We love meal prep ideas here at Clean because one of the hurdles to healthy eating we hear most often is that being busy or under-prepared can derail healthy choices, especially meals on the 21-Day Clean Program. With proper meal prep ideas, you'll always have easy meals on hand, so no matter how short on time you are, wholesome food is ready to go. We've put together our best tips for food prep, and even laid out a sample week of food prep to show you exactly how it looks.
Pick a time that works best for you (we love Sunday) and put it into your calendar. Give yourself 1-3 hours of prep time, depending on the complexity of your meals and your personal pace in the kitchen. Make this time fun! Get your family involved, play upbeat music, and let it be a relaxing part of your weekend.
Get proper containers
Make sure you have plenty of containers to store all of your hard work in. We love glass since you can heat your food directly in the container. If you do choose plastic, be sure to avoid BPA. BPA is a chemical found in some plastics, and it can interfere with estrogen and other hormones when consumed. When heated or even when food just sits for long periods in BPA-containing materials, it can leak into your food.
Decide which meals to prep
In our example, we've prepped all three meals, but it can range from creating complete meals or simply prepping individual ingredients so putting together meals will move more quickly. You may find that dinner is not a stressful meal to cook, so you really only need to make breakfast and lunch. Your personal schedule will dictate which meals you choose to prep. You may also find by doing a general food prep of chopping lots of vegetables and cooking up healthy grains, you have some flexibility.
Gauging how much variety is needed
Making the same recipe for every meal is the most simplistic way of food prepping. However you may find that you need more variety. Determine how much variety you personally need before planning out what you'll prep. Seasoning is a great way to create more variety using the same ingredients. For instance, if you eat chicken breast for three lunches, choose a new seasoning for each piece to create a new experience.
Chia seed pudding: In a mason jar combine chia seeds, nut milk and any clean-approved sweetener you might like to make this chia seed pudding. You can add in fruit, cacao, flaxseed, matcha, or any other boosters of your choice. Store in an airtight container and grab on your way out in the morning.
Smoothie packs: In 16-oz mason jars or freezer bags, combine a cup a fruit, 2-3 cups of veggies, Daily Shake powder, and any other smoothie boosters you enjoy. Store in the freezer and simply combine with a nut milk and blend for a smoothie-on-the-go.
Salads: These are a great choice for lunches since they are so easy to put together, are very flexible, and give us a ton of nutrient-dense veggies. You can make the same salad every day, if you like. Healthy dressings are another great way to create variety. Lemon and olive oil are a classic, but try different type of vinegar, seasoning, and fats to make your favorite.
Soups: Making a big pot of soup at the beginning of the week is a great way to get a hot lunch. Just like salads, you can change out the veggies, and top with protein like chicken from the beginning of the week.
Leftover dinner: One way to get a different lunch each day is to make extra dinner each night and bring it for lunch the next day.
We made salads to last us the whole week. Using raw veggies and precooking our chicken and quinoa, we divided greens into 4-5 containers and then roast extra veggies at dinner to top the salads. We kept the dressing simple with olive oil, salt, lemon, and pepper.
Crock pot meals: Crock pot meals make dinner time so easy. You can make one large dinner, like chili, at the beginning of the week and eat the same meal all week. You can also create crock pot packs, where you place all the ingredients for meals into bags, and then add into the crock pot each morning, and have dinner waiting when you return home.
Stir fry: Stir fry dinners are so easy! During meal prep, simply chop all of your ingredients and place them into a container, fully seasoned. At dinner time, heat oil in a large pan, pour the contents in and cook through. You'll only dirty one pan and dinner is ready in a flash.
Sheet pan dinners: Finding ingredients that cook at the same rate makes one-pan dinners are reality. During your food prep, you'll simply cut the veggies and clean the meat. Come dinner time, spread the veggies (like potatoes, broccoli, squash, brussels sprouts, etc), toss with oil and seasoning. Then on the other side of the pan place your protein (like chicken thighs or salmon), also seasoned and oiled and bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes and dinner is served!
We went with the simplest dinner option by making a crock pot chili at the beginning of the week. We prepped the ingredients Sunday, then turned on the crock pot Monday morning. We chopped the toppings like onions and cilantro so we could quickly add some flavor at night.
We measured out nuts and chose fruit (apples, or bananas and oranges when not cleansing) that didn't require any prep beyond a quick wash, We also grabbed a few bottles of Health-ade kombucha to add some flavor and probiotics to our days. Good snack options are also to prepare something simple like clean granola, or raw nut bars.
Recipe and photography by Kaitlyn Noble
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