Why is meal prep so important for a healthy diet?
We’ve all heard the saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail”, and it totally applies to our health, too! We can have the best of intentions when it comes to eating a healthy diet, but without a little planning and preparation, it’s easy for those intentions to fall apart. One of the easiest ways to make healthy eating, well, easy, is to take an hour or two at some point during the week to prep as much of your food for the week as possible. I know it can be hard to find even an hour, but the amount you can get done will save you precious time on those busy nights when you are driving home after dark and considering pulling through the drive up for fast food. 🙂
Here are a few of my favorite foods to prep ahead of time so you’ll have your meals all ready for the busy week ahead!
>>Sweet Potatoes & Potatoes
This one is super-easy—just throw a bunch of sweet potatoes and/or potatoes on a pan and bake them. Make sure you poke them with a fork a few times first so they don’t explode. I learned that lesson the hard way. 🙁 I usually do 400ºF for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how many potatoes I am roasting. They are done when they are soft when pierced with a fork. These can be stored for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can use them as a quick post-workout carb, a side dish for dinner, or use them to make stuffed sweet potatoes like the Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes in my Real Food for Real Families eBook. The most time consuming part of this recipe is baking the potatoes so it’ll come together in no time if you get that part out of the way early.
You can also pre-shred sweet potatoes and store them to make hash later in the week (like this Spicy Sweet Potato Hash), or cube and roast them to serve with eggs for a quick breakfast!
We eat a lot of chicken around here and it is so much easier to just make a large batch at the beginning of the week and use it to top off a big green salad for lunch or dinner. You can grill, bake, or pan fry a large batch of chicken breasts or thighs and store them in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. You can shred it up and serve it atop those sweet potatoes you baked 😉 or use it to make chicken salad, like my Napa Chicken Salad Sandwich. You can also dice it up and add it to a salad or serve with roasted veggies.
Just like chicken, you can grill (indoors or outdoors) a large batch of burgers to use throughout the week. When I am making a big batch as part of a meal prep, I prefer to make mini burgers so I can portion them out if I only want one or two for breakfast or lunch with eggs or veggies.
>>Roast Meat in Slow Cooker
This is a HUGE timesaver, and even easier than cooking chicken or burgers. 🙂 I love to make a big pork shoulder roast in the slow cooker that we can serve throughout the week on top of salad or in a breakfast casserole. It just makes so many servings that you can really continue to use it all week long. My favorite is my Hatch Green Chile Breakfast Casserole!
>>Chili/Soup/Stew in the Slow Cooker
This is another favorite of mine simply because you can make such a large portion in the slow cooker that it is sure to last you a few days. I have a ton of slow cooker recipes, but my go-tos for busy weeks are my Slow Cooker Moroccan Beef Stew and my Easy and Delicious Taco Soup. If you make this at the beginning of the week, you can store the leftovers in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, or you can freeze it for a later time.
>>Hard Boiled Eggs
Most weeks, I make a dozen hardboiled eggs at the beginning of the week. They are perfect for quick, on-the-go breakfasts, to add to a salad at lunch, or even as part of a healthy snack. My method is to place the eggs in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil on high heat, and then turn the heat off, cover the pot, and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Try to remove them from the pot after they are done so they stop cooking. I usually put them in a colander and run cold water over them before storing them in the fridge in an airtight container.
This isn’t a recipe, really, but the best way to make sure all those fresh veggies don’t go bad in the back of your refrigerator is to wash and chop them as soon as you get home from the grocery store. You can cut up carrots, celery, cucumbers, etc. If you don’t mind spending a bit more money, you can usually find these pre-cut at the grocery store, too.
I love to make my own salad dressing! I know exactly what ingredients are in there and I can make as much or as little as I need. You can make a vinaigrette with vinegar, olive oil and your choice of spices. I have recipes for a Lemon Vinaigrette, Herbed Vinaigrette and Sweet Sesame Vinaigrette in my eBook, Real Food with a Twist. I not only use these as dressings, but also as marinades for chicken or seafood in other recipes.
What are some of your favorite time-saving meal prep tips?