Meal Prep 101: From the Beginning

By Eleanor Baker, MS, RD, LD/N

Congratulations! You have decided to research a very important skill to exponentially better your health and finances. Meal prepping is a great way to jump start and maintain your energy, weight, monthly expenses, reduce stress and an array of other benefits that you will find out along the way!

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Counter top goodies!

This is part one of a three part guide that is designed to layout how to meal prep with ease. Once you get into the swing of meal prepping you will not want to go back to winging your meals or relying on restaurants to nourish your body. Take control of YOUR health one meal at a time.

The initial step in a functional meal plan is to take stock of what you have on hand. Start off by triaging your fridge. What produce needs to be cooked up first? Any that have been in there for a few days? Fragile salad greens will need to be created into a meal within a few days of purchasing so those will be the first you will plan to use. Next, take account of the fresh meats, seafood, or beans that you have. Those can easily be used to top off your fresh greens as part of your first few meals! Here are healthy options to keep in the fridge:

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Healthful fridge, full of colorful options!
  • Salad greens
    • Romaine is great and lasts a long time!
    • Spinach, kale or spring mix are nutrient dense but should be consumed within a few days.
    • Try a produce saver to squeeze a bit more life out of those greens!
  • Bell peppers (for salads, recipes and snacks!)
  • Carrots
  • Berries
  • Fresh seafood, meat, or packaged tofu/tempeh
  • Hummus
  • Milk of choice
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Favorite salad dressing

Lets move up to your freezer. What goodies do you have in there that can pair with what is in your fridge? Maybe you have some potato wedges or a rice pilaf on hand to compliment your salad. Great, there is your first few meals on the books! Easy! Keep these frozen items in stock so you can whip up a meal on the fly.

  • Spinach
  • Steamable vegetables
  • Stir-fry vegetables
  • Precooked frozen brown rice or other whole grain
  • potato wedges (with the skin on) or steamable
  • Seafood, meat, poultry, edamame, veggie burgers
  • Mixed berries
  • Bananas

Now on to the pantry. Here is the land of nonperishables, containing a vast array of whole grains, legumes, trail mix ingredients, spices, cereals, canned fish, and more! This is a key component of your meals, therefore it is best to always have these staples on hand for when you are in a pinch. What you want to have on hand at all times for healthy meal prepping is:

  • Rice (brown, black, wild, etc.), quinoa, or your favorite whole grain!
  • Beans/legumes (black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, garbonzo beans, etc.)
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Spices (cinnamon, pepper, turmeric, paprika, salt, cumin, cayenne, red pepper flakes, etc.)
  • Protein powder (Vega is a great brand)
  • Grab and go snack bars (lara bars, RxBARs, picky bars, EPIC bars, etc.)
  • Low sodium soups, stock or broth, or chili

Get hands on experience and expert guidance in the kitchen! Contact Eleanor Baker, MS, RD, LDN for a private cooking lesson  today!

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