Too busy to cook? Try these 7 healthy meal prep ideas for the week
- 2 Minutes Read
When it comes to meal planning each week, do healthy meal prep ideas from scratch seem impossible? Find out why you don’t need a lot of cooking skills to throw together a really fast dinner after a busy day.
Is your stressful, busy life impacting your diet? Of course, take-out food is easy but is rarely diet-friendly. The good news is that you can put together a fast meal for one or more people with just a little planning.
For healthy meal prep ideas for the week, you can turn to fresh convenience items. You can buy fillets of flaky smoked salmon in most grocery stores, for example. It’s ready-to-eat and delicious. Portion out 3 to 4 ounces, depending on your needs. Use pre-cut bagged vegetables like broccoli, snow peas, cauliflower, sweet peppers, green beans, or summer squash. Brush a pan with peanut oil (or your choice) and saute 1-2 cups of veggies.
Smoked salmon substitute: canned salmon or tuna, pre-cooked shrimp.
Scramble 2 eggs for cooking an omelet in a pan brushed with your choice of oil. Fill the omelet with chopped onion, mushrooms, sweet peppers, chopped tomatoes, or minced broccoli. Sprinkle one tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese over the vegetables before folding the omelet over. Serve with a salad of dark, leafy, tossed greens with a dash of olive oil vinaigrette.
Grill or pan fry 4 ounces of ground meat, such as lean beef, bison, or turkey. Rinse a bunch of greens (chard, kale, fresh spinach, beet greens), trim off stems, and slice into large pieces. Slice 4-5 mushrooms. Saute the greens and mushrooms in a pan brushed with your choice of oil–season with soy sauce or just salt and pepper. Serve your burger with condiments like BBQ sauce, chopped tomatoes, sliced onion, or sauteed mushrooms and peppers.
Use a quality low-sodium soup, preferably vegetable or minestrone. Throw extra frozen vegetables into the soup, such as cut green beans, peas, lima beans, edamame, chopped spinach or carrots, or 1/4 cup of canned beans like kidney or pinto. Portion out 2 ounces of protein: cheese, cottage cheese, hard-boiled egg, deli turkey, leftover cooked chicken, or canned tuna. You can add the protein to a green side salad or the soup for a one-pot meal.
This option works well for hot summer evenings, especially when fresh fruit is in season. Dish up 8 ounces of yogurt. Either mix fruit chunks or berries in or make a small fruit salad. Nonfat Greek yogurt will boost the protein content of the meal and keep calories low.
Brush a chicken breast with a tiny amount of olive oil and grill. Flavor the chicken with a condiment of your choice, such as salsa, mustard, BBQ sauce, or an Asian-style sauce. Make a quick frisee salad with packaged pre-shredded vegetables, perhaps cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carrots, radishes, red onion, and sweet peppers. Drizzle the salad with vinegar (cider vinegar works well), salt, and pepper. Add a tiny pinch of dried dill or caraway seeds for extra flavor.
A big tossed salad with a wide variety of vegetables is a satisfying evening meal that won't break the calorie bank. The key is to use a bare minimum of oil-based dressing and definitely add high proteins such as leftover cooked chicken or turkey, grated cheese, feta cheese, tofu chunks, cooked fish like salmon, shrimp, or tuna, or some combination of these.
One flavorful combination is 3 ounces of cooked turkey plus one tablespoon of grated parmesan. Use a low-calorie dressing if you wish or use one tablespoon of olive oil plus vinegar, salt, and pepper to boost your healthy fat intake.
The great thing about these meal prep ideas is that you don't have to use the same healthy ingredients each week. For example, you can make the large salad one way one week, but change the veggies and the protein for the next. Any of these healthy meal prep ideas can be adapted to feed the family when you all encounter scattered schedules during the week.
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Reviewed and updated by Brenda Braslow on May 25, 2023.
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