If you ask anyone who lives a healthy lifestyle what their secret to eating well is, you will see one common trend. This one thing to they all do is: meal prep. Batch cooking food for the week and portioning it out into Tupperware. Instagram and social media is filled with snaps of beautifully stacked containers of food to fuel a busy life.
But here’s the caveat — what if you are the type to get bored eating the same thing every day. The type of person who dreads leftovers. To many, the assumption is that meal prep is a glorified version of a leftover meal plan that sounds pretty boring and bland. The truth of the matter is: meal prep doesn’t mean making a bunch of the same meals for the whole week . . . and here are ways to add variety without always adding extra prep time. Let me explain.
Meal prep is all about mixing and matching
In other words, utilizing pre-cooked ingredients without making entire meals in advance.
I prep a bunch of plain protein like chicken, and plain carbs like quinoa, and store in separate containers. Not that I’m going to have the same chicken quinoa bowl every day — I think I’d hate that by day two, and end up chucking my pre-made food and walking across the street for an overpriced salad. To keep the variety (it really is the spice of life), I picked a few different recipe ideas from Pinterest and social media that use chicken and quinoa — and they’re all totally different. I also mix and match different protein and carb sources for my meals throughout the day.
Proteins = roasted chicken breast, steamed cod, sautéed extra lean ground turkey
Carbs = boiled quinoa, roasted plain sweet potato
Lunch = southwest chicken/ quinoa bowl with chili/ cumin/ tabasco
Dinner = taco salad made with extra lean ground turkey combined with chili powder & garlic over lettuce topped with salsa, guacamole
Lunch = mock shepherd’s pie with extra lean ground turkey mixed with sugar-free ketchup & chopped frozen green beans topped with mashed sweet potato
Dinner = stir-fried chicken with frozen Asian vegetables, garlic, ginger & soy aminos over quinoa
Lunch = lemon/ herb cod over spinach quinoa pilaf
Dinner = seafood stew with cod, frozen vegetables, crushed tomatoes, dried herbs, diced sweet potato
Lunch = quinoa skillet with egg, frozen vegetables and chopped chicken
Dinner = twice baked sweet potatoes topped with ground turkey and low fat cheese
Lunch = cold sweet potato and spinach salad topped with cod and roasted bell peppers
Dinner = chicken salad with Greek yogurt ranch dressing, served with sweet potato wedges
You can also make quinoa or sweet potato dishes that don’t have chicken (hello, protein powder + cinnamon breakfast porridge or egg sweet potato hash!) and chicken recipes that don’t use quinoa, like an arugula chicken salad. But having the chicken cooked and quinoa in Tupperware ready to go makes the meal prep a lot easier. Same amount of cook time, but I have flexible ingredients that work for multiple recipes, allowing for a varied weekly menu.
Having a well stocked freezer and pantry with non-perishable, long lasting ingredients means you can get creative with meals in minutes. Here are my top ingredients to keep around:
• Multiple different types of frozen vegetables
• Canned crushed tomatoes
• Variety of condiments like mustard, sugar-free ketchup, pickles, apple cider vinegar, minced ginger and garlic…
• Versatile staples like eggs, oatmeal, plain yogurt, almond milk
• A range of spices & herbs like cinnamon, cumin, chili, turmeric, paprika, dried herbs, steak spice… flavour food without the calories
I recommend portioning out the servings of chicken or your protein source into individual containers or ziplocks to reduce prep time of portioning during the week. Setting up measured-out packs is essential to maintaining portion-controlled throughout the week. Cooked grains and protein sources/meats can be used in things like salads, bowls, and hot meals for dinner. Portioned veggies can be tossed into a salad or smoothie, or served up as a side.
At any given moment, you can find at least four or five bags of frozen vegetables, and even more of chicken or fish in my freezer and fridge. Oftentimes, I just throw these into a skillet with different seasonings and foods, reheat for 5 minutes and voilà: you’ve gone from setting your money on fire weekly via takeout, to a meal prep goddess!
Having an arsenal of prepped ingredients to mix and match not only will make your meal prepping easier, but will also give your more exciting variety and tastier meals during the week. Planning ahead of time makes it easy to stay within your calorie limits and plugging your meals into the Body Beautiful app. Stay fit!