Now that meal prepping has actually made its way into my weekly Sunday routine, I have to say, I'm pretty darn proud of myself. It's so satisfying to look into the fridge and see glass containers prepped with my lunch salads and protein and greens for dinner, all ready to eat. There's only one small problem: Lately, the sweet reward of digging into a meal I prepped in advance has become a lost less satisfying, because I'm, well, bored.
I've gone on autopilot with my grocery shopping and meal prepping, buying and making the same things every single week... meaning I've been eating the same meals over and over. Can anyone else relate? I decided to ask some of my meal prep expert and dietitian friends for ways to switch things up while still sticking to a healthy eating plan. As expected, they delivered with some game-changing tips.
Here's how to switch up your meal prep to make mealtime more exciting
1. Rotate your protein. "When planning your meal prep each week, rotate the protein options," Simple Healthy Delish blogger and meal prep queen Leanne Miyasaki tells me. "For example, if you made chicken and ground turkey last week, try making sirloin and shrimp next." If you're plant-based, try swapping out chickpeas for lentils, or tofu for tempeh. Just changing up the protein (which is usually the base of a dish) can help make the entire meal seem a bit more interesting.
2. Treat your fridge like a salad bar. Instead of having your salads completely packed and ready to just grab out of the fridge on your way to work, registered dietitian Jess Cording, RD, recommends leaving some room to play. "Cook batches of various veggies, proteins, and carbs, along with a perhaps a few dressings or sauces and a dip like hummus so you can assemble in different ways throughout the week," she says. It only takes a minute to grab an empty container and add in servings of pre-prepped ingredients, and it prevents falling into the trap of having the same Caesar salad four days in a row.
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3. Develop a "cook once, eat twice" mindset. "Anytime you're cooking, think about how you can use that time to make extra of anything you might want to use in another meal," says registered dietitian Carissa Galloway, RD. "If you're grilling, for example, always do a few extra portions, and if the oven is on, add vegetables tossed in olive oil to have for quick sides or in a salad."
4. Sauce it up. Galloway says she also relies on healthy sauces to transform her proteins. "I love cooking chicken breasts with chicken broth in my slow cooker. Once you shred the chicken, different sauces can transform it into a variety of meals—barbecue sauce for chicken sliders and salsa for tacos, for example," she says. "Meatballs are another [entrée] you can cook, freeze, and use with a variety of sauces for fresh meal ideas."
5. Prep versatile ingredients. Miyasaki says one key to avoid food fatigue is to buy and meal prep foods that can be used in a variety of ways. "Staple ingredients such as rice and sweet potatoes are super versatile," she says. Once you cook a batch of that, she says all it takes is some fresh ingredients to give them new life. "For example, add cilantro and lime to liven up plain rice. Or add almond milk, chopped pecans, and cinnamon to sweet potatoes to create a delicious sweet potato mash." Even though the core ingredients may be the same, the add-ons will make them seem totally different.
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