When you hear the word “meal prep” what comes to mind? I don’t know about you, but I automatically go to a dark, scary place – I think of stacks of Tupperware with carefully rationed portions. I think about giant amounts of bland chicken breasts, huge vats of brown rice, and tons of steamed broccoli. “The horror, the horror!”
For just a second, let’s suspend the perception of meal prep as the Tupperware-carrying physique competitor that you see at the gym gulping his protein shake. Instead, picture a much simpler, more realistic version.
Here’s a quick summary of my meal prep strategy:
You cook extra servings of various proteins and chop a bunch of core veggies to use in multiple dishes. This creates the base for most of your meals. To this, you can add a few select pre-made items (sliced turkey breast, bag of prepared greens, etc.) and boom – you have 80% of your meals for the week.
Now that doesn’t sound so hard, does it?
Meal Prep Made Easy
I’ve got some good news – I’m going to completely change your whole meal prep perspective. You’re going to learn some things that might surprise you. For example, it’s OK to use fat. In fact, fat is healthy, and it tastes great. Both cheese and avocado (examples of fat) are excellent ways way to make food delicious. Also, spices are your best friend, and don’t be afraid to use salt. As far as spices go, these 5 should definitely be in your kitchen arsenal.
The main point is that cooking healthy meals doesn’t have to be difficult. I know for some of you cooking is an overwhelming task and you might have no idea where to start.
That’s totally OK.
I’m no all-star chef, but I’ve mastered a few quick, simple, and healthy meals that also support my lean, active lifestyle.
You’re about to learn an easy way to prepare 16 meals in 40-minutes. Yes, you heard that right – 40-minutes of focused time in the kitchen will give you 16 healthy meals that are high in protein and loaded with tasty vegetables.
Here’s something that’s hard to argue with – the more meals you eat at home, the healthier and leaner you will probably be. There are of course exceptions to the rule, but for the vast majority of us, eating home-cooked meals often leads to improved body composition.
A time-crunched schedule is no excuse either.
All you need to do is prep once a week for 40-minutes and you’ll set yourself up to be a fat-burning machine.
The Ultimate Grocery-Shopping List
First things first, you’ll need to do some grocery shopping to pick up all the ingredients. Here’s your shopping list:
2 large bags (1lb total) of mixed greens (pick your favorite – spinach, arugula, kale)
5 large carrots
3 large onions (any variety will do)
1 large celery bunch
4 red peppers
2 heads of broccoli
2 heads of cauliflower
3 lbs. chicken breast
1 lb. turkey breast (cooked, deli meat)
4 cans tuna (solid white albacore)
1 dozen eggs
If you don’t have the below in your kitchen, get the following:
Basic Cooking Supplies
3 large cooking trays or baking dishes
1 large pot
2 large bowls
4 small bowls
Meal Prep Instructions
Set up a timer for 40 minutes. Remove all of your groceries from your fridge and cabinets. Prepare yourself to make tuna salad, egg salad, baked marinated chicken, parmesan roasted veggies, and a roasted turkey salad.
Step 1: Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, and heat a medium pot of water.
Step 2: Place the chicken breast in a large Ziploc bag. Add 2 tbsp of oil olive, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, and 2 tbsp Greek yogurt. Mix well so every breast is well coated in the marinade. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Step 3: Carefully place 8 eggs into the pot of (almost) boiling water. Simmer the eggs for about 8 minutes. Cooking tip: Placing eggs into hot water will make the peeling process much easier down the road.
Step 4: Loosely chop the broccoli and cauliflower into large florets and spread amongst 2 cooking trays or baking dishes. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Step 5: Transfer chicken from Ziploc bag into baking dish. Place chicken, broccoli and cauliflower into the oven. Set the oven timer to 20 minutes.
Step 6: Dice peppers, onions, cucumber, celery and carrots and set aside in separate small bowls.
Step 7: Place tuna into large bowl and add half the chopped onions and celery. Add 2 tbsp of Greek Yogurt. Add salt, garlic powder, black pepper, cumin, and cayenne powder. Mix well and place in fridge. Your tuna salad is done.
Step 8: Mix large bag of greens in a large bowl with chopped peppers, carrots, onions, and cucumbers. Chop turkey breast slices into 1-inch pieces and toss into salad. Set aside. Your roasted turkey salad is done.
Step 9: Remove the pot with eggs from the heat and run under cold water for 30-60 seconds.
Step 10: Peel eggs and mash them in a large bowl with the rest of the chopped onions and celery. Add 2 tbsp of Greek yogurt. Add salt, garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne powder, and mix until well-blended. Your egg salad is done.
