Healthy Eating on a Tight Schedule - Meal Prep Ideas

Fueling Up On The Fly: Tips For Healthy Eating When You're Short On Time

Life gets hectic. Between work, family, and other obligations, finding the time to plan and prep healthy meals can seem next to impossible some weeks. The last thing you want is to hit the drive-thru and order greasy fast food just because it's quick and easy.

The good news? You can absolutely eat nutritious and delicious foods even when time is tight. It just takes a little strategic planning and prep. Follow these tips to keep yourself fueled with good-for-you meals and snacks, even when your schedule is jam packed.

Set Aside Time For Meal Planning

The key to healthy eating on the fly is having a plan in place. Set aside 30 minutes over the weekend to map out the week ahead. Note days you can prep recipes or components to use in multiple dishes. For example, roast a batch of veggies on Sunday to add to salads, pastas, omelets or grain bowls over the next few days.

Also think about any nights you can cook double batches of soups, chilies or casseroles to eat as leftovers. Having prepped ingredients and meals ready to grab makes putting together healthy dishes effortless, even when you only have 10 minutes to spare.

Cook Once, Eat Twice

When you do have time to cook proteins, grains and veggies, make extra. Finding ways to repurpose leftovers cuts down on cooking time. Shredded rotisserie chicken can top salads one day and fill wraps or sandwiches the next. Extra quinoa or brown rice pairs nicely with sautéed veggies for quick grain bowls.

Get into the habit of doubling recipes to have healthy leftovers ready to eat or incorporate into new dishes later in the week.

Fill Your Fridge And Pantry With Quick Fixings

Having nutritious grab-and-go foods readily available is key. Stock up on canned beans, tomatoes and fish, along with frozen fruits and veggies without added sauces or seasonings.

Shelf-stable pouches of rice, quinoa and oats cook up in just minutes. Precooked beets, sweet potatoes and proteins like hard boiled eggs require zero prep. Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, hummus and cut up raw veggies make easy snacks.

Keeping healthy convenience items on hand means throwing together a nourishing meal in no time.

Think Fast-Cooking Whole Foods

When deciding what to eat on super hectic nights, opt for quick cooking whole foods. Eggs, precooked grains and frozen veggies whip up fast. Canned beans just need a rinse and can be tossed into tacos, burrito bowls or salads.

Lean proteins like shrimp, white fish and chicken breast cook up quickly on the stovetop or grill pan. Having a roster of fast cooking ingredients makes assembling a healthy meal doable, even when you only have 15 minutes.

With a little organization, it's completely possible to maintain healthy eating habits even during your busiest times. Simple meal planning, batch cooking and stocking up on nutritious grab-and-go items means you'll always have healthy and satisfying foods at the ready when hunger hits.

Here are five meal prep ideas along with recipes to get you started on your journey to healthy eating on a tight schedule:

1. Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas and Veggies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Rinse quinoa under cold water, then combine it with 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the quinoa is cooked and water is absorbed.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, chickpeas, cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion, and parsley.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour this dressing over the salad and toss to combine.
  4. Divide the salad into airtight containers. It can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.

2. Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup snow peas
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Cooked brown rice

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, honey, garlic, and ginger to create the stir-fry sauce.
  2. In a large skillet or wok, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and stir-fry until cooked through. Remove chicken from the skillet.
  3. In the same skillet, add a bit more oil if needed. Add broccoli, red bell pepper, carrot, and snow peas. Stir-fry until vegetables are tender-crisp.
  4. Return the cooked chicken to the skillet and pour the stir-fry sauce over everything. Stir well to coat.
  5. Divide the stir-fry and cooked brown rice into meal prep containers. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

3. Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or your choice of milk)
  • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
  • Fresh berries and sliced bananas
  • Chopped nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts)

Instructions:

  1. In a mason jar or airtight container, combine rolled oats, Greek yogurt, almond milk, and honey or maple syrup. Stir well.
  2. Top with fresh berries, sliced bananas, and your choice of chopped nuts.
  3. Seal the container and refrigerate overnight. Your delicious and nutritious breakfast is ready to grab and go in the morning.

4. Veggie and Hummus Snack Boxes

Ingredients:

  • Baby carrots
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumber slices
  • Bell pepper strips
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Hummus for dipping

Instructions:

  1. Wash and cut the veggies into snackable pieces.
  2. Divide them into small containers or bento boxes.
  3. Add a portion of hummus for dipping.
  4. Seal the containers, and you have healthy, crunchy snacks ready for the week.

5. Turkey and Avocado Wraps

Ingredients:

  • Whole-grain tortillas
  • Sliced turkey breast
  • Avocado slices
  • Lettuce leaves
  • Sliced cheese (optional)
  • Mustard or your favorite condiment

Instructions:

  1. Lay out the tortillas and layer on the turkey, avocado, lettuce, and cheese (if using).
  2. Add a drizzle of mustard or your preferred condiment.
  3. Roll up the wraps tightly and cut them in half.
  4. Wrap each half in plastic wrap or foil for easy grab-and-go lunches. These wraps can stay fresh for a few days in the fridge.

These meal prep ideas and recipes are not only convenient but also delicious and nutritious, making it easier for you to stick to your healthy eating goals even when you're short on time. Enjoy!

 

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