I often get questions about meal prep, especially right now that folks on the healthy eating train. For starters, yes I meal prep! My husband and I really like to have a plan and meals prepared for the week to keep us on task with our health and nutrition. Life gets nuts and by midweek, many of us begin to lose focus! If we meal prep it acts like our safety net for better nutrition. The meal prep idea does not have to be daunting.
There are two kinds of meal preppers: ones that can and will cook, and ones that do not cook due to ability, knowledge, space or even limited budget. Meal prepping can be simple, no matter if you are limited to a college dining location, personal kitchen, office, or hotel room.
Formulating a plan to a healthier you is doable.
A great way to get your meals on the right track is to spend a little time each week creating a successful easy to execute plan. You do NOT have to spend all day in your kitchen. Pick one afternoon or evening when you have extra time to shop and prep. Remember to plan your meals that can take on many options.
Before beginning to meal prep, ask yourself these questions.
- Decide your Why! Why are you meal prepping? For healthy go to options that keep you on track, to save money, for health reasons such as certain fitness goals or weight loss?
- Then determine which meals you need to plan and prepare? Do you want to prep all meals or only meals away from home?
- How and where will you store your meals during the day? Find the meal prep container that fits your needs. Finding meal prep containers online or basic plastic bins from a local store is easy. Will your containers fit in a meal prep cooler for food safe storage or do you have a fridge away from home to keep your meal cold and food safe.
- Plan your meals. Use a meal plan guide or printable sheets to sketch out your plan and grocery list. Samples: Menu Planner and Shopping List Menu Printable
First, you need to pick your proteins, preferably, ones you know you can cook and will actually eat. Even in resident halls (dorms) choose items that need little to no prep or items you can order that fit this guide. Then you will pick your vegetables and carbohydrates. Find dining locations that can prep your choices off the list as well if you eat meals on the road or away from home. If you need ideas, I’ve provided the below chart to build a quality meal. More option are encouraged and certainly not limited to this list of healthy meal prep foods.
Choose one from each list to build your meal box:
|Protein: Buy Raw to prepare or Precooked||Non-Carb Vegetables: Cooked, Raw, Frozen||Carbs: Ready to eat, Frozen, Precooked, Raw|
|Chicken||Broccoli*, Carrots*, Asparagus||Sweet Potato|
|Turkey (Deli*)||Cous Cous|
|Eggs (Boiled or Cooked)||Zucchini/Squash||Whole Grain: Pastas|
Tofu, Temph, Seitan, Nuts & Nut-butters, Chickpeas, Peas/Beans/Lentils
|Kale*, Greens, Spinach*, Cucumbers*, Tomatoes*, etc.||Whole Grain: Tortillas*. Breads*, Crackers*, Waffles*|
|Cottage cheese*, Greek Yogurt*||Salad*||Potatoes|
Egg Cups, Omelets, Oats (Overnight or Regular), Fruit and Yogurt, or Vegan Breakfast Muffins.
Think of fruit, fresh veggies, energy balls, yogurt, nuts, nut butters, low fat cheeses, protein drinks, and cottage cheese.
*Baking fish (Or chicken for non-fish eats) can double as a fish/chicken taco option in the same week; eat your second fish/chicken meal about two days out for freshness. Non-Cookers: Look for pre-cooked shredded rotisserie chicken or frozen cooked options to put in your microwave. Try the Ziploc: Zip’n Steam ® for quick prep omelets, steamed veggies, and proteins in a bag.
*Tacos or Taco meat can double as a taco salad, wrap and or taco stuffed avocado. Think of adding in extra baked chicken or tuna to make wraps and salads one evening during the week.
