Fast & Easy Meal Prep Techniques and Recipes

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The way you eat has a huge impact on your body, and no amount of training and exercise can undo a plate piled high with junk food. If you’re like a lot of people though, you don’t have the time to cook for yourself. Even if you did, you probably don’t know what to cook or how you would cook it.

There’s no reason to be afraid of your kitchen. There are a ton of basic techniques and recipes out there that will allow you to eat clean, healthy food without spending two hours a day cooking. Use this guide to get your eating habits under control. Whether you’re training for competition, working toward personal goals, or just trying to perfect your beach body — what you eat matters.

Know Your Needs

When you sit down to eat, you want something that's healthy but doesn’t taste like cardboard. Plan your meals with this very simple formula. You need lean protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber-rich, nutrient-packed vegetables. It’s really that simple if you want to eat well and feel good when you get up from the table.

Now let’s talk about how you’re going to cook.

 

Cooking in Bulk

If you don’t want to spend every night cooking, you need to have some food prepared in the refrigerator. To do that, you’re going to need to cook larger portions than you’ll eat in one or two sittings. When you go to cook a lean protein for example, figure out the portion that you’ll eat at once and multiply that by six. That way you’ll have enough lean protein for six full meals completed once you’re done cooking.

This is the best way to get your food prepared if you’re always on the go. You can even take food with you to work. You’ll also have things ready to eat, so you won’t give in to junk food when you’re hungry. Not that you would keep that in the house.

 

Lean Protein

Lean protein is one of the building blocks you need in every single meal that you eat. If you’re going to be cooking for more than one meal at a time, which we really think you should, chicken breast is an incredible option.

By cooking a few portions of chicken breast at a time, you’ll also be giving yourself options when it comes to later meals. That chicken breast that you slice and serve the night you cook it is going to be excellent mixed with greens and low-fat salad dressing for lunch the next day. You could even chop it and make chicken salad to go on top of toasted whole grain bread.

Start with boneless, skinless chicken breast. It’s lean, tasty and very versatile. The recipe below is very simple, but you can dress up your chicken breast with a variety of herbs and mixtures, like Cajun spice, Italian spice blends or garlic powder.

 

Basic Baked Chicken Breast

What You’ll Need:

  • 6 12-ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Paper towels
  • Large baking dish
  • Kosher Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  • Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, pat your chicken breasts dry with paper towels.
  • Step 2: Place the chicken breasts in a large baking dish, giving each breast a bit of space to allow for even cooking.
  • Step 3: Bake the chicken on the center rack for 30 minutes. Check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer to ensure even cooking by placing the tip of the needle in the center of the breast from the side. Chicken breast should be cooked to a minimum of 165-degrees Fahrenheit. If needed, return the chicken to the oven in five-minute intervals until the correct temperature is reached.
  • Step 4: Remove the baking dish from the oven. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for five minutes. Serve hot.

Nutrition Information, per 6-ounce serving:

Total calories: 276, Total Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Protein: 42g, Carbohydrate: 0g

 

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are an essential part of any meal. They help you feel full and give you energy to make it through the day, and without them, you won’t perform at your peak in the office or at the gym. Basic complex carbohydrates are easy to come by, so we won’t waste your time telling you how to cook brown rice or quinoa. They’re great to have in the refrigerator, but they can get pretty bland fast. Instead, we’re going to go with something just a little bit more adventurous.

 

Roasted Spiced Red Potatoes

What You’ll Need:

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  • 4 lbs. red potatoes
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • Colander
  • Fork
  • Microwave-safe plate
  • Large roasting pan
  • Large slotted spoon

Instructions:

  • Step 1: Wash your red potatoes thoroughly in the sink, removing any dark spots or roots with a paring knife. Allow the potatoes to drain in a colander for about 10 minutes.
  • Step 2: Place your cleaned red potatoes on a microwave-safe plate and poke holes in them with the tines of a fork. Two to three pokes per potato will keep microwave-related explosions at bay.
  • Step 3: Put your potatoes in the microwave for five minutes on medium power. Flip potatoes over and repeat. Potatoes should still be firm, but easy to poke with the tines of a fork.
  • Step 4: Allow your potatoes to cool on the counter for 20 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450-degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Step 5: Quarter your potatoes by slicing them lengthwise, then cutting those pieces in half. Place the potatoes in a large roasting pan.
  • Step 6: Using a large slotted spoon, slowly toss the potatoes with the olive oil. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper to taste, as well as the smoked paprika, garlic powder and chili powder, tossing the potatoes gently as you go.
  •  
  • Step 7: Roast the potatoes in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, tossing them every 10 minutes to ensure evening browning. Add an additional 10 to 20 minutes for well-cooked potatoes.

Nutrition Information, Per 1-cup serving:

Total calories: Approx. 125, Total Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Protein: 2g, Carbohydrate: 13g

 

Fresh Vegetables

Fresh vegetables provide fiber to fill you up, vital minerals and nutrients, and an abundance of other good stuff your body needs. For many people though, fresh vegetables are the worst part of the meal. While you can certainly steam some carrots and drop them onto your plate, you’re not going to stick with that bland, miserable side dish for too long. Try this broiled cauliflower with garlic and lemon to spice up your weeknight veggies.

You can also make a ton of this at once, so you’ll be munching on it for days. It’s so good you might even find yourself holding a piece of cold cauliflower for your midnight snack.

 

Broiled Cauliflower with Garlic and Lemon

What You’ll Need:

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  • 2 heads cauliflower, chopped into 1” florets
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 cloves garlic, more if desired
  • 1 lemon, 1/2 reserved
  • 2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese, optional
  • Broiler pan or large baking dish

Instructions:

  • Step 1: Preheat the oven or your broiler to 500-degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure the center rack is available for this dish. You don’t want the cauliflower too close to the heat, but you do want even browning.
  • Step 2: Place your chopped cauliflower in a large broiler pan or baking dish. Toss the cauliflower with olive oil to coat and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  • Step 3: Slice the garlic cloves into thick pieces. Add them to the cauliflower and toss again, dispersing the garlic evenly throughout the broiler pan or baking dish.
  • Step 4: Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over the cauliflower. Place it in the preheated broiler or oven on the center rack. Cook the cauliflower for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  • Step 5: Remove the cauliflower from the oven and toss. Add the parmesan cheese and more lemon juice if desired.

Nutrition Information, Per 1-cup serving:

Total calories: Approx. 115, Total Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Protein: 4g, Carbohydrate: 7g

 

Portion Prepared Food Wisely

Now that you’ve got a few basic recipes under your belt, you need to think about how you’re going to make it easy to eat well through the week. The best method is to pack prepared food in individual containers that are ready to grab and eat. Combine six ounces of baked chicken, 1 cup of roasted red potatoes, and 1 cup of broiled cauliflower for an easy meal that’s just a hair over 500 calories. Make a few of these and put them in the refrigerator, then save some of your remaining leftovers for other dishes. The chicken and cauliflower are great in any basic salad, for example.

Check out Meal Plan Magic to learn more about eating well at home. There’s no reason you can’t make clean, healthy and delicious food all on your own without spending hours in the kitchen. You just need to be smart about how you do it!

 

Source:

USDA: Supertracker Food Calculator
https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/myrecipe.aspx