Eating well doesn't have to be a difficult task if you plan accordingly. One easy way to stay on track? Grocery shop once during the week and prep all your meals ahead of time (trust me, the last thing you want to do when getting home from work every day is to cook a full meal). Arming yourself with a full arsenal of whole grains, lean meats, veggies, and fruit will allow you to mix and match meals all week and buffer you from reaching for the takeout menu or ordering Seamless. Below are some meal prep ideas that can be of some inspiration. Just choose a day out of the week that works best for you and get ready to cook!

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1

Quinoa or another healthy whole grain

photo: Giselle Castro

Prepare a cup of quinoa, brown rice, or another healthy grain and it’s sure to last you for at least a few days during the week. As long as you keep the seasonings simple (i.e., olive oil, a little salt), you can even experiment and make it into part of a snack or breakfast. For example, I sometimes use leftover quinoa in place of oatmeal and add a little honey, fruit, seeds, and nuts.

2

Lean protein

Prepare lean protein such as chicken, fish, bison, or tofu by marinating it in your favorite seasonings on Sunday or Monday morning and let it sit in the fridge until you are ready to cook in the evening (once cooked, meat generally lasts in the fridge between three and five days and can be frozen up to two months). One of the best ways to add flavor without adding sodium is by using lots of herbs. If you find certain fresh fish to be expensive, buy them canned, but avoid any with a heavy sodium or oil content. 

3

Zoodles

This might seem a bit offbeat, but by using a julienne peeler or a veggie spiralizer, you can liven up your veggies while cutting back on refined carbs. One fun option? Make noodles out of zucchini and use them as a low-carb option in place of pasta. If you're really in the mood for Italian food, add pesto or marinara sauce, just like you would for a regular pasta dish.

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4

Hard-boiled eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are literally one of the easiest high-protein options you can prepare ahead of time. They’re great for breakfast, to throw into salads, or as a quick and filling snack. Boil four at a time and store away for a few days. And here's a kitchen hack for you: Add a little baking soda to the water to make peeling the shells off effortless.

5

Chia seed pudding

A nutritious and filling breakfast or snack option is chia seed pudding. Add a tablespoon or two of chia seeds to a Mason jar, about a cup of almond milk (or milk of your choice), a teaspoon of honey or sweetener of choice, cocoa powder, fruits of your choice (I like bananas or blueberries), and let sit overnight. The next day you’ll find a sweet and healthy pudding that can be eaten first thing or in the afternoon when you feel yourself getting hangry. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredients in your chia seed pudding either!

6

Overnight oats

Another favorite of mine is overnight oats. Instead of spending time making oatmeal the day you want to eat it, I prepare it the night before. Add a half-cup of steel-cut oats, a cup of milk, a little sweetener, and any other healthy toppings you want to a bowl or Mason jar. Stir, seal, and place it in the fridge. That's it! The next morning, all you have to do is grab it and eat it on your way out the door. 

7

Cook beans or buy them canned

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If you have a pressure cooker or the time to cook beans from scratch, prepare any bean of your choice and store in the fridge. They're an excellent source of protein to throw in salads, make into soups, or serve alongside your whole grains. If cooking them takes too much time for you, buy them canned, but make sure they’re low in sodium.

If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can also cook beans in a slow cooker. Simply rinse them, throw them in a Crock-Pot with any aromatics to infuse flavor (such as garlic or bay leaves), cover them with water, and cook them on low heat for six to eight hours.

8

Prewash fruits and vegetables

photo: Giselle Castro

If you find it difficult to meet your fruit and vegetable intake, here’s an easy hack: Prewash them. I prefer to opt for portable fruit (bananas, apples), which I find easier to wash. If you prep all your meals on Sundays, wash your fruits, let them dry, and then keep them at eye level in the fridge or on your kitchen counter during the week. Do the same with your veggies. (Even easier kitchen hack? Buy prewashed bagged greens at the store and then make sure you store them somewhere you can see them in your fridge.)