Meal prep is key to setting yourself up for eating success. Spend a few hours prepping on a Sunday, and reap the benefits all week long. Your wallet and your waistline will be grateful.
Sure, it’s easy to pick up Pad Thai or call for some sushi, but restaurants are notorious for adding on the salt, oil, and butter in favor of flavor and not necessarily your health. Start a routine of meal prepping on your day off, and enjoy simple and accessible meals all week long.
Batch cook some veggies, grains, and plant-based protein, and you have the ideal foundation for simple, streamlined meals throughout the week.
Make a few different sauces, dips, or dressings; lean heavily on spices; sprinkle on some toasted nuts and seeds; and throw in some fermented friends like kimchi and sauerkraut, and you have the makings of some nutritious, easy, and delicious weeknight meals.
For your veg, start with what’s seasonal and in abundance at the green market. If it's the depths of winter or you just don’t have access or time to hit up your local farmers market, go for whichever vegetables you enjoy.
I typically like to select vegetables in the cruciferous family, a group of vegetables known for their cancer-preventing abilities and anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties.
Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and kale are prominent members of this group. Keep things simple by steaming, roasting, sautéing, or blanching.
Here are a few simple and delicious vegetable recipes to get you started:
- Brussels Sprouts with Shiitake Bacon
- Cauliflower with Currants and Red Wine Vinegar
- Cinnamon Cumin Sweet Potato Wedges
- Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad
- Maple Citrus Roasted Carrots
- Sweet and Spicy Brussels Sprouts
- Spicy Roasted Broccoli
For balance, fiber, and protein, I typically prep a whole grain to add to my weeknight meal mix. My “to-go” grain is usually brown rice. I love the simplicity and nuttiness it offers, and it complements most dishes—from soups to stews to simple beans and veg.
Here are some delicious grain dishes:
- Bulgur Wheat Salad with Broccoli Rabe and Roasted Tomatoes
- Herbed Brown Rice
- Kale Tabbouleh
- Kale and Wild Rice Salad
- Pistachio and Mint Faro
- Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Arugula
- Vegetable Stir-Fry
Beans are a simple plant-based source of protein that also provide fiber. Chickpeas are always a simple staple and can be whipped up into hummus, roasted into poppers, or simply enjoyed as is (see recipes below). They're my bean of choice for meal prepping and enjoying throughout the week.
These are a few of my favorite bean dishes:
Adding some sliced avocado is a great way to add healthy fat and vitamin E to your plate. Toasted sesame seeds, pistachios, almond slivers, or cashews are great additions for added texture, flavor, and protein.
Throwing in deep and flavorful spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, and za’atar are simple ways to boost the flavors, cut the salt, and avoid leftover boredom. Don’t forget your fermented foods for added probiotics and gut health.
simple salad dressings to up your crunch game
Have a protein-rich dip to serve alongside your meal. Dollop alongside your grains or veggies or simply dip with fresh crudités.
- 2 cups chickpeas, cooked
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp minced garlic (1 large clove)
- 1⁄4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
- 1⁄4 cup tahini
- 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Smoked paprika and olive oil for garnish
Place beans in a food processor, add garlic, lemon juice, tahini, and olive oil and process until smooth. Add cold water to thin hummus if needed. Garnish with paprika, additional olive oil, and roasted or cooked whole chickpeas.
short-grain brown rice
- 1¾ cups water
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup short-grain brown rice
1. In a pot, salt the water, cover, and bring to a boil. In another pot over medium heat, toast the grain until it is nutty and fragrant. Be careful not to have the heat too high and over-toast the grain.
2. Transfer the rice to the boiling water. Cover, bring back to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 35 to 45 minutes. At the 35-minute mark, quickly check if all the liquid has been absorbed into the rice. Move quickly to prevent steam escaping from the pot. If all the liquid is absorbed, turn off heat.
3. If liquid remains, cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Let rice sit and steam covered for 15 minutes more. Fluff with a fork.
- 1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed, soaked overnight, and drained
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 bay leaf
1. Place chickpeas in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Add salt, cumin, and a bay leaf.
2. Cover pot, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 35 to 45 minutes or until beans are tender. Drain and enjoy.
Makes 1 cup
- 1 cup chickpeas, cooked
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Toss beans in medium bowl with oil, cumin, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Transfer beans to a parchment-lined sheet pan and roast until crispy, about 15 minutes.
For more tips like these, check out my video course, The 14 Day Plant-Based Challenge: A Nutritionist's Guide to Reclaiming Your Energy and Finding Your Glow.
A version of this article originally appeared on MindBodyGreen