Meal planning is something that can do wonders not just for your diet and health goals, but for your wallet, too. If you’re new to the world of meal prep, though, it can be tough to know where to start. We’re here to help.
We spoke with Registered Dietitian and food blogger, Carrie Walder, MS, RD, to jot down some of her insider tips on how to supercharge your meal prep including key flavourful, colourful protein sources like nutritious eggs!
“Meal prep is important for everyone — and for young professionals and college students in particular,” she says. “It can help so much with saving time and money during the week and also with sticking to healthy eating habits. So you’ll never again have to get takeout every night or wonder what to cook for dinner, or even skip breakfast because you don’t have time. It’s always helpful to have versatile ingredients on hand. Eggs, for instance, are key to unique, easy, and nutritious recipes. Not only are they super versatile, but they’re also quick and affordable — perfect for those looking to save money and time in the kitchen.”
Ready to take your meal-prepping to the next level? Here are four expert tips that will have you prepped and primed for the entire fall season.
Make sure you’re creating a balanced meal
When you’re preparing your meals for the next few days (or for the next week), it’s super important to make sure you are creating a balanced meal. This also helps you keep your meals colourful and nutritious!
Walder says, “I think it’s important to fill your plate proportionally with protein foods, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. I usually love doing quinoa, for instance, which I can leave in the fridge and throw into a lot of things that week.”
When it comes to high-quality proteins, you can change it up: “Take eggs, for example. They can be used as the focal point of a quick and easy meal or can elevate your dish with a boost of protein and flavour. Vegetables are also super important, as well as healthy fats. Eggs and vegetables are an ideal pairing for flexitarian and vegetarian meals and snacks.”
Eggs also help you better absorb the nutrients in vegetables and are a valuable source of high-quality protein.
As you’re looking through your favourite recipes and deciding what to prep, remember to fill your plate with different components of a balanced diet to make sure you fill in those gaps.
Prepare your meals in batches
The best way to tackle meal prep is to regularly carve out time to plan all your choices out. But what happens when your meal-planning gets a little too repetitive and becomes tedious to eat?
Walder suggests preparing large quantities of individual foods so you can use them in different ways throughout the week. This method is great for people who don’t have a lot of spare time to cook on weeknights. Try prepping a large batch of brown rice or farro and roasting a tray of vegetables and proteins (like chickpeas and fish) at the start of the week to use in salads, stir-fries, or bowls.
Choosing foods that are endlessly versatile will give you more options as the week goes on, too. For instance, eggs are one of the most versatile protein sources to add to your meal prep because you can use them in so many different ways. “You can use them in frittatas, egg muffins, omelettes, scrambled eggs, in salads, in grain bowls, and the list goes on!” Walder says.
Elevate your meal with simple and delicious additions
You can add a little pizzazz to your dishes by making a few simple changes each time, such as tossing in crumbled feta or fresh herbs or preparing the meal in a new way (toss it in a wrap, for instance). It’s easy to get stuck in a meal prep rut and end up eating the same foods every single day — but it doesn’t have to be that way!
Use new and tasty elements to elevate the food you’ve already cooked. Walder says, “One of my favourite things to prep is hard-boiled eggs. Those keep all week in the fridge and you can just throw them onto a grain bowl, a salad, or avocado toast for a protein boost. [They’re even great] just to eat as a snack!”
Find your favourite recipes, and stick with them
Once you’ve found something that works for your meal prep, stick with it. You’re definitely more likely to stick to your new meal planning habit if it’s something you actually like doing!
Walder says, “I often do a baked frittata, which is easy to do and very fast. And I can change [the ingredients] up all the time, depending on what’s in season to prevent repetition, which is nice. Prepared egg dishes, like the frittata, can be kept for three to four days in the fridge, so I can grab it anytime I want! They can either be reheated in the oven or microwave, or you can even enjoy them cold.”
It definitely helps to keep your meal prep organized. When you’re keeping your favourite meal prepped meals in the fridge or the freezer (for longer-term storage), try using eco-friendly glass containers to store your food. They are easy to clean, reheat, and use to store most foods without creating smells!
“I want to show people that cooking and eating healthy can be simple,” Walder says. “It doesn’t have to be complicated or take too much time! I don’t preach any particular diets or focus on dieting at all, really. It’s more about getting in plentiful whole foods and balanced meals — that kind of stuff.”