Meal Prep Conundrum [Plus 5 Easy Meals in a Pinch]

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Written By

Rhea Dali

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

 

Where does time go?

 

It was 3 p.m. and I was hangry!

 

 

On the go all morning, unlike most days, I failed to prepare—to pre-pack my lunch for the day, knowing I would have time to run home in the afternoon.

 

By the time I got home though, visions of sugarplums were dancing in my head.

 

I wanted food—and wanted it now.

 

Thankfully, I had some roasted chicken in the fridge from earlier that week, as well as some pre-made sweet potatoes wrapped up, roasted zucchini and a tub of spinach.

 

I threw everything together in a bowl, added a dollop of coconut butter, some coconut vinegar and voila, lunch in a bowl.

 

To say the least, I was thankful I had meal prepped some basic items for the week.

 

But my late lunch episode got me thinking about how often I speak with people who are not prepared at all, and understanding what it is many of my clients go through on the daily.

 

They:

 

  • Go to work or school, no lunch or snacks in tow, deciding to ‘just cross that bridge when they come to it’ (hunger)
  • Work late or are out later into the evenings and before they know it, it’s 9 p.m., and they haven’t eaten dinner. What do they do? Grab anything in sight.
  • Believe cooking and meal prep is too daunting or overwhelming, so they just don’t do it altogether
  • Live off of as many ‘easy’, pre-made, pre-prepped foods they can (bars, shakes, frozen dinners, takeout, delivery, Whole Foods hot bar)

 

And…they are continuously living in a state of limbo with their nutrition, their health and their goals.

 

 

“I don’t understand why I can’t lose the weight (or gain the weight).”

 

Or,

 

“It’s so hard to eat clean everyday.”

 

Or,

 

“I crave _____ (chocolate, crunchy and salty things, sweets, etc.) and it’s hard to control.”

 

Or,

 

“I just want to ______ (have more energy, feel good in my own skin, stop thinking about food all the time, etc.).”

 

An often overlooked step to addressing any of these all boils down to preparation.

 

 

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, and without the availability of food for your daily meals, then you are more apt to:

 

  • Reach for whatever is in sight when hunger strikes
  • Spend more money on food (eating out more)
  • Lack balance in your daily intake
  • Think more frequently about food (‘What’s next?’)
  • Experience more exaggerated ups and downs of hunger and fullness
  • Experience cravings (often not getting in everything you need nutritionally due to the ‘unknown’ of the next meal)
  • Skip meals
  • Feel overwhelmed

 

That being said, there is definitely room for spontaneity people (food is not a game of perfection), and it is important to live your life (go with the flow)—not letting your food, or next meal, or a ‘plan’ necessarily dictate your days, but instead allowing it to fuel your life.

 

When I say ‘meal prep’, what I mean is being PREPARED with foods, on hand, already made, or prepped to easily cook or make, so on those days when you hit “hangry”, you don’t have to stay that way for long.

 

 

Here are some easy foods I keep on hand in my fridge and pantry for some easy no-cook options:

 

Veggies & Side Options

  • Pre-cut/sliced and washed vegetables (do this when you get home from the grocery store and store in ziplocks or Tupperware)
  • Sweet potatoes/potatoes (cook in bulk, wrapped in foil at 425-degrees for 40-60 minutes, until soft)
  • Roasted/toaster oven veggies (zucchini, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, etc.)
  • A squash (spaghetti squash or butternut or acorn)
  • Spinach/other greens in a tub or bags

 

Protein Options

  • Hardboiled eggs and pasture-raised eggs
  • Bacon/turkey bacon (nitrate free)
  • Roasted chicken and chicken thighs
  • Frozen chicken/turkey sausages (Applegate Farms brand)
  • Canned tuna/salmon
  • Grassfed burger patties/turkey burgers (cooked in bulk; Applegate Farms also makes frozen patties that take 4-8 minutes to cook)

 

Condiments

  • Primal Mayo
  • Coconut vinegar
  • Balsalmic vinegar
  • Almond butter (raw)
  • Coconut butter

Keep some of these on hand to throw together a quick meal in a pinch.

