A Guide to Clean Eating:
When you set aside time to plan your meals for the week, you can intentionally create balanced nosh-worthy choices that are chock full of veggies, fruits, and energy sustaining proteins. This practice helps you avoid the dangers of processed foods, and allows you to accurately decipher how many calories you are consuming throughout the day vs your suggested caloric intake.
It is much more efficient to condense your planning, shopping, and prepping into one chunk of time. This method creates financial savings by equipping you with a plan that minimizes food waste, and intrinsically decreases the frequency that you will be eating out. Intentional food prep also corresponds to less time spent: chopping, shopping, cleaning, planning, or “worrying” about how you are going to “stay on track” with your health goals. No one wants to be hitting up the grocery store multiple times a week, or doing excessive amounts of dishes.
In my experience, trying to pack my lunch in the morning while I am still a wee bit groggy--leaves me harried, late for work, and disappointed with the hodge-podge of less nutritious, less delicious, food that just “happened to be on hand”. So, I prep.
When I plan ahead, I have the luxury of spreading my “lunch” out into smaller portions throughout the day. Eating small nutritious meals creates stable blood sugar levels, promotes emotional wellness, and prevents hanger (Anger caused by Hunger). If you follow the Three-Three Rule where you eat a protein, fat and carbohydrate (PFC) every three hours, you will avoid the blood sugar roller coaster (and ain’t nobody got time for that!) Since I made the switch to small portions of HEALTHY food throughout my day, I have seen huge dividends in regards to my: metabolism, emotional health, and mental clarity
Although I fully believe in the benefits of food prep, I don’t want you to be overwhelmed or intimidated
- There is no right or wrong way to do “Monday Meal Prep”
- First things first, you don’t have to do it on a Monday! This system is whatever you want to make it. When you get right down to it, it just involves making your weekly prep a priority. This is a lifestyle change. This is NOT A DIET. In order for this to have any chance at being sustainable, it needs to fit into your lifestyle; do what works for you. If the only thing you want to prep each week is Mason Jar Salads, and not worry about the snacks, then that’s fine. What works for me, might not work for you.
- Cut yourself some slack, your food prep does NOT need to look like something off of Pinterest, or be “Instagram-worthy”
- Give yourself time to adjust to the change. Once you hit the 3 week mark--it will become habit, and your body will begin to noticeably reap the rewards.
How to Prep like a boss
-Upon returning from the store, start prepping: wash, chop, slice, dice, toss, cook, bake, sauté, stir, and simmer your food as desired
-Portion out your food into single-serve containers (yes, this requires a lot of containers)
- Use environmentally friendly containers
- Make your own sandwich bags or buy reusable baggies
- Use your own yogurt cups. Buy large containers, and then portion them out for the week. Avoid “pre-made” single-serving cups in order to be more fiscally and environmentally responsible
- Pack your utensils
- Make your own cloth napkin, orbuy reusable napkins
- Make sure you have an ice pack ready. Buy a reusable ice pack, or use a sponge as an ice pack. Place a wet sponge in a reusable plastic bag in your freezer and then place the frozen sponge pack in your lunchbox to keep the contents cool. As an added bonus, it's a great way for those of us who are messy eaters *cough cough* to clean up our space once we are done eating
-Kick back, relax, and get ready to enjoy your first week of meal prep!
"Quick and Healthy" Lunch Ideas from Greatist
Herbed Cheese and Tomato Sandwich: 398 Calories
Why it rules: Cottage cheese is an awesome low-fat source of protein!
Calorie breakdown: 1 English muffin: 120 calories, ¼ cup low-fat cottage cheese: 40 calories, 2 slices tomato: 10 calories, ¼ avocado, sliced: 68 calories, 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard: 5 calories, 1 leaf butter lettuce: 5 calories, 1 tablespoon chives, chopped: <1 calorie, Garlic powder to taste: <1 calorie
Side snack: 1 small banana and one square of dark chocolate (130 calories)
Hawaiian Veggie burger: 380 Calories
Why it rules: Avocado is a great swap for mayonnaise because it’s full of healthy monosaturated fats.
