What is Meal Prep?
Meal prep means just as the name implies; “preparing” your meals ahead of time so that having a healthy meal on-hand is always an option.
Step 1: Decide what type of meal you want to prepare from the template below
• Basic: Protein + Carb + Vegetable + Fat
• Low Carb: Protein + Vegetable + Vegetable + Fat
• Vegetarian: Legume + Grain/Carb + Vegetable + Fat
Step 2: Decide on your meal prep method
1) The Semi-Ready Meal Prep
This means having each individual food group chopped and ready to cook on the spot and/or having it already cooked and ready to portion out for each day/meal. This leaves the majority of the prepping out of the way and allows you to decide what you want to eat for that meal. Mix and max as you please!
2) The Full Meal Prep
This type of meal prep has all your meals for the week ready to grab-and-go from the fridge. The food groups are pre-portioned and stored in Tupperware or glass food containers. This requires more Tupperware than the Semi-Meal Prep but saves you a little more time during the week.
Step 3: Visualize your meals and shop according to how many meals you would like for the week. And shop accordingly.
Pro tip: Google “Meal Prep” and click on “images” to get a look at some of the delicious options that you might want to consider.
Step 4: Preparing the meals
For easy meal prep, there are three options for cooking:
1) Roasting – cooking in an oven, usually on a sheet pan or casserole dish
2) Steaming – using vapor heat
3) Poaching/boiling – submerging in boiling water
Try to pick one to two methods of cooking for the easiest meal prep.
Roasting Protein + Vegetable
Roasting is the easiest way to cook meats. Lay all your meat on a sheet pan lined with foil or parchment paper, season with spices and herbs of choice, bake according to safe temperatures.
In general, when cooking grains, steaming is the best option. When cooking roots/tubers, starchy vegetables, roasting or boiling are good options.
All grains can be cooked in a rice cooker, however if you don’t own a rice cooker, follow the stove-top recipe provided.
Other than consuming raw vegetables, roasting or steaming are the easiest ways to cook them. Steaming is a lighter option than roasting, however roasting can be kept light if using little to no oil (think olive oil spray). For roasting, lay all washed, chopped vegetables on a lined baking sheet, spray, season and bake for 15-20 minutes at 450° F.
Though fats are a necessary component to any diet, they don’t necessarily need to be “prepped”. When preparing the rest of your meal, figure out whether you already have a source of fat BEFORE adding a source of fat.
1) Certain meats/protein sources may already have a source of fat.
2) Roasting vegetables or meat in oil counts as a serving of fat.
3) Salad dressings typically have oil (fat).
If you don’t have a source of fat coming from the above sources, then you can add a source of fat such as cheese, nuts, olives, avocado, seeds, etc.
Step 5: Storing Your Meals
• The Semi-Meal Prep – Store each food group in a separate large container and store in fridge. Use smaller containers on the day of and portion out your food each day. Mix and match daily!
• The Full Meal Prep – Portion out all you meals for the week in individual containers and store in fridge or freezer.
Samira Bouldt, is a Certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist at Saint Mary’s Fitness Center.