Eating healthy is easier if you prepare for success. If healthy meals or snacks are ready to grab and go when you are in a hurry, it’s a lot easier than if you have to stop and make something. If you are like most people, the minute you have to stop and prepare is the very moment you decide to hit the fast food drive through so conveniently placed on your way to wherever you are headed. Plan ahead to avoid this typical compromise. Schedule an hour or two in your week – maybe one hour on Sunday and one on Wednesday evening, when you can prepare several quick and healthy snacks that will last you up until the next prep day. Here are some fun ideas to try when you are getting everything ready.
Quick bread and fruit skewers.
Try some easy, healthy banana bread cookies (recipe below) and slices of bananas or strawberries all ready to go in handy plastic resealable bags. Make a few skewers, or just grab an individually portioned bag of fruit and one or two of the cookies and you’re good to go.
Banana Bread Cookies: 2 large mashed bananas and 2 cups gluten-free oatmeal. Process the oatmeal in the blender until you’ve made a course flour. Mix with the two mashed ripe bananas and add whatever healthy items you like to that, raisins, dried fruit, a little vanilla extract, cacao nibs, nuts, nut butter … whatever you like (about ½ cup total). Then place a medium-sized spoonful of the mixture on the baking sheet for each cookie. Spray the sheet with olive oil or nonstick spray. Flatten the cookies a bit and bake at 350˚ for 9-12 minutes. If you use ½ C of your favorite add-in items, the cookies will be about 60 calories each, and you’ll get about 16 of them per batch. Keep a few out and freeze the rest in individually portioned serving bags.
More Healthy Recipes: Low Calorie Cocktails and other Low Calorie Alcoholic Drinks
Make eight servings at a time in ½ pint mason jars – go to Refrigerator_Oatmeal for step-by-step instructions with pictures. Make these in flavors you love in other types of foods. Examples could be blueberry lemon, pineapple coconut & macadamia, pumpkin pie, mocha, raspberry cream or coconut lime. We’d love to hear your flavor combo in the comments.
Chia pudding and dried fruit.
You can make a larger batch of chia pudding and leave it in the fridge, just scoop out what you want for the meal and add some dried fruit and maybe a few seeds or raw nuts too. Chia pudding is easy to make. For every 1½ cup milk (dairy, nut, soy, coconut – you choose) add 1/3 cup chia seeds and something to sweeten. A few packets of Stevia works great, or you can add 1-2 teaspoons of raw honey or pure maple syrup. Using that amount of each ingredient makes four servings. If you want some chocolate chia pudding, you can either add unsweetened cocoa powder or try making it with chocolate milk (regular or soy are both easy to find).
Crunchy cashew sesame bars.
Check the recipe out at crunchy-cashew-sesame-bars. You’ll get 12 bars you can freeze separately. Grab one in the morning on your way out the door with an apple, orange, pear, or banana and the bar should be ready to eat when you finish your commute.
Freezer breakfast sandwiches.
Pull out your LARGE muffin tin or individual ramekins and while you are doing other prep work, bake six eggs. Break one egg into each muffin slot, pierce the yolk with a sharp knife, and then bake in an oven at 350˚ for 10-12 minutes. Slide them out of containers after they have set. Salt and pepper to taste. Now start putting together your breakfast sandwiches. Using 6 English muffins, 6 portions of your favorite breakfast meat, and 6 slices of cheese. Compile, wrap them individually in a paper towel and then put in individual plastic resealable bags. In the morning, pull one out, remove the plastic – it’s ready to be microwaved in the paper towel already. Heat at half power in your microwave for 1 minute, flip it over and heat for another minute. Now you can be on your way. The paper towel will keep any spills from hitting your clothes.
We found another fun one you can make, bake and freeze in individual bags for grab and go goodness. Check out the recipe at muesli-scones.
There are lots more options for healthy breakfasts you can make ahead for grab and go, but we thought you’d especially enjoy those listed above.
Now, what about some lunches? If you haven’t already, stock up on those individual-sized plastic containers and lids – look for them when they are on sale and buy several sizes and shapes.
Grilled chicken veggie bowls.
Healthy recipes calling for chicken are always popular. Even better, you don’t even have to grill the chicken if you don’t want to. Buy a few rotisserie chickens from the deli section of your market, or get some thick slices of cooked chicken breast from the meat counter. Of course, if you want to cook your own, that will cost you a bit less, and you’ll have more control over how it is prepared. Your choice. Now, in one of your cheapo microwaveable plastic containers, add in ½ cup of cooked rice, quinoa, or legumes. On top of that, put some of your favorite veggies – you can grill or bake them in advance. You can even go with frozen veggies here to keep things easy since you’re going to be freezing these bowls again to keep them fresh. Now add 4 oz. of chicken to the top. The container you use should be the right size, so what you put in fills it almost to the top. If not, add some more healthy veggies under the chicken. Now put the lid on and make sure the seal is tight. Freeze them until you are ready to use, then pull out of the freezer, take the lid off, cover with a paper towel, and microwave for about 4-7 minutes depending on your microwave. If you want a specific recipe to try, grilled-chicken-veggie-bowls would be a good one.
Tuna salad sandwiches.
There aren’t to many healthy recipes for sandwiches, but this is one of the few, and it is delicious. Make these ahead of time and freeze them. Yep, that’s what we said, freeze them. Make your favorite tuna salad spread. If you usually use mayo, replace half or all of it with 0% fat Greek yogurt. Add some finely chopped hearty veggies like carrots, green onion, sugar snap peas, and jicama. If you want a little sweetness, add finely chopped green apple or fresh crushed pineapple. Now, here’s what makes this work. Use whole wheat sandwich thins and a slice of provolone cheese. Between the sandwich thin bottom and the tuna salad, place the provolone cheese – this keeps the bread from getting soggy. Wrap each sandwich up tight and put in freezer bags. Grab one before you leave the house in the morning and it will be perfect at lunch time. If you freeze these with the top of the sandwich thin still open for about 30 minutes before folding it, you won’t have to worry about something between the spread and the bread on