the tempeh once baked. Bake for 22-30 minutes until browned. Remove from oven and coat with any remaining marinade.
- Vegetables - While you’re heating things up, slice the stalks off a head of fresh broccoli until you have about 4 cups of broccoli. Place in a pot with a steamer basket and steam for 8-10 minutes until tender. If you’re looking for an easier route, you could take 4 cups of frozen broccoli and prepare according the instructions on the packaging.
Potatoes - Lightly pierce 5 red potatoes with a knife or fork and microwave 2 at a time for 10 minutes, flipping half way through. Tip: After cooking in the microwave, place on the grill until lightly crispy on the outside for some added flavor. Stay away from the saturated fats of butter and simply season with salt and pepper when you’re ready to eat them.
If you don’t have a grill, you may opt to use an oven at 450 degrees for 20-30 minutes. You’ll need to toss your potatoes in ½-1 tbsp of olive oil to keep from sticking to your sheet pan (if preferred, you can spray your pan with cooking spray or line a baking sheet with aluminum foil). I prefer to cut the potatoes in half and arrange cut-side down on the pan and add a desired amount of salt and pepper! Roast until tender and golden, checking after 20 minutes.
Get Sizzlin’ - On the Grill: Mix your chicken around one more time to re-coat the thighs and place on your grill. Close the lid and cook for 8 minutes before flipping the chicken and letting cook another 8 minutes. Ensure the internal temperature of your chicken reaches 165 degrees before removing from the grill and placing on a plate.
In the Oven: Mix your chicken around one more time to re-coat the thighs and place on a baking sheet in a single a layer. Bake at 475 for 15 minutes and broil for an additional 2 minutes until the chicken begins to char in several places or bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Ensure the internal temperature of your chicken reaches 165 degrees before removing from the oven.
- Assemble! - Grab five containers and place your chicken (or tempeh) into each container as desire. I typically eat two thighs per meal, depending on the size of each piece. (You can also use a kitchen scale to ensure each serving gets roughly the same amount.) Place a potato in each container and finally, spoon in about ¾ cup of broccoli or eyeball it until you’ve got about an equal amount in each container.
There you have it! A week’s worth of meals ready to eat in less than an hour! Do you have a favorite recipe, or did you try this one? Let us know!