As a dietitian, it's my job to dispel a lot of rumors about food and nutrition- especially those that prevent people from enjoying a more nutritious diet. One thing I think a lot of people misunderstand is meal prepping. Here are some of the myths I’ve heard about it:
- It’s only for fitness junkies and bodybuilders
- It takes too much time and effort
- Meal prepped food is boring and repetitive
I believe that all these statements are totally false, especially the last one. Sure, if you prepare a bunch of brown rice, plain chicken breast, and steamed broccoli to eat every day of the week, it will get really old really fast. But if that's your only view of meal prep, allow me to expand your horizons.
It IS possible to enjoy satisfying, flavorful, and filling dishes every day of the week. And thanks to meal prep, you can do this without sacrificing time, money, and energy. Today I’m sharing 5 easy ways to add variety to your meals, and I’m also sharing a FREE guide, "How to Pick the Perfect Toppings" to give you some inspiration. Sound good?
Tip 1: Mix & Match
An easy way to add more variety to your weekly dishes is by preparing several variations of the main components of a meal (starches, proteins, and vegetables) mixing and then mixing and matching them to create different combinations. For example, you can prep two sources of starches (brown rice and whole wheat pasta), two sources of lean protein (chicken breast and tofu), and two vegetables (zucchini and broccoli). By doing this, you’ll enjoy a new meal every time!
Tip 2: Switch Up Sides
Another easy way to add variety is by preparing a main dish and mixing up the sides. A great example of this is the vegetables you add to grain bowls. You might prepare brown rice and black beans as the main components of the dish, and then you can prepare different vegetables to eat for each day of the week. For example, on one large sheet pan, you can roast bell peppers and onions for Monday, broccoli for Tuesday, zucchini for Wednesday, and so on. This is a great way to mix things up without adding a lot of extra time.
Tip 3: Dare to be Different
Instead of preparing several ingredients, you can prepare just one ingredient in several ways. Let’s use cauliflower as an example. You can choose to roast a portion in the oven and steam what’s leftover. You could also add some to a food processor to create cauliflower rice, and sautée the rest. This is especially helpful if your budget is tight and you want to purchase food in bulk or when it goes on sale.
Tip 4: Unafraid of Marinade
They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and I think that marinade might come a close second. That’s because it can totally transform a boring piece of chicken or tofu into a totally flavorful and delicious dish. Who says you need to use the same marinade for a week’s worth of meals? Why not switch it up a bit? To just one batch of chicken, you can use a BBQ marinade for one portion, a balsamic vinaigrette marinade for another, and teriyaki or a lemon garlic marinade for the rest! Divide the meat or tofu + their respective marinade among sealable storage containers, let them marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours and bake them at the same time. You’ll add lots of variety without wasting any extra time or energy.
Tip 5: Top It Like It’s Hot
If you’re not able to practice any of the above methods, this last tip is your secret weapon. What you choose to top your dishes with can dramatically change the flavor profile and keep your taste buds guessing. Here are some examples of the toppings you can use:
- Nuts and seeds
- Dips, dressings, and sauces
- Chopped, grated, and spiralized vegetables
- Sliced fruits and fresh berries
- Citrus juice and zest
- Herbs and spices
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