Step 11: Remove the veggies from the oven after 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Your parmesan roasted veggies are done.
Step 12: Remove chicken breast 5 minutes later (for a total of 25 minutes of bake time). Your baked marinated chicken is done.
Step 13: Take a big breath. You’re completely done.
Recipes: Putting It All Together
What you have: 6 different meals with enough food to make 16 meals.
8 Roasted chicken breasts
2 large trays of roasted cauliflower and broccoli
4 cups of Tuna salad
4 cups of Egg salad
5 cups of pre-mixed salad
1 Lb. of Turkey breast
1. Tacos, 4 ways
• Pick your protein. 1) Chicken breast, 2) Egg salad, 3) Tuna salad, and/or 4) Turkey breast
• Heat up 3 corn tortillas, add ¼ cup of shredded cheese, and ½ of an avocado. Place your protein on each tortilla. Add 1 cup of roasted broccoli and cauliflower as a side dish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
|Nutrition Information for Chicken Tacos|
2. Big-Ass Salad, 4 ways
• Pick your protein. 1) Chicken breast, 2) Egg salad, 3) Tuna salad, or 4) Turkey breast
• Prep a large plate with the pre-mixed salad (from step 8 above). Place 6-8 ounces of protein on top of salad. Add ¼ of a large avocado.
• Quick and easy dressing: Mix 1 TBSP olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Add the juice from a fresh lime or lemon and mix well.
You can also spice up your salad with the following easy add-ons: Sunflower seeds, Feta cheese, Sliced almonds, Peanuts, Olives, Diced apple
|Nutrition Information for Big-Ass Salad with Egg Salad|
Mix and Match For Different Meals
The best part about meal prep mastery is that once you have a solid foundation of the proteins and veggies, you can mix-and-match to find a winning combo that you love.
Maybe you’re feeling a sandwich, so you grab a fresh slice of bread to throw your protein on?
Maybe you want to add some tortilla chips to your salad?
Maybe you want some extra carbs, so you bake a huge potato to go with your pre-made protein and veggies?
The options are really endless.
As long as you’re eating protein and veggies with each meal, you’ll have a solid foundation to live a fit, lean lifestyle. This one rule alone will have a dramatic effect on how you feel, how you look, and how you think.
Let me know how this works out for you. Drop me a message in the comments below.
Great job, easy to do, easy to understand, love it
Hey Lynn, glad you enjoyed it, thanks for the comment!
LOVE this!!!! Slight tweaks for myself who doesn’t eat meat but great for rest of my family and still tons for me!
Awesome Shauna, good to see you over here! Yes, you can certainly tweak it to accommodate non-meat eaters..glad you enjoyed it!
how long can you keep in a fridge(or freezer)?
I would say for the about 2-3 days in the fridge, but make sure you store them in an air tight container. I wouldn’t freeze the meat or tuna / egg salad, but the veggies you could certainly keep in the freezer for many weeks. Hope that helps.
Thanks, Nick. Great ideas. I find that preparing a large quantity of meal items ahead of time reduces the temptation to eat unhealthy food. The times I am at my most vulnerable for eating unhealthy food is when I am hungry, pressed for time and have to search for something to eat.
You bet Steven, glad you liked it. You’re absolutely right, it’s all about being a little proactive and having healthier options available and easy to grab when time is tight. Little things like this can have a HUGE impact over time. Thanks for the comment!
I am so lucky to live with the genius that wrote this article, because, well, I get to eat all that tasty food :). That’s the thing I think is so easy to forget about meal prep and healthy eating in general, is that it ACTUALLY can taste really good. It can have flavor, spice, and fat – it doesn’t have to be bland and boring. And it definitely doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. Of course, I learned all this from Nick :). Great article!
this is great! we need some healthy timesavers for cooking and getting fit. Love your great info!
Yes Robin, thank you! Hopefully this will save you time and help you get fit, keep me posted on how it goes..
Hi , how long can you store the prepared food for? Thanks, andy
Sorry- just read storage advice above! Thanks for some great ideas
Great job of breaking it down and giving examples along with the variety. I will definitely share this blog. I never thought of Greek yogurt for the salads, I usually use cottage cheese.
I appreciate it Lisa, thanks for the comment. Yeah, greek yogurt works well for both tuna and egg salads. Interesting on the cottage cheese, I’ll have to give that a shot, thanks for the sharing.
Wow, thank you for this – it totally inspired me today!
This was, hands down, the BEST article on meal prep EVER!!!
You are too kind Jackie, thank you. Glad you enjoyed!
Amazing article, Nick. Thanks for sharing your insights into how to make living a healthy lifestyle more manageable
I love this and I am heading to the grocery store this evening. However, after its all prepped, what is a serving size of the tuna and egg salads? 1 cup?
