When I say meal prep, most people will automatically think of bodybuilders cooking 30 chicken breasts, 3lbs of steamed broccoli, and a bag of white rice on Sunday to be distributed into 25 pre-portioned tupperware containers for the week.
I believe that the main reason normal people cannot stick to this sort of regimen is that this is SO BORING, and in many cases it is just not flavorful at all. So if you are trying to eat healthier, in a sustainable way, meal-prepping the traditional way is almost guarantee to make you count down the minutes until your “cheat day” which is not the point of this.
In order to change your habits for good, you need to cook in such a way that makes you feel happier, fuller, and more energized than when you stop at McDonald’s. Here are a few cooking secrets that I’ve adopted that has made my meal prep so much easier and healthier.
- Make an All-Purpose Dressing This is an easy way to add a little healthy fat, a little acid, and a ton of herbs and spices (aka flavor) to any dish. With this dressing on hand, you can pour it over a salad, sure, but also over your leftover pork tenderloin, your random assortment of roasted veggies, or really anything that otherwise would be the healthy choice, but not the flavorful, cravable choice. This will fix that problem and will leave you looking in the fridge for things to pour this all over.
- Make a Signature Spice Mix If Emeril can have a signature spice blend, then why can’t you?! The beauty of this is that you can use it to infuse flavor during the cooking process or after the fact to blast your buds with more flavor. This will make your home cooking more cravable than take-out. Salt and Black Pepper are always a great start to this sort of a mix. Once this backbone is started, you get to choose the spices you enjoy most. Personally, I love dill, parsley, sage, garlic, and cayenne pepper. Between all those flavors, I get heat, funk, savory, fresh…all without adding calories to the food. Swap out this spice mix for your high-fructose corn syrup- infested ketchup or marinades and you’ll find yourself feeling better without sacrificing flavor AT ALL.
- Pre-chop and Pre-cook Veggies The key to eating your way to health…if I had to pick one, would be to consume more veggies than anything else in your diet. Michael Pollan says it best, “Eat food, not too much, and mostly plants.” In order to do this, you need to make veggies cravable, which, let’s face it, they just are not more cravable than the sugar and fat-laden food-products that we choose over them each day. If you can rely on your flavor from your all-purpose dressing, or your signature spice mix, the main issue for you will be time. Veggies take a while to prepare, so chopping and roasting some veggies ahead of time and storing them in the fridge to be added to meals easily will ensure that you eat more of them. Choose 3 to have raw and 3 to have roasted. Personally I like to roast garlic, onions, peppers, cauliflower or broccoli. My raw choices are typically radishes, snow peas. Tomatoes, carrots, or asparagus. If you want to boost up the heartiness, add in some sweet potatoes and you’ll be full before you know it. From that point in time, a plant-based lunch basically builds itself. Layer veggies, and add a protein if you want to, douse it in herbaceous dressing, and boom–lunch.
- Roast your Nuts This one technique will take your already cravable plant-based meal to super saiyan level. Grab some pine nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, and walnuts and roast them or throw them around in a pan until they become fragrant and a little brown. The oils released combined with the crunch of this element will bring flavor and texture to your lunch that you didn’t think possible.
- Dry Brine your Meat If you gotta eat meat…I get it. I love meat. But the truth of it all is that only quality meat is good for you and quality meat is actually sort of difficult to find/afford. Small local farmers can hook you up with a volume discount if you have the freezer to hold half an animal. Try this and split with some friends to save on high quality stuff. So once you find some meat that hasn’t been fed with GMO corn, covered in pesticides, and injected with antibiotics and hormones…you are ready to prep your meat for consumption. If you plan on cooking your meat on Sunday, on Friday, take your cuts of chicken or beef or bison or whatever and cover them with liberal amounts of salt and pepper. This will season, tenderize, and remove water from the meat, leaving you with flavorful tender cuts that will also brown up nicely in the pan. If you are going to eat meat, you might as well eat less of it, at a higher quality, and with a major bump of flavor concentration possible with this technique.
So that is it. My method is more about concentrating flavor so that you will actually want to eat the food you cook and not be distracted and swayed by things that are quicker, easier, and artificially jammed with chemicals designed to make you like them more than real healthy food. I hope it inspires you to eat more veggies for the rest of your life and to cook more and enjoy life more than just eating the same bland food everyday thinking it’s the only way to be “healthy.”
These methods allow you to create a dish that is well-balanced with fat, salt, acid, fresh, creamy, and crunchy elements out of pretty much anything you have on hand. When you food is easy and just as cravable as takeout, you are bound to be more successful in your journey toward health.
If this sounds great, but you just don’t know where to start or how to hold yourself accountable, go to https://shiftlifewithjenny.com/ and hire a health coach to help you finally reach your goals. I can only offer advice, but Jenny could offer you the kick in the pants you need to finally win.