The chill of winter is settling in which means you may want to stay home and hibernate. We’re here to help you keep your meals simple, mindful & delicious this winter! Set yourself up for success in the kitchen by mastering these easy and winter-friendly meal prep basics from Olivia Wagner, staff dietitian at Aligned Modern Health.
Meal Prep Basics
#1 Be Prepared
Think about your meals for the week ahead of time and ask yourself, “What do I want to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks this week?” Then write out all of your meal ideas for each day of the week. Remember to factor in lunch meetings, dinners out with friends, or busy evenings running errands.
#2 Pick Recipes
Once you’ve selected your meal and snack ideas, pick recipes for the week. Think herbs, spices, and lots of color. Choose recipes with an animal protein or plant-based protein, 2-3 colors of fiber rich vegetables, and a plant based fat source. Some of our favorite dishes include:
- Coconut Chicken Curry with Winter Vegetables
- Slow Roasted Salmon with Brussels Sprouts and Arugula Walnut Pesto
- Butternut Squash Soup with Cashew Cream and Spinach Turkey Meatballs
- Kale and Cabbage Slaw with Pomegranate, Tahini Vinaigrette, and Toasted Hemp Seeds
#3 Build a Bowl
If picking recipes isn’t your thing, then prep different proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to mix and match throughout the week to create delicious meal bowls.
Choose a balance between fatty fish like salmon, sardines, or wild caught tuna, legumes and beans (if your system can tolerate them), and grass-fed or pastured animal proteins like eggs, poultry, or meat. Some protein ideas include:
- Basic beef or lamb meatballs
- Rosemary grilled chicken breasts
- Marinated lentils
- Slow cooker pork carnitas or
- Simple ground turkey
When selecting vegetables, choose a balance between starchy vegetables, like butternut squash, beets, sweet potatoes, and parsnips as well as non-starchy vegetables like brussel sprouts, peppers, cauliflower, or zucchini. This is your chance to get creative with colors & textures!
- Roast a few batches of starchy and non-starchy vegetables to create a well balanced blend
- Make a kale salad or cabbage slaw
- Look for convenient options that are already pre-washed like salad greens, cauliflower rice, butternut zigzags, or vegetable noodles like zucchini (zoodles), carrots, or beet noodles.
Complete your lunch or dinner bowls with a healthy plant-based fat like nuts, seeds, avocado, or cold-pressed oils. You can also use high quality animal fats like ghee or grass-fed dairy products. Try some of these delicious ideas:
- Use tahini or cashew butter to make a creamed salad dressing
- Blend basil and walnuts to make a batch of dairy free pesto sauce
- Prep or purchase homemade guacamole or hummus
- Top your protein and vegetables with a sprinkle of seeds or nuts for an added crunch. You can also use avocado slices or a handful of olives.
- Add the final touch to your lunch or dinner bowls with a drizzle of omega-3 rich cold pressed oils like flax oil, hemp oil, or walnut oil.
#4 Make a Grocery List
Finally, make a grocery list. Write out all of the foods and amounts you will for your meals and snacks for the entire week. Leave some room on your list for any seasonal vegetables that may be on sale.
More Meal Prep Tips
If you love our meal prep tips then here are a few more!
- Make Time for Mid-Week Prep. Pick a day to do some easy midweek meal prep. Try a slow cooker recipe or purchase an organic rotisserie chicken for dinner then use the leftovers to top off tomorrow’s lunch salad. You can even repurpose leftover protein sources and vegetables from earlier in the week to whip up a frittata.
- Avoid Food Ruts. Change up flavors and textures so you don’t fall into a food rut. Try recipes that highlight your favorite cuisines like Italian, Mexican, or Thai, your taste buds will stay entertained and be thanking you with each forkful.
- Schedule Time. Set up a day and time each week to plan for your meals, grocery shop , and meal prep. Even 1-2 hours of cooking on a Sunday afternoon can set you up for a successful week ahead.
- Look for Convenient Options. When grocery shopping, look for convenient options that include protein like olive oil packed tuna pouches, sardines, or salmon, pastured eggs, or frozen organic edamame. Pair any one of these protein sources with steamed vegetables, ½ of an avocado, or a handful of nuts for a simple and balanced meal. Yum!
- Make Sweet Treats. Whether it’s a frozen banana bite, a gingerbread energy ball, or Simple Mills Chocolate Muffins, make something to curb any sweet tooth cravings. Some of our favorites include fresh berries (when in season), dried fruits, or apples topped with nut butter and a dash of cinnamon.
- Freeze Food. Grab a slow cooker and whip up large batches of bone broth, stews, marinara sauce, and chili. All of these items freeze well and will save you time on days when you don’t feel like cooking. Stock your freezer with other popular items like breakfast sausage, meatballs, burger patties, and stuffed peppers.
- Stay Saucy. There is no better way to add healthy fat to meals than through healthy homemade sauces. Whether it’s herb roasted pesto, salsa verde, red pepper sauce, or tahini dressing, try making double batches so you always have sauce on hand. 2-4 ounce mason jars work best!
- Plan for Snacks. Don’t forget snacks! Some favorites include fresh fruit, vegetables with guacamole or hummus, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or mixed nuts. Place snacks in convenient spots like your office desk drawer, car console, or gym bag for easy grabbing.
- Keep Frozen Protein Sources. Save yourself an extra trip to the grocery store mid-week by keeping frozen protein sources on hand. Try Wild Caught salmon filets, grass-fed beef, and pastured poultry.
Use these easy meal prep tips the next time you meal prep for the week and be sure to tag us on social media so we can see how you make your meals healthy this winter!
Ready to plan out your meals for the week? Use our Meal Prep Calendar template below, and check out our 5 Simple Meals to Prep on Sunday.