That’s great Debbie. Yes, I would say about 1 cup = serving size for tuna / egg salad. Hope that helps!
Great article. I bet some whole lettuce leaves for tuna salad lettuce wraps would be great with this recipe.
A few additional tips I’ve picked up over time, may be helpful to a few others.
-To save on vegetable prep, microwave bags are fairly quick also, they steam in about 3 minutes.
-Conversely, you could also head to a local store (such as a chinese restaurant) and ask for an order of steamed veggies. You can get a large portion for a low price and portion out accordingly.
– For carbs, the micrwaveable rice cups (brown rice) are an alternative (be mindful of contents). They’re already portioned out to a cup so no measuring and in 60 seconds in the microwave you’ve got a source of complex carbs.
Hope those small tips help someone the way they helped me.
Thanks Anthony, good tips – especially the one about ordering large portion of steamed veggies as take-out, that’s a great move!
I just did this! Followed every step and now my fridge is full, and I am exhausted. Took me 2 hours though, not 40 minutes, what with cleaning and chopping the veggies. I am a little meticulous in the kitchen, so that could have increased the time a bit. Still not bad for 16 meals 🙂 Thank you for this idea!
Hey Chad, full fridge with real food is always a good thing. Glad you enjoyed. Yeah, I think buying some of the foods pre-chopped and pre-washed might help cut down on the time. I bet the the next time around you’ll shave off a bunch of time off..keep me posted!
Just did this this evening. Everything is delicious! The marinating on the chicken is something I rarely do, but even marinating for the short amount of time is very effective. Thanks for these tips!
did this last night but took me quite a bit longer than 40 minutes… double that i think. still totally 100% worth it though! i think if i do this routine every week it will start going more quickly for me. i couldn’t NOT take this meal prep advice though! the first paragraph had me rollin! i felt that exact same way! thanks for showing me that it’s not so bad! =D
i honestly feel that a big reason i still haven’t reached my fat loss goal is due to not prepping healthy meals beforehand – so i’m very excited to have completed this not-so-bad task this week!
tip: if it’s hot in your house (summer time!) do not heat up your oven until you’re actually ready to throw the chicken & veggies in! by the time my oven preheated i was still madly chopping away at the broccoli and cauliflower, and my chicken had only been marinating like 3 minutes.
everything tastes so good! i especially love the spices in the egg salad and the simplicity of having the pre-prepared green salad! i usually don’t want green salad unless it’s loaded with tons of goodies.. and who has time to always be chopping a million different things every time you want a big ass salad? not me! spending an hour or so one day per week getting everything chopped and tossed into the leaves and back into a bag is so simple and easy! very excited about all of this! thank you for keeping it so simple!! love it.
Thanks for the comment Ariel! Yeah, it can take longer than 40 the first few times you do it, but it’s well worth it for sure. I hope this helps you get closer to your fat loss goals.
Thanks for this meal prep tip tried it and everything came out great my question is now what are your meal break down for the day I hear everyone say you should eat 4 to 5 small meal per day.
You bet Mike, glad it worked out well for you. I wouldn’t worry too much eating 4 to 5 meals per day, unless than works well for your schedule. The whole mantra of eating small meals throughout the day came from old studies that showed you could burn more calories but doing so (using the thermic effect of eating). Most of these studies have been debunked and there is plenty of research that supports eating as little as 1 meal per day. Check out Intermittent Fasting if you want to learn more about that. It really doesn’t matter in my opinion. Personally, it depends on the day for me. Most days, I’ll eat 2 full meals. Maybe on a really active day, I’ll bump it up to 3 or 4. Hope that helps you Mike.
When you have the calorie content – is that for all 4 meals? eg
chicken tacos says 650 cals, 20 gms fat etc is that for the full 4 meals – ie divide the mixture by 4 to get the macro counts? Great idea – can’t wait to try it out this weekend. Cheers
Hey Michelle, no the 650 calorie count is for 3 chicken tacos. That of course includes the shredded cheese and 1/2 an avocado. You could reduce the cals by eliminating the cheese or avo, that could be a good lower cal option. I would say without the cheese and avo, you’re looking at around 400 cals. Enjoy!
Great prep outline. Thanks. I did this tonight and it worked out great
This was a life saver and super awesome! I am newly trying to get into shape, eat right, and change my lifestyle overall. Hopefully you make more instructionals like this! You have a solid follower with me. Thanks!
This all looks great and i’m eager to try it out, however i am unable to eat chicken/turkey as i have Eosinophilic esophagitis. What would you recommend instead?