Meal Prep: Learn It, Love It, Live It

When you plan ahead and prepare meals in advance, it’s simple to formulate a diet around whole foods and balanced nutrition.

Rather than calling for take-out, throwing together whatever’s been taking up space in your pantry or – worse yet – stopping at the drive-through window, just set aside a couple hours each week to whip up some easy-to-store-enjoy-anytime recipes. Then, simply heat your creations in the microwave as needed throughout the coming days.

I’ve compiled a list of instructions, along with corresponding visuals, to walk you through the steps of proper meal prep. The recipe below is just one example of a make-ahead meal that’s convenient, satisfying, and completely guilt-free – whether on its own as a filling lunch or as a tasty side dish for dinner.

And here’s more fabulous news: all you need to pull this off are a few basic, fresh ingredients!


  • Step 1: Chop your vegetables of choice (any veggies you have on-hand will work; I used onions, mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes, and corn).

food prep step 1

  • Step 2: Transfer the vegetables into a Tupperware container and store in the fridge while you continue with the remaining prep work.

food prep step 2

  • Step 3: Assemble your seasonings (I used olive oil and garlic) and whole-grain carb (lentils are my go-to, but quinoa or couscous will work too).

food prep step 3

  • Step 4: Rinse off the grains, transfer them into a Teflon pot, and allow them to soak in water for approximately 10 minutes.

food prep step 4

  • Step 5: Place the pot on a stove-top burner and turn the heat on high until boiling, then lower to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally.

food prep step 5

  • Step 6: Add the seasonings (1 tsp. garlic and 1 tbsp. olive oil), then re-cover and let the mixture simmer for approximately 30 minutes.

food prep step 6

  • Step 7: Once the lentils (or another whole-grain of choice) have softened, add the vegetables you prepped earlier and stir thoroughly.

food prep step 7

  • Step 8: Allow the vegetables to simmer for approximately 10 minutes, then strain this mixture to remove any excess liquid.

food prep step 8

  • Step 9: Transfer the lentils (or another whole grain of choice) into a Tupperware container and store in the fridge until your next meal.

food prep step 9

*** 1 16-oz. package of lentils yields at least a week’s worth of lunches/dinners. ***

Love Thy Lentil (It’ll Love You Back!)

Lentils are, in short, amazing.

Often hailed among the world’s healthiest foods, these lovely legumes are rich in fiber, protein, iron, potassium, and B vitamins. They have been proven to lower cholesterol, regulate blood-sugar levels, reduce risks of cardiovascular disease, and treat gastrointestinal disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome. Just 1 cup of lentils provides 7 of the body’s essential minerals and maxes out at 230 calories. (Now, I don’t necessarily advocate counting calories, but the point is lentils are ideal for those looking to manage their weight).

If you’re not yet familiar with the lentil’s nutritional benefits, tender meaty texture, woodsy flavor, and appetite-satisfying heartiness, then here’s a recipe you need to try. This is my mom’s creation, and she recently taught me how to make it when I moved into my own apartment. Easy to whip up, absolutely delicious, and convenient to store in the fridge for anytime you don’t feel like cooking, this dish gets my seal of approval.


Ingredients:

1 cup lentils (I prefer red, but you can also use either the green or yellow variety)

1 cup carrots (finely chopped)

3 stalks green onion (finely chopped)

1 1/2 ounces crumbled bleu cheese (I add this for creaminess, but if your dietary needs exclude dairy, shredded vegan “cheese” will work too)

6 cups water (3 cups for prepping lentils, and 3 cups for cooking lentils)

Preparation:

1. Pour 1 cup of lentils into a strainer (make sure to use a strainer with small holes) and rinse them off in the sink.

2. Transfer the lentils into a large stainless steel or teflon pot, then pour 3 cups of water into the pot.

3. Set the pot aside on your counter top and let the lentils soak for 1 hour.

4. When the hour is up, run the lentils back through the strainer (they should have expanded in size).

5. Transfer the lentils back into the pot, then pour in another 3 cups of water.

6. Heat the lentils and water on a large burner and bring to a rolling boil.

7. While the water is boiling, chop the carrots and green onion into fine slices.

8. When the lentils have softened, lower the heat to a simmer and add the chopped veggies.

9. Stir the mixture, then cover and let simmer on the lowest setting for 1 hour.

10. When the hour is up, taste the lentils and veggies to ensure softness (if they are still tough, bring back to a boil).

11. Once the water has absorbed, add the bleu cheese crumbles (optional) and stir thoroughly.

Serving Suggestion:

This savory recipe can be enjoyed as a filling and nutritious meal in itself for lunch. Or, serve it as a side dish for dinner along with sauteed chicken, fish, or tofu (for all you vegetarians out there) and a fresh spinach salad.

Image   

And here’s how my first attempt turned out.

Bon appetit!