Creating a healthy routine begins with sleep, but it doesn’t end there. When it comes to keeping your family healthy amidst busy schedules, having clean meal options ready and available prevents unnecessary takeout, eating out, and snacking. Meal prep is a simple concept, but in practice can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Today, we are giving you our best meal prep tips that will help you create a healthy routine for the whole family.
Prep 1-2 protein options
When you’re having a busy day and are short on time, what’s the most convenient thing to grab when hunger hits? A candy bar, bag of chips, a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts? Some of these grab-and-go options are nutritionally better than others, but all of them lack one thing. A significant source of protein!
It’s important to eat a diet balanced in all three macronutrients, but protein is often the nutrient that suffers most when we are busy and unprepared. While some convenience items, like protein shakes and bars, are high in protein, it’s helpful to have whole food protein sources packed and ready to go when you have a busy week ahead. Rather than preparing three to four protein options at once, we recommend splitting your prep into two sessions to keep your protein options fresh and interesting! For example, if you struggle to eat enough protein at breakfast and lunch, prep one protein option, such as egg casserole or hardboiled eggs, for breakfast and another, maybe shredded chicken or ground turkey, for lunch. If you work through your prepped meals by midweek, take a few hours to prepare two different protein options for the remainder of the week to keep your meals varied and interesting. Try our two favorite protein recipes to prepare for breakfasts and lunches:
Egg Casserole (Breakfast)
You can customize this recipe with whichever protein and veggie options you like, but here are our faves.
1 dozen whole eggs
3 tbsp milk of choice (we recommend almond milk)
1 lb lean ground turkey (97/3)
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 cup diced mushrooms
1/2 yellow onion
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano to taste
**Can also add 1 cup of shredded cheese if you choose
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a glass 9×13 pan with avocado oil.
In a large skillet, lightly brown ground turkey and season with spices, salt, and pepper. Set aside on a paper towel to absorb excess grease and cool.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, salt, and pepper together until thoroughly combined. Add in veggies and cooled turkey (and cheese) and mix well.
Pour contents of bowl into greased 9×13 pan and bake in 350-degree oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until the eggs have set. After the casserole has cooled, cut into 8 pieces and individually wrap in plastic, or store in an airtight container and place in fridge to be reheated at your convenience. Keeps for 3-4 days.
Macros per slice (without cheese): 185 calories; 21 g protein | 5 g carbs | 9 g fat
Crockpot Shredded Chicken (Lunch)
This is a great meal prep option for busy families because you can customize it with your favorite spices, and it’s low effort and minimal clean-up. This particular spice combo is a favorite of ours because it pairs with everything and makes your home smell like Thanksgiving morning!
2 – 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
1 whole yellow onion, chopped into fifths
1 whole carrot, peeled and cut into thirds, then halves
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
Season with dried rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and a dash of cumin
1 – 2 cups chicken stock (low sodium)
Place chicken breasts in crockpot and cover with seasonings, onion wedges, carrots, garlic, and bay leaves. Then cover chicken breasts with chicken stock.
Cook in crockpot on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours. Once fully cooked, remove chicken breasts from liquid and place on a large cutting board. Remove the bay leaves and vegetables from the crockpot and either use them for another dish, throw them out, or make them into compost.
Take two forks and shred meat. Then place the meat back in the chicken stock and coat completely before storing in an airtight container. Cover the shredded chicken with the remaining chicken stock to keep the meat moist in the fridge. Meat will keep for 3-5 days and can be eaten cold with salad, made into a chicken salad sandwich, or heated and eaten with rice, as tacos, in pasta…the options are endless!
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Cut up veggies in advance
Remember ovens? Those big heat boxes in our kitchens that we’ve all been avoiding since July? With the weather finally starting to cool down a bit, it’s finally time to get back to roasting our veggies. I’m personally a big fan of raw veggies, both for their convenience and nutrient density, but I love roasted veggies as the temperatures start to drop.
When schedules are busy, convenience is king and there is nothing I’d rather do less on a busy day than spend an hour chopping vegetables for salads and school lunches. Instead of leaving yourself to opt for processed snacks or items high in sodium, prepare your veggies in advance before a busy week so you have easily accessible, healthy food for the week. We recommend prepping veggies two ways at the start of the week to keep it interesting and flexible, roast some for bowls and kids’ lunches and leave others raw for salads and snacks. Here’s how we do it:
Roasted Honey Carrots
This recipe is so easy, makes your home smell like Martha Stewart’s in the fall, and is one the kiddos can get behind.
