I’m a big proponent of home-prepared meals. Planning meals and preparing even just a few items in advance has helped me get dinner on the table night after night for more than 25 years! Here are some meal prep solutions for you.
My friend and colleague Toby Amidor shares my belief that home-prepared meals lead to better nutrition and healthier, happier families. Toby has written a brand new cookbook – The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook – to make nightly dinners delicious, nutritious and quick to put on the table. Here’s my brief interview with her and one of her delicious recipes.
Q: How does meal prepping help people eat more healthfully?
Meal prep is especially helpful for people with specific eating goals – like for diabetes or weight loss. When you’re armed with prepared meals and snacks, stopping at a fast food joint or hitting up the vending machine is a thing of the past.
Meal prepping also helps you control portions. Once you prep and cook your meals for the week, simply divide the food into specific portions for the rest of the week. Each of my recipes in The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook provides exact measurements for portions and a complete nutrition breakdown. For example, people with diabetes can see just how many grams of carbohydrates and other critical nutrients are in each recipe.
Q: What are two or three tips to get started with meal prepping?
- Start simple. You don’t have to create difficult meals. Aim for recipes with 7-10 ingredients. Staple sauces and dressings can be prepared in advance, so you can have them on hand. Simple staple dishes to start with are basic chicken dishes, burgers, and quinoa. Once you’re comfortable with these, you can start making more dishes or adding ingredients to the existing ones. For example, dress up quinoa with chopped tomatoes or sautéed mushrooms.
- Choose one day a week to batch cook. Set aside 4-5 hours one day per week to cook several dishes. You can cook double or triple the quantity and save half for later. Although you are spending a chunk of time in the kitchen, it will free up about 45 minutes on busy weeknights for other important things.
- Creatively reuse dishes. Eating the same dish every day can get boring! Plan to eat your dishes different ways. For example, if you’re batch cooking chicken breasts, eat it with quinoa and a salad one night and in a whole grain wrap or over a green salad for lunch the next day.
Q: What are some of your favorite ingredients to have on hand?
- Olive oil: Meal prep should be simple, especially when you’re starting out. Although you can use a variety of oils in the recipes, most use olive oil. So I make sure to always keep an extra bottle on hand.
- Canned beans: My pantry is stocked with no-salt added canned beans, which I use to make soups, chili, burgers, toss over a salad, or to add to quinoa or rice dishes.
- Lemons: I used both the juice and the zest of this citrus fruit in marinades, dressings, and batters to add flavor and to boost the vitamin C.
- Quinoa: Whole grains are an important part of any meal prep plan. Quinoa is my go-to whole grain that provides an extra boost of protein. I cook it in water or vegetable stock and eat it as is, or dress it up with fresh herbs or chopped fruit like mango. I eat quinoa as a side for lean protein, as part of a stir-fry, in a wrap and add it to a salad.
We’re lucky that Toby gives us a preview of her stunning cookbook, The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook? Here’s her recipe for Tuna Nicoise Salad. ENJOY!
- 2 small red potatoes, sliced into 1-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- 5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped (about 4 cups)
- 1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 (4-ounce) cans tuna packed in olive oil, undrained
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lemon, quartered
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat a baking sheet with the cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, add the potatoes, olive oil, and salt. Toss to evenly coat. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast until golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- While the potatoes are roasting, place the eggs in a medium pot and cover them with water. Place the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Cook the eggs for 3 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat, cover it, and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and run cold water over the eggs until they are completely cool, about 10 minutes. Peel and slice into quarters lengthwise.
- Into each of four glass containers, place 1 cup of the spinach. Top each with ¼ cup of the potatoes, 4 egg quarters, ¼ cup each of green beans and tomatoes, and ½ can of tuna with the oil. Sprinkle each with the black pepper and add a lemon wedge. When ready to eat, squeeze the lemon juice on the tuna.
- REFRIGERATE: Store each sealed jar for up to 5 days.
Please share some of your meal prep solutions too.