 

For starters, learn to use a crockpot!

 

 

Step 1: Buy any meat you like…chicken, chicken thighs, beef roast, pork loin, bison steak…most slow cookers fit up to 4-6 lbs. of meat.

 

Step 2: Place the meat in a slow cooker and add sea salt + other seasonings. (No need to add any liquids to the meat for the most basic dishes.)

 

Step 3: Cook the meat overnight or during the day while you’re gone. I typically put it on low heat for 8-10 hours (buy a slow cooker that has an automatic timer in case you can’t get home in time).

 

Step 4: When the meat is done, put it into containers and store in the fridge.

 

Voila! Meat on hand to use in multiple ways throughout the week!

 

Here are a few of my favorite easy prep meals to get you inspired for being prepared this week. Nothing beats “homecooking”!

 

In-A-Pinch Dishes (10 minutes or less people)

 

BLT Salad

 

Ingredients

  • 8 slices of good quality bacon
  • pulled chicken breast from roasted chicken
  • 1 – 2 heads romaine, torn
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1 – 2 avocados, sliced
  • 2 tbsp coconut vinegar
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

 

Directions

  • Heat up a pan and fry that bacon up!
  • While bacon cooks, combine salad ingredients and add bacon on top when finished
  • Drizzle with the vinegar.
  • Boom

 

 

Tacos

Ingredients

  • Grassfed beef/ground turkey/chicken- 1 lb.
  • Taco seasonings to taste (chili powder, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, sear salt, pepper)
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Homemade guacamole

 

Directions

Heat 1 tbsp. coconut oil on stovetop over medium heat. Cook meat until pink nearly gone, add taco seasonings to liking and some fresh salsa and avacado. Serve in lettuce wraps instead of taco shells.

 

 

Stuffed Sweet Potato

Ingredients

  • Coconut oil- 1 tsp
  • Roasted sweet potato (Garnet, Japanese, New Jersey, flavor of choice)
  • Greens of choice (kale, chard, spinach, etc.)
  • Chicken or ground meat- 1 lb.
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

 

  • Toppings of choice: Coconut butter- 1 tbsp, nitrate free bacon, avocado, or raw goat cheese if tolerated

 

Directions

Premake your sweet potatoes in bulk for quicker cooking. Bake at 425-degrees wrapped in foil for 40-60 minutes, until softened OR if cooking in a pinch, wash and pierce sweet potato with a fork. Wrap in a wet paper towel and microwave for 6-10 minutes (depending on size of the potato), turning half way through cooking.
Heat 1 tsp coconut oil on medium heat with a splash of water, sea salt and pepper. Cover and sautee for 4-6. While greens are cooking, reheat your potato (if pre-made) in an oven at 350-degrees. Add greens and meat to potato. Top with coconut butter or toppings of choice.

 

Kitchen Sink Stir Fry

Ingredients

  • Favorite veggies (kale, chard, baby spinach, broccoli, shredded carrots, broccoli slaw, mushrooms, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons cooking fat (e.g. lard, coconut oil, ghee, etc.)
  • 1 pound of ground or thinly sliced meat (turkey, chicken, beef)
  • 1-2 tbsp of your favorite seasoning or coconut aminos
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper

 

Directions

Chop veggies and sautee on stovetop in heated pan. Add meat, continue to cook through. Add seasonings.. Stir occasionally until thoroughly cooked.

 

Tuna Salad

Ingredients

  • 3-4 leaves butter lettuce or romaine
  • 4 oz can chicken or wild tuna/pulled chicken
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp mustard (omit for AIP)
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • Parsley flakes
  • 2 strips nitrate free bacon, cooked

 

Directions

Mix all ingredients together. Serve inside a tomato or bellpepper with seeds scooped out, atop of greens or wrapped in a lettuce or coconut flour/almond flour tortillas. Try these!

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