*Shredded Chicken Crockpot: Try making crock-pot chicken. Get this started on any morning and incorporate throughout the week where your menu needs easy recipes. See my personal favorite below.
|YOYO (Your on Your Own for meals at home today) Eating every 3 hours will help keep you full.||Snacks are helpful to control hunger!||Go shopping, Chop veggies or buy them chopped and put rice in cooker while fish bakes in oven (1 hr.)||Make Energy Balls sometime this afternoon. 10 minutes.||It’s dinner time: Cook up some Taco Meat for the week in the crock pot w/ peppers, onions and veggies! FMC Avocado Taco Bowl Video|
|Monday||Breakfast Egg Cups or Omelets (Bake a muffin pans worth, extra for week) Egg Cup Recipe OR Vegan Blueberry Muffin Recipe||Fruit & Nuts||Taco Stuffed Avocado (No Cooking, Last night’s crock pot ☺)||Protein Drink (Pre-workout) Or cottage cheese & your choice of a carb.||1 Pan Shrimp Fajitas
|Tuesday||Overnight Oats (The Commons Upstairs)||Cottage Cheese and Crackers||Fish Taco & Slaw Salad (No Cooking)||No Bake Energy Ball||For the Love of Soup!
Dining Out: Soup and Salad makes a great combo. Limit fatty buttered breads.
(Hump Day Crock Pot)
|Egg Cups or Omelets (Start Slow Cooker with Chicken to Dinner)||Yogurt Cup||Taco Wrap Ready to Heat||Protein Drink (Pre-workout)||Crock Pot Chicken and Streamed Veggies from Microwave, 10 minutes.
Dining Out: Choose baked or frilled protein with a side of veggies
|Overnight Oats||Nuts & Yogurt||Chicken & Avocado Southwest Bowl||Energy Ball||I ♥ left overs!
Busy nights: Tuna in an easy tear pouch and crackers with chopped veggies.
Dining Out: Salad Time, go easy on dressings and cheese.
|Friday||Fruit and Yogurt||Fruit & Nuts||Tuna Pouch and Cucumbers (No Cooking)||Protein Drink (Pre-workout)||Healthy Chicken Bowl
Dining Out: Go out for a bowl instead of a wrap this time. Easy on the rice & beans for portion control.
|Saturday||Assess the fridge: What can you use today for meals and snacks?||Nuts & Yogurt||Chicken Salad Sandwich||Take a quick inventory of what foods are in the freezer & fridge for your next prep.||Have an easy meal or go out with your significant other. Order lighter than normal and remember to enjoy it!|
Green Southwest Chicken
4-6 Chicken Breasts (Frozen or Fresh)
1 Large can of Green Enchilada Sauce
Using a crock-pot, spray pot with non-stick cooking spray. Place crock-pot on medium low heat. Put frozen or raw chicken in pot and top chicken breast with enchilada sauce by pouring it over the chicken. Cover the crock-pot with the lid. Slow cook chicken for 4 hours or longer, up to 8 hours with enough liquid to prevent burning. When chicken is cooked, remove chicken from crock-pot and place in bowl. Replace enchilada sauce with BBQ sauce (avoid high sugar options), Asian sauce or even salsa for variety. – Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD
Quick Tip: Shred chicken in 30 seconds. Place cooked chicken breast in large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat chicken until finely separated. Store chicken in refrigerator and use within 3-5days. Store in freezer bags and freeze for later use. Great for chicken soups, wraps, enchiladas, tacos, lettuce wraps and more.
Resources: FMC Meal Prep Tricks; FMC Meal Prep Recipes, 100 Meal Prep Ideas, Meal Prep for Beginners, No Cooking Meal Prep, Meal prep Desk Meals for Cold Weather , No Cook Meal Prep by Beach Body, 4 Make Ahead Breakfasts, Meal Prep Menus by Dietitians
Campus Tips: All day omelets from the Bistro in the SUB or upstairs at The Commons, The Market and Sam’s Places offer a great breakfast burrito. (Reduce carbohydrates and ask for a bowl instead of the tortilla) When picking Asian options, choose it cooked in water instead of oil and plenty of vegetables. Watch high calorie dressings and toppings on wings, wraps and salads. The Carvery in The Market and Chefs Corner in the Commons have daily fish and healthy proteins with side veggies and carbohydrates. Do not forget about Fresh Plate at Bledsoe/Gordon. You can build a healthy meal 3 times a day! Lower calorie options from fresh fruits, smoothies, yogurt, hummus and pressed juices available on campus.
Hospitality Dietitian Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD firstname.lastname@example.org