Healthy Cooking

4 Simple Meal Prep Ideas That Will Help You Fit More Fiber and Heart-Healthy Protein Into Your Diet with Ease

Photo: Stocksy/ Martí Sans
Truth bomb: It’s easy to enter the new year with every intention to live a more well-balanced, well-rested life. However, as we ease back into our routines and work picks up again after the holiday lull, it’s even easier to de-prioritize one or two (or all) of our ambitious wellness goals—like refilling our water bottles on the hour or resisting the urge to scroll through TikTok before bedtime. Oh, maybe that's why I'm so sleepy today.

One thing we are very devoted to sticking to in 2023, however, is the goal of cooking more at home. That's where these simple meal prep ideas come in. Each one of the brilliant tips outlined below will help make the art of home cooking easier than ever, and they're help you squeeze more heart-healthy protein and fiber into your diet, too. Ready to delete Seamless once and for all? Say it with us: We got this.

4 simple meal prep ideas that'll simplify the task of making healthy meals at home

1. Pre-prep your ingredients

In restaurant kitchens, one life-saving technique chefs use to get food on the table quickly and in an organized fashion is known as mise en place. The French phrase, which translates to “putting everything in its place,” refers to the simple task of setting up your workstation and gathering your ingredients and tools ahead of time (yes, before you actually start making a dish). The key is reading your recipe through in advance, and ensuring your ingredients are washed, trimmed, chopped, measured, or minced—in short, ready to go—before you jump into the cooking process. This is especially useful for those who like to meal prep ahead of time for the busy week to come.

Once you have your meal plan for the week laid out (check out how an RD recommends doing this here), prepping your ingredients all at once will save you tons of time while you preheat the oven. Pre-cutting the veggies, fruits, and the like in all of your recipes in one sitting and divvying them up once you’re ready to use them, for instance, is a great way to get started. (Say multiple dishes on your menu include chopped onions—prepping them all together at the same time is aces when it comes to efficiency.)

You can also parboil, which means partially cooking or boiling food (usually vegetables) until they’re slightly soft, and then finish cooking them later.

2. Batch cook breakfast ahead of time

We’ve learned that breakfast is perhaps the most important meal of the day. This means that ensuring you have plenty of options at the ready—hi, zero excuses for skipping breakfast on any given day—is a top priority when it comes to meal prep.

Enter batch-cooking. Making your breakfasts ahead of time can be the answer to your frantic get-out-the-door-in-the-morning rush. A few recipes we love to batch cook include overnight oats (filled with flavor, fiber, and protein), which you can pre-portion into small containers for easy grab-and-go servings. Homemade granola bars, smoothie cups, eggy muffins, and yogurt parfaits are other delicious, heart-healthy breakfast recipes that you can make ahead of time.

3. Embrace freezer or fridge-friendly meals

Frozen meals aren’t anything to be ashamed of, especially nowadays when so many health-focused food brands offer endless nourishing options to pick from. One of our recent go-tos is the roasted garlic chicken from Kevin's Natural Foods (made without antibiotics, refined sugar, gluten, and soy), which has a whopping 23 grams of protein per serving. This fridge-friendly entree helps ensure we have enough protein for a lazy, cooking-free night. And when paired with a side of ready-to-heat, pre-cooked brown rice or frozen peas, a well-balanced and nutritious dinner can be ready in a flash.

4. Shop the canned foods section in your grocery store

Having canned foods, like tuna and beans, ready to go in your cupboard at all times can help speed up your meal prep routine. They can last for years in your pantry, which means you always have something delicious and nutrient-dense ready to get when you're in a pinch. To get started, we highly recommend diving into the tinned fish trend: It’s a convenient, heart-healthy, and sustainable (and yes, you can use tinned fish to make much more than just tasty tuna salad sandwiches).

An RD explains how to eat for optimal energy:

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