As a nutritionist and personal trainer, this post shares some of my favorite healthy meal-prep recipes. One of the most common questions I receive from clients is, “What should I be eating?” And while the answer to that question is going to vary from person to person, prioritizing veggies, fruit, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and fiber is a great place to start.
But the other issue you may run into with nutrition is simply having the time. It’s extremely challenging to cook three nutritious meals a day for one person… and that doesn’t take other family members into account.
Prepping healthy meals in advance can be very beneficial, especially if your days are packed with work, a training session, family obligations, pets, and the unexpected day-to-day errands that pop up. Below, you’ll find three delicious, nutrient-dense recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, that can easily be prepped in advance and taken on the go. They are my healthy meal-prep recipe “go-to” favorites.
Breakfast: Homemade Granola
Servings: 8 (1/2 cup portions)
Granola is totally customizable depending on what ingredients you enjoy; start with your oats, add any nuts or seeds you like, or toss in some dried berries for a little more sweetness. This recipe is my favorite because of how well it travels; I can easily bring a container to work and toss it in my yogurt, or use it as a topping on a smoothie when I’m at home. If you want a smaller portion or want to go lower on the carbs, a quarter-cup’s worth is just as tasty.
If you prefer to eat breakfast after your workout, consuming carbohydrates and protein afterward is extremely important. Not only does the protein help with muscle recovery, but the carbohydrates bring out insulin. Insulin helps “shuttle” the protein’s amino acids into the muscles much more effectively, allowing for greater uptake. One of my favorite ways to use this recipe is after my training session; I’ll make a smoothie with protein powder, berries, and banana, and then put a little granola on top for some crunch.
2 cups rolled oats (can use gluten-free if needed)
1/4 cup avocado oil or melted coconut oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, walnuts, or other nut/seed of choice
2 tablespoons chia seeds
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and maple syrup. Add oats, pumpkin seeds (or other nut/seed), and chia seeds. Stir to combine.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the granola is golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature when done.
Store in an airtight container for 2 weeks or freeze for up to 3 months. Serve with yogurt, milk, or on top of a smoothie.
Calories: 217.5 per serving
* nutrition facts calculated using avocado oil and pumpkin seeds
Lunch: Roasted Chicken with Spinach Pesto
This flavorful chicken recipe can be served with whatever side you choose; I particularly like to make a lunch bowl with sautéed chickpeas or rice, plus some vegetables and avocado. You can also serve the chicken over pasta, or use it as a topping on a spinach salad. The pesto itself is a great “sauce” on the side, too.
Since this recipe yields about 1 full cup of pesto, you can freeze the leftovers in a tiny Tupperware or sauce container and keep it on hand for future meals. All you have to do is pop the frozen pesto into the pan when you’re in need of it; it’ll thaw and coat whatever you’re cooking just fine.
For the pesto –
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts or unsalted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
For the chicken –
4 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all pesto ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Season with salt to taste. (Makes about 1 cup of pesto.)
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Put the chicken breasts in a ziplock bag. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, dried oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Whisk together. Pour the mixture into the bag with the chicken and toss to coat. You can let the chicken marinate for 15 minutes or so, or just add it straight to the baking pan.
Add the chicken to a greased, oven-safe dish and roast for 15-20 minutes.
You can also sear the chicken in a cast iron skillet and then finish cooking in the oven. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil, and cook the chicken 2-3 minutes per side. Put the skillet in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes, depending on the chicken’s thickness.
Cook the chicken; internal temperature should be at least 145 degrees F when done.
Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes, then chop into thin strips or cubes. Mix the chicken together with the pesto in a bowl, or use the pesto as a side sauce. Serve over rice, chickpeas, pasta, roasted vegetables, or a spinach salad.
* for 4 ounces of chicken and 1/8 cup pesto
Dinner: Shrimp Tacos
Tacos are one of my favorite weeknight meals; not only are they accommodating to any dietary preference (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, et cetera) but they come together in an hour or less. You can add rice or beans for more carbohydrates, or serve on lettuce leaves for a low-carb option. The marinade in this recipe also works for nearly every single type of animal protein; chicken, fish, beef, you name it. If you have leftover meat, you can make this recipe even more travel-friendly by adding rice, beans, and the other toppings to make a taco bowl. And — as we move into grilling season and warm weather — this recipe can be done on an outdoor cooktop.
For the shrimp —
16 oz raw shrimp, peeled, tail off, and de-veined (can sub cod, tilapia, halibut, chicken, or meat-free substitute if desired)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper or chili powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime
For the salsa —
2 large avocados, diced
1 large mango, diced
½ red onion, diced
Juice of 1/2 lime
Fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
Cotija or white cheddar cheese (optional; swap out for a dairy-free alternative if desired)
Taco-size corn or flour tortillas, depending on preference
Swap in lettuce leaves for a low-carb option
Marinate the shrimp (or fish, or chicken)); combine olive oil, cumin, cayenne pepper/chili powder, coriander, paprika, one half of the lime juice, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk together. Transfer to a glass bowl or ziplock bag. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Allow to marinate for 15-20 minutes.
While the shrimp is marinating, make the salsa: combine mango, red onion, diced avocado, some of the chopped cilantro, and the other half of the lime juice in a medium mixing bowl. Stir to combine, add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Cook the shrimp in a skillet over medium heat, until pink and cooked through.
If using fish or chicken, bake in the oven at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes. When done, transfer to a bowl and shred with a fork.
Assemble your tacos with tortillas/lettuce leaves of choice, salsa, shrimp, cheese, and chopped cilantro. Makes approximately 2 tacos per person.
* calculated for shrimp and does not include tortillas; macronutrient values may differ depending on protein and taco shell choice