“Got no time?”
The average American doesn’t. Our fast paced lives often call for convenience. And with long work hours and long commutes, comes sacrificing time for prepping healthy meals in the kitchen.
After working with thousands of individuals through one-on-one nutrition coaching, I’ve found that the biggest misrepresentation of eating healthy is that it takes countless hours of preparation and cooking.
But meal prep doesn’t have to be that complicated.
When I talk with my clients and share some of my tricks (below) that get me through meal prep for the week (without spending hours in my kitchen), I’m often met with their relief of how easy and doable it is.
Check out a few of my go-to meal hacks so you can start healthy eating today. The more you practice them, the less you have to think, as they often become habitual and regular staples for each and every week.
1. Batch Prepare Your High-Protein Snacks
Hard boiled eggs are an easy go-to in my book. With each egg providing a good source of both protein and essential fat, they’re one of my most highly recommended snacks. I make a carton of hard boiled eggs each and every week so they’re easy to grab and go for breakfast or pack for snacks.
To make things simple, I recommend making hard boiled eggs by baking them in the oven. Place each egg inside of it’s own muffin cup. Bake them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and place them in a large bowl filled with ice water until cool. Store in refrigerator.
Other considerations: Every week, I also bake a package of bacon to have on hand and store in the refrigerator. Pack a couple strips as a snack or eat alongside some fresh berries for breakfast. If you have a little more time for prep, try making our portable egg cup recipe.
2. Make-Ahead Smoothies
Protein shakes and smoothies are a constant breakfast in my house for their ease of preparation and portability. Although I often advise to try to eat breakfast at the table as often as you can, sometimes you just need something tasty that you can take in the car with you on your morning commute.
If your short on time in the morning or don’t want to wake anybody up with the noise of your high-powered blender, making your shakes ahead could be an easy solution for you. Simply multiply out your favorite recipe by however many shakes or servings you want to make ahead. My recipe for the above photo includes the following to make 4 smoothies: 16 ounces of unsweetened coconut milk, 2 cups of frozen kale, 3 cups of frozen blueberries and 4 servings of strawberry whey protein.
I store the shakes in mason jars inside of the refrigerator as they are super easy to store and I can easily “shake up” my smoothie prior to drinking it in case any settling happens.
Other considerations: You could also consider freezing your smoothie or shake servings if you want to batch prepare for farther into the future. Start by freezing the smoothie inside a muffin tin or ice cube tray (once frozen, store individual servings inside of a large freezer bag). When you are ready for a shake, grab a servings worth of frozen blocks and thrown them in the blender with milk. If you have kids, freezing smoothies can also be a nice way to make your own healthy popsicles.
3. Wash and Cut Produce All Together
How often have you bought fresh produce, forgotten about it, and then found it spoiled and way past its freshness date? Nobody has time for that wasted money!
Washing and cutting your produce all at once can not only save you time in the kitchen but also make you more likely to consume it. I like to first wash and cut (if needed) my different berries and keep them in glass containers on the top shelf of my refrigerator. That way I see them first when I open the door and they become a nice reminder to pack them for lunches and snacks and don’t get lost in my produce drawer.
I love to have chopped vegetables at hand for easy snacks (I often snack on veggies and guac prior to dinner) or to have ready to bake or roast in the oven for quick dinners.
Other considerations: Keep your cut produce at eye level in the refrigerator so it’s the first thing you see when you open its door. Frozen vegetables and fruit can be a convenient way to get produce into your diet with less risk of it going bad prior to your consumption.
4. Slow Cook It
There’s something about a slow cooker that makes person feel like they can only use it in the winter or when it’s cold outside. Take advantage of this kitchen device, as during the summer, it’s beneficial because it doesn’t heat up your house like an oven can. And it’s a meal plan hacker’s dream as it takes minimal prep and you can turn on your cooker and not touch it for hours.
I like to take about 6 fresh chicken breasts (seasoned generously with sea salt and garlic) and let them cook on high for about 3 hours. Once they’re done cooking, I can either pack them individually with vegetables for lunches for the work week, or I often pull them apart (with 2 forks) and add some lower carb barbeque or buffalo sauce to have a nice pulled chicken for on top of salads or served up with veggies.
Other considerations: A slow cooker should be a staple in every household. They take minimal prep and net you with only dish to clean up. They’re nice for batch cooking multiple meals (i.e. chili) and are nice for cooking protein foods. If you are really time-starved and have no time for cooking, go for a rotisserie chicken at your local supermarket.
5. Season Differently; Cook All at Once
Use aluminum foil to divide your cookie sheet into separate compartments. In the example above, I used different vegetables with different seasonings (garlic on broccoli, nutmeg on cauliflower and sea salt on Brussels) and extra virgin olive oil and roasted the entire pan for 30 minutes.
This helps in my house with a toddler, as on any given week, she decides if or when she still likes broccoli. But it’s helpful for me as I can batch cook a variety of vegetables for my lunches and when it’s all said and done, I just have to roll up and toss the foil to clean up.
Other considerations: I also use this method if I want to bake different meats or different seasonings. You could bake up pre-cut chicken and flavor it three different ways for variety.
Hope you enjoyed a few of my hacks! As always, if you need help more on an individual level, we have in-club or virtual Nutrition Coaches to help. Just email email@example.com to get scheduled for a free consultation.
In health, Anika Christ – Senior Program Manager – Life Time Weight Loss
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.