Calorie breakdown: 1 whole-wheat bun: 90 calories, 1 veggie burger patty: 100 calories, ¼ avocado, mashed: 68 calories, 1 round of pineapple: 25 calories, 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce: 15 calories, 1 handful alfalfa sprouts: 5 calories
Side snack: 1 large handful of sweet potato chips (80 calories)
Spicy Black Bean Burrito: 365 Calories
Pizza Burger: 360 Calories
Why it rules: Say so long cravings for greasy pizza thanks to this burger that’s also filled with protein.
Calorie breakdown: 1 whole-wheat bun: 90 calories, 1 veggie burger patty: 100 calories, 2 slices fresh mozzarella cheese: 140 calories, 2 tablespoons marinara sauce: 40 calories
Side snack: 1 orange (85 calories)
Veggie Sub: 380 Calories
Why it rules: Get your daily serving of veggies and them some with this flavorful sandwich.
Calorie breakdown: 1 6-inch whole-wheat sub roll: 220 calories, 2 tablespoons hummus: 60 calories, ¼ cucumber, sliced: 15 calories, 1 small tomato, sliced: 10 calories, 5 black olives, halved: 40 calories, ½ carrot, shredded: 30 calories, 1 handful alfalfa sprouts: 5 calories
Side snack: 1 large handful of sweet potato chips (80 calories)
Egg, Tomato, and Avocado Sandwich: 385 Calories
Better AB&J: 390 Calories
Why it rules: Almond butter is a great swap for peanut butter and contains 25 percent less saturated fat.
Calorie breakdown: 2 slices whole-wheat bread: 180 calories, 2 tablespoons almond butter: 190 calories, 1 tablespoon reduced-sugar jelly: 20 calories
Side snack: ½ cup plain Greek yogurt with ¼ cup fresh blueberries (91 calories)
Greek Pita Salad: 368 Calories
Why it rules: Protein-packed chickpeas and naturally lower-fat feta spice up this salad.
Calorie breakdown: 1 cup romaine lettuce: 8 calories, ½ whole-wheat pita, sliced: 40 calories, ¼ cup feta cheese: 100 calories, ¼ cup chickpeas: 70 calories, ½ cucumber, sliced: 30 calories, ¼ small red onion, chopped: 10 calories, 2 tablespoons Greek dressing: 110 calories
Side snack: 10 baby carrots with 2 tablespoons hummus (100 calories)
Strawberry Spinach Salad: 382 Calories
Lentil Salad with Poached Eggs: 390 Calories
Why it rules: Lentils are one of our Superfoods thanks to their hefty dose of protein and antioxidants!
Calorie breakdown: ½ cup canned lentils: 120 calories, ½ cup spinach (sautéed with 1 teaspoon olive oil): 50 calories, 2 large eggs, poached: 150 calories, ¼ avocado, sliced: 60 calories, 2 slices tomato: 10 calories
Side snack: 15 mini pretzel sticks with 2 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese (100 calories)
Sprout n' Spinach Salad: 381 Calories
Why it rules: This salad is packed with two of our favorite superfoods—spinach and avocado.
Calorie breakdown: 2 cups baby spinach: 14 calories, 1/2 avocado, diced: 120 calories, 1 handful alfalfa sprouts: 5 calories, 1/2 orange bell pepper, diced: 12 calories, 1/2 carrot, grated: 30 calories, 2 tablespoons hummus mixed with 1 tablespoons olive oil: 170 calories
Side snack: 1/2 an apple and 1 low-fat cheese stick (110 calories)
Sweet Potato and Shitake Mushroom Salad: 370 Calories
Why it rules: Sweet potatoes are filled with fiber and vitamins!