1 bag whole, peeled carrots (use rainbow carrots for some added fun!)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup raw, local honey
Salt, pepper, dried rosemary, dried oregano, and garlic powder
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a baking sheet.
Peel carrots and remove greens. Cut carrots into 3-4 pieces and then again in halves if they are thick.
In a separate bowl, whisk the olive oil and honey together until fully combined. Add in spices and whisk again. Finally, toss the carrots in the honey and oil mixture and then spread them out on the greased baking tray.
Bake carrots in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, turning them over halfway through to ensure even cooking and browning on all sides.
This combo works great with carrots, but it’s also delicious on brussels sprouts, green beans, and cauliflower!
Raw Vegetable Medley
One of the reasons I don’t go for salads on a busy day is because of the time it takes to prepare all the veggies that go into it. I prepare raw veggies in two ways at the beginning of the week. I have individual containers or baggies where I store sliced bell peppers, cucumbers, and baby carrots for easy snacking, but I also have a pyrex with a ready-t0-go vegetable medley that I can easily toss into a salad. Instead of taking 15 – 20 minutes to prepare a salad, it only takes 2 with this raw vegetable medley!
1 large red bell pepper
1 large yellow bell pepper
1/2 large english cucumber
4 ears of corn, boiled
1 bag shredded carrots
1 jar pickled beets
Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Then add four ears of corn and boil for 1o minutes or until tender. Remove corn from pot to a cutting board and cut the corn off the cob so it can be stored with the other veggies (be careful not to burn your hand!). Allow corn to cool before adding it to your container so it doesn’t make the other veggies soggy.
Chop and dice bell peppers, cucumber, and beets into small pieces. Add veggies to corn and store in the fridge.
I usually make enough vegetable medley to last about 3 days and then will make more midweek to keep everything as fresh as possible. If you’re like me, you may want to add fruit to your salad, but I recommend storing that separately!
Prep a few sauces
One of the primary reasons people avoid meal prep is because they get bored eating the same thing every day and we are no different. Store-bought sauces and dressings, while tasty, are often very high in sodium, fat, sugar, and additives. In order to keep your meals healthy, satisfying, and interesting, try prepping a few different sauces and dressings to use throughout the week. This way, even if you’re eating a lot of the same vegetables and meats, you will get a different flavor with each different sauce you use. Here are our two favorites to prep on a weekly basis:
This dressing is perfect for salads, and is an excellent marinade for chicken and white fish!
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tsp pure maple syrup
Dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, fresh cracked black pepper, and salt to taste
Combine all ingredients into a small mixing bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Adjust proportions of each ingredient according to your taste. Store in a ball jar or air tight container. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
Tangy Orange Sauce
This is one of my favorite meat marinades, especially if we are making ground turkey bowls with rice and veggies. You can add this during cooking, or after as a dressing/sauce. Either way, it’s sure to give you takeout vibes without the extra calories!
1 – 2 tbsp bottled orange sauce of choice to be used as a base (click the link for one that I like!)
1 cup orange juice
3 – 4 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
Juice from 3-4 limes (3 if large)
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp sriracha
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
3 scallions, chopped (whites and greens)
Ground ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, cayenne powder, salt (just a little to taste if the soy alone isn’t salty enough for your taste), cracked pepper
Cornstarch (to desired thickness)
In a small saucepan on medium heat, combine all ingredients and whisk heavily for 1-2 minutes or until fully combined. Turn the heat up until the sauce begins to boil and whisk for another 1-2 minutes.
Reduce heat so sauce is no longer boiling, and add 1 tbsp of cornstarch. Whisk until fully combined and reduce heat again, whisking occasionally as the sauce begins to thicken. Taste sauce and add more orange juice, soy sauce, ginger, or lime juice depending on your preference. You can continue to add cornstarch to thicken the sauce to your liking, but make sure to do a little at a time.
Once sauce is to your liking, remove from heat and store in a ball jar or airtight container. Keeps up to 7 days and can be used as a marinade or as a sauce to top your stir fry! Mix into warm food.
In conclusion, meal prep can seem very intimidating when you try to tackle multiple unique meals for the week, or boring if you prep the same exact things for each meal. We’ve broken meal prep down into a few easy steps to help make healthy eating more accessible for you in the hopes that you will add meal prep into your family’s weekly routine. Let us know if you try any of these recipes this week! We can’t wait to hear from you.