Meal Prep Made Easy: Simple Recipes for a Balanced and Nutritious Diet
Do you struggle to maintain a healthy, balanced diet low in unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt? If so, you're not alone. But the good news is that there are simple ways to enhance your meals and prepare for cooking in advance. This post will walk you through easy methods to prepare food in advance for the week and ensure you're incorporating the right foods into your diet. By focusing on nutritious food substitutes and fiber-filled fruits and vegetables, you'll be able to create flavorful and nutritious meals that promote a healthy lifestyle.
When we think about healthy meals and eating, we tend to think about what we need to remove instead of what we can add to make our food more nutritious and taste great. To achieve this, we need to focus on nutritious food substitutes we can add that are filled with healthy fats and lean proteins. Of course, we must remember fruits and vegetables as our sources of fiber. Preparing your meals in advance will also increase your fiber uptake and add a lot more flavor to your diet as you can plan your food pairings.
For those of you who are used to ready-made food, whether store-bought meals or takeout food, making the necessary dietary adjustments to lower your intake of unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt can take some getting used to. However, it is important to give yourself time and realize that these switches will significantly benefit your health in the long run.
The two dishes discussed in this post follow the ‘healthy plate method,’ consisting of half vegetables, one-quarter lean protein, and a quarter carbohydrate. Any carbohydrates will do, but whole grains are the best choice as they are also a great source of fiber and will help you create more balanced meals.
Two Delicious Meals to Get You Started
Before we dive into the lunch and dinner recipes, let’s first look at a salt-free and delicious alternative seasoning recipe, which you can use alongside the dishes discussed in this post. For this seasoning, you can add as much or as little of each ingredient.
- Garlic powder instead of garlic salt
- Onion powder
- Dried parsley
- Smoked paprika
- Dried basil
- Celery seeds (a great ingredient to add a salty flavor without the added salt)
- Black pepper
- Cayenne pepper
Lunch: A protein-rich salad
This lunch recipe is a quick and easy protein-rich salad that can be tailored to your tastebuds. Vegetables are the easiest foods you can add to these recipes, and you can swap and change them as needed. The most versatile and flavorsome choices are tomatoes, carrots, squash, zucchini, peppers, cauliflower, and leafy greens. Not only this, but they are also very easy to cook with. Frozen vegetables may also be a great option if that is what’s available.
The first step is to prep the salad by selecting a leafy green vegetable, such as spinach, as your base and then building on this with three to four additional vegetables. For example, our dietician Brenda chose tomatoes, edamame, grated carrot, and cucumbers. The next step is to add your choice of protein. If this is lean poultry, such as chicken, you will need to prepare this in advance. However, beans are a fantastic option for an easier alternative and require draining and rinsing before adding to the dish. The last and optional step is adding a salad dressing for flavor. Below is a salt-free recipe you can follow and add to your salad as desired.
- One tablespoon of your oil of choice (preferably olive or avocado oil)
- Two tablespoons of red wine or white vinegar
- One tablespoon of brown mustard (low salt, sugar, and fat ingredient that can be used in lots of recipes)
Dinner: Roasted vegetable dish
Roasting vegetables brings out their natural sweetness and is an easy meal prep method as there is little preparation time. Parchment paper is handy as it helps with cleaning and means you do not have to use many cooking oils.
- Place some parchment paper on a flat pan and preheat your oven to 400-450 degrees. If you do not have parchment paper, drizzle with a light layer of oil.
- Chop up three to four vegetables of your choice and add them to the roasting pan.
- You can also add additional fiber, such as edamame beans.
- If you do not have an oven, do not worry - you can easily heat these ingredients in a skillet and sauté them.
- Next, add your seasoning. This can be an individual seasoning or the mix prepared in the lunch recipe.
- Place the tray in the oven for 15-20 minutes, and remember to stir halfway through.
While this is cooking away, you can prepare the remaining ingredients for your dinner. Here, you will need to choose a carbohydrate, such as wholewheat pasta, and a protein source, such as lentils. This dish is versatile, and you can mix and match as much as you would like throughout the week once the core ingredients have been prepared.
Below is a list of some healthier switches you can make to lower salt and sugar consumption.
- White to wholegrain carbohydrates
- Yellow cheese to white cheese
- Pasta to zucchini spirals
- Mayonnaise to hummus
Eating a nutritious, balanced diet can be challenging, but it's crucial to prioritize our health in the long run. By making simple adjustments to our food choices and using the healthy plate method, you can create meals that are delicious and packed with healthy fats and lean proteins. Preparing food in advance and incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables can also make a big difference in the nutritional value and flavor of our meals. Remember, healthy eating doesn't have to be bland - there are countless ways to create flavorful and nutritious meals that support a healthy lifestyle.