Let’s talk healthy cooking — while we all know it plays a huge part in helping us reach our fitness and wellness goals, the idea of meal prep isn’t exactly the most exciting thing in the world. It often comes with the notion that it’s super time-consuming and even expensive. We’re here to help by giving you some tips on healthy meal prep, plus ten healthy cooking hacks that will not only make healthy eating delicious but ten times easier than you thought.
The Rules of Easy Healthy Meal Prep
Search For The Most Delicious Recipes
Ok, first off, healthy eating absolutely must be delicious — the yummier it is, the more likely we’ll stick to it, right? So, spend an hour or so during a day where you have some spare time and flip through those cookbooks that have been collecting dust lately. Sticky note the recipe you know you’ll want to try.
Next, Meal Plan!
Now that you have a list of must-try recipes, it’s time to turn them into a delicious meal plan. To turn this into one of those healthy cooking hacks that also saves you some cooking time in the kitchen, stick to only a handful of recipes that you can reuse throughout the week. Trust us, you’ll thank yourself when you aren’t spending your whole weekend meal prepping.
Triple Your Recipes
Yes, seriously — whatever you are making for dinner, triple the recipe. This way, you’ll have enough for lunch the next day and one dish you can freeze for a day during the week when you are far too busy to cook.
This is one of those healthy cooking hacks that may transform how you think about meal prep each week! It makes things way less time-consuming.
Ok, so maybe those five recipes just aren’t cutting it for you each week, but you still don’t want to be tied down to the kitchen — no sweat. Try mixing and matching your ingredients to turn an already prepped meal into something completely different!
Have a ground turkey stir-fry prepped? Try turning it into your base for tacos.
Take that extra ground beef you have prepped and make a meat sauce with your favorite sauce and dark leafy greens. Serve over gluten-free pasta or zucchini noodles.
Have too much banana bread on hand? Try using it to make french toast!
Become a Labeling Pro
As you prep all these nutritious and delicious recipes, be sure to label them all so you can easily look in your fridge or freezer and see exactly what’s prepped. Stock up on some simple food labels that you can stick right on a resealable bag or food storage container and label what it is and when you made it.
Meal Prep on The Day That Works Best For You
This one’s huge. You don’t want to meal prep on a day where your schedule is so jam-packed that you barely have time to eat lunch. Pick a day where you have some downtime, and you can make the most of it and maybe even enjoy it!
Make it Fun
Here’s one of our favorite healthy cooking hacks since living a healthy lifestyle can totally be fun. If you dread meal prep day, try making it fun by turning up the tunes, listening to a podcast, or inviting a friend over to help. Trust us — it will help take the monotony out of meal prep days.
Common Meal Prep Mistakes and Frustrations
If you want to make meal prep day even easier, let’s take a look at some of the most common meal prep mistakes. By navigating around these, meal prep day can be far less frustrating, and dare we say, even enjoyable.
You’re Trying Too Many New Recipes
If you’re short on time, don’t feel like you need to try out a ton of new recipes. Stick with the recipes you know work, and you know you love. When you’re ready to switch things up, keep it to one or two new recipes per meal prep day.
You Don’t Have All The Ingredients
There’s nothing more frustrating than starting your meal prep only to be out of ingredients that you need. To avoid this, try making your weekly plan a few days before, so you can check your kitchen for the necessary ingredients and head to the store to pick up what you need before you get started.
You’re Not Making Enough, or You’re Making Too Little
While meal prepping can take some trial and error, one common source of frustration is not making enough or making too much. If you make too little, it won’t get you through the week. If you make too much, it could result in food waste. Check out the recipes and the list of servings before you start cooking, and plan out how many batches you need to make to help avoid this.
10 Ways to Master Weekly Meal Prep
#1 Make Freezer Smoothie Bags
To make smoothies even easier to enjoy, try making smoothie freezer bags that are ready to go with your fruits and veggies. When you’re craving that smoothie, all you’ll need to do is empty the contents of the bag into the blender and sprinkle in any other ingredients, like your superfood seeds, protein powder, and pour in your milk of choice. With this easy meal prep hack, making a grab-and-go smoothie just got easier.
#2 Spiralize Veggies
Spiralized veggies make the ultimate healthy cooking hack if you are looking to whip up a guilt-free pasta dish. Zucchini is super easy to spiralize and use in your favorite pasta recipes, but don’t be afraid to branch out and try carrot or even sweet potato noodles. With veggie noodles, the options are endless, and you can dress the dish up with as much flavor as you would like.
#3 Use Chia Seeds
These small but mighty seeds offer so much in the nutrition department. They are rich in healthy fats, fiber, protein, and plant-based omega fatty acids. You can use them to make chia eggs if you are in need of a plant-based egg replacer, or use them to create chia pudding to enjoy as a guilt-free snack or treat.
#4 Try Greek Yogurt
Unsweetened Greek yogurt doesn’t just make a healthy snack, it also makes a great healthy cooking swap. Try using it in place of sour cream or as a base in creamy, homemade salad dressings. It’s a simple swap that comes with the benefit of added protein — win, win.
#5 Reach For Fresh Herbs & Spices
Ditch the store-bought seasoning packs (these often contain added sodium and sugar), and opt for fresh herbs or simple spice blends. You would be surprised at just how much flavor a little sprinkle of garlic powder, crushed onion, or oregano can bring to your dish.
#6 Make The Most of Cauliflower
From pizza to cauliflower mash and rice, cauliflower can be used in various ways, making it one of our favorite healthy cooking hacks. Cauliflower is a great low-carb swap, not to mention the fact that it makes a super-easy way to pack some added veggies into your diet.
#7 Freeze Kale to Add to Your Smoothies
If you struggle to get enough veggies into your diet, this simple hack makes it easy to get your greens. Freeze leftover kale and consider adding it to freezer smoothie bags. Now, instead of letting leftover kale go to waste, you have an easy way to get an added boost of dark leafy greens.
#8 Mix & Match
This goes along with the idea of batch cooking, and it’s one of those healthy cooking hacks that can also help add some variety to your diet. Basically, you’ll want to take the ingredients you have on hand to create as many recipes out of them as you can.
Have lots of chicken and veggies on hand? Try making a batch of balsamic chicken with broccoli, and then try making a chicken parm recipe served over spiralized veggie noodles.
You can also mix and match ingredients like beans and lentils by tossing them into as many recipes as you can throughout the week, like salads and veggie burgers.
#9 Mix Up Your Proteins
While you’re meal prepping, consider mixing up your protein picks a bit. If you tend to lean towards animal-based protein, try adding some vegetarian options in there like beans, lentils, and tempeh.
#10 Optimize One Sheet/One Pan Meals
Have you jumped on the one sheet bandwagon yet? If not, it’s a must-know healthy cooking hack! You are basically making a full meal on just one pan or on one baking sheet.
Think chicken and veggies or tofu and veggies. You can add all the ingredients on a parchment-lined sheet, season, and cook everything together. The result? Less cook and clean-up time.
These Healthy Cooking Hacks Make Healthy Meal Prep Simple
Listen, we totally get it — meal prep days can seem time-consuming and may be the last thing you want to do with your free time.
But, with a little prep work, it can completely transform your healthy eating habits. So, try using these ten healthy cooking hacks to up your meal prep game and without feeling totally stressed.
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