I talk about healthy meal prep a lot. It is a healthy habit that I use just about every week and one that I believe is the secret to successful healthy eating. Starting the week off with an idea or plan by using healthy meal prep is the only way I can ensure that I make healthy choices during the week.
But the real secret to healthy meal prep is the SAUCES!!! Having 2-3 really tasty sauces or dressings that you make each week, means you basically have a 2-3 different flavors to mix and match throughout the week. The different flavors will help you feel like you have some variety in your meals during the week.
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Get started with healthy meal prep
The first step in healthy meal prep is creating the plan and deciding what you will eat during the week.
BUT…the other really crucial piece of healthy meal prep is taking the time out over the weekend to try to set yourself up by cooking and preparing elements of your meals ahead of time. Doing so allows you to quickly assemble your lunch in the morning or the night before.
These prep ideas and sauce recipes work for dinner as well. And will help reduce the time you spend in the kitchen when you come home at night after a long day.
Cooking in advance
The second step healthy meal prep is figuring out what foods or ingredients can be made ahead of time.
I will cook a grain or two on Sunday to use throughout the week. After I choose my grain, I evaluate my veggies and think about what I can either prep, blanch and even roast ahead of time. Some veggies don’t work to prep or cook ahead of time so keep that in mind when you are planning.
Here are some of my favorite veggies and how I prefer to prep them ahead of time.
Healthy Meal Prep: Roasting Veggies
Roasting vegetables is super simple!! All you need to do is cut them into pieces, toss them in oil with a bit of salt and pepper and cook them in a 400° F oven until they are tender.
Root vegetables such as beets, winter squash and carrots tend to to take upwards of 30-40 minutes to cook. While the squash, mushrooms and onions will likely cook in half the time.
- Butternut squash
- Brussel Sprouts
Healthy Meal Prep: Veggies – Boiled/Blanched
These veggies work well to simply blanch and then store until you are ready to use. To blanch vegetables, get your water boiling and add the vegetable. Allow it to cook for 1 minute and then immediately plunge the veggie in ice and water. The cold serves to halting the cooking process and will keep the veggies from getting too soft.
Cooking for one minute will leave the veggies crisp but cooked. They can be quickly sautéed or reheated without getting soggy. But also are a good texture for use in a salad without any further cooking.
- Green Beans
**Note that these also all work well roasted and you can follow the same process as roasting the other vegetables.
Healthy Meal Prep: Grains
Personally, I like to choose two grains to cook for the week. That way I have an option and variety. I also like to sometimes combine the grains to create my own pilaf. My favorite lately has been a combination of brown rice and quinoa.
- Brown Rice
Healthy Meal Prep: Legumes
Either boiled or sprouted these are my favorite legumes to make ahead for the week. All these different legumes work well to boil ahead of time or you can even buy them canned to save even more time. Each can of beans has about 1 1/2 cups in it so it will get you 2-3 meals from each can. If you are boiling, keep it simple and add some garlic cloves and bay leaf to the cooking water for a bit of flavor. Add salt and pepper to the beans when they are done.
If you are interested in sprouting legumes, I recommend using the mung beans, lentils and adzuki beans for sprouting. It is possible the mung beans and lentils will be ready to eat in as early as two days. Also, many grocery stores or organic food markets have sprouts available for purchase if you prefer to buy them.
In my opinion, sprouting legumes adds a different flavor or texture to the dish and is nice for a little variation. You can even sauté them a bit if you prefer them cooked or you want to add them to a hot dish.
- Black beans
- Mung beans
- Adzuki beans
- Butter beans
The last step to healthy meal prep is deciding on the flavors you want to use in your dishes throughout the week.
And this is the key!!! My big secret to healthy meal prep!!! It’s all about the sauces!!!!
I hate to feel like I am eating the same thing every day. I don’t really like leftovers for this exact reason, but when I have several sauces to combine in different ways throughout the week, each meal feels new!!!
My favorite sauces for healthy meal prep
All these sauces can be made super fast in a blender or food processor and don’t require any cooking to prepare. If you make a batch, the sauce will last up to 7 days in your refrigerator.
I found the inspiration for this sauce from a sushi place I used to eat at in New York. They served a green salad with this type of sauce. The salad was nothing special, but the sauce had so much flavor!! The miso adds amazing umami to this sauce. If you have a blender, it really takes virtually no time to make. The soy, ginger and miso contribute to the overall Asian flavor in this sauce.
This Venezuelan avocado and cilantro sauce is delish!!! It’s creamy, tangy and adds tons of flavor to whatever salad or bowl you want to serve it with. The avocado adds a bit of richness to the sauce, thanks to all those healthy fats.
The other really great thing about this sauce is that you can also adjust the ingredients a bit to change the consistency and flavor. If you want it to have a thinner consistency and more cilantro flavor, you can reduce the amount of avocado you add and V O I L A … you have a totally different sauce.
This sauce adds a bit of Mediterranean flavor to your salad or bowl!! You can also add in some roasted eggplant or roasted red peppers when you are blending to change up the flavor a bit as well. This one I like to use with tons of roasted veggies and chickpeas and maybe just a sprinkle of feta cheese.
If you are looking for a more Southwestern or Mexican flavor for your lunches then this may be the perfect sauce for you. You can adjust the spiciness of the sauce and if you want it creamy, add a spoonful or two of it to yogurt or sour cream!!
Learn more about meal prep in the post I wrote about meal prep and timesavers!!!