Calorie breakdown: 1 cup spinach: 5 calories, 1 cooked sweet potato, sliced: 100 calories, 4 shitake mushrooms, sliced: 40 calories, ¼ cup feta cheese: 100 calories, 2 slices tomato: 10 calories, 1 tablespoon olive oil: 110 calories, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard: 5 calories, 1 squeeze lemon juice: < 1 calorie
Side snack: 1 cup halved strawberries and ½ a banana, sliced (100 calories)
Rice n’ Refried Beans: 400 Calories
Why it rules: Pinto beans are a great source of fiber and iron.
Calorie breakdown: ½ cup ready-made brown rice: 100 calories, ½ cup canned pinto beans, mashed: 130 calories, ¼ avocado, sliced: 60 calories, ¼ small red onion, sliced: 10 calories, 1 plum tomato, diced: 10 calories
Side snack: 10 baked tortilla chips (90 calories)
Mediterranean Platter: 370 Calories
Why it rules: Babaganoush (roasted eggplant) is a great alternative to full-fat dips.
Calorie breakdown: 1 whole-wheat pita, sliced: 80 calories, ¼ cup hummus: 150 calories, ¼ cup babaganoush: 100 calories, 5 black olives: 40 calories
Side snack: ½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt with a dash of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon honey (120 calories)
Healthy Stir-Fried Rice: 365 Calories
Why it rules: DIY fried-rice with olive oil is way healthier than any Chinese take-out.
Calorie breakdown: ½ cup ready-made brown rice: 100 calories, 1 egg, scrambled with 1 teaspoon olive oil: 115 calories, 4 bella mushrooms, sliced: 40 calories, 1 cup broccoli, chopped: 30 calories, ½ carrot, chopped: 30 calories, ¼ small red onion, sliced: 10 calories, 1 teaspoon sesame oil: 40 calories
Side snack: Tropical fruit salad with 1 kiwi and ½ a large orange (90 calories)
Veggie Patty With Over-Easy Egg: 390 Calories
Why it rules: Filled with protein and healthy fats, this combo will satisfy even the heartiest of appetites.
Calorie breakdown: 1 veggie burger patty: 100 calories, 1 slice cheddar cheese: 70 calories, 1 large egg, over-easy cooked with olive-oil spray: 80 calories, ¼ avocado, sliced: 60 calories
Side snack: 1 medium-sized apple (80 calories)
3-Bean Salad with Kale: 350 Calories
Why it rules: Fiber filled beans on top of vitamin-rich kale make this a winning meal.
Calorie breakdown: 1 cup kale, massaged: 30 calories, 1 squeeze lime juice, < 1 calorie, 1 squeeze lemon juice, < 1 calorie, ¼ avocado, chopped: 60 calories, ¼ cup black beans: 55 calories, ¼ cup white beans: 50 calories, ¼ cup kidney beans: 50 calories
Side snack: 5 Kashi 7-grain crackers with 1 stick reduced-fat string cheese (100 calories)
Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Salad: 345 Calories
Why it rules: The health benefits of tomatoes are endless, including helping reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
Calorie breakdown: 3 thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese: 210 calories, 2 plum tomatoes, sliced: 20 calories, 3 basil leaves: < 1 calorie, 1 tablespoon olive oil: 110 calories, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar: 5 calories
Side snack: A 2-inch slice whole-grain baguette, toasted (140 calories)
*Note: For consistency’s sake, we selected a few specific products that we used for calorie counts on frequently used ingredients in these recipes. Here they are if you want to follow our guidelines exactly!
Bread: Arnold’s 100% Whole-Wheat (90 calories)
Wrap: Mission Whole Wheat Wrap (130 calories)
English muffin: Thomas’ Whole-Wheat (120)
Whole-wheat bun: Arnold’s 100% Whole-Wheat (90 calories)
Pita: Kangaroo Whole-Wheat (80 calories)
Do you Food Prep? What are your favorite weekly "staples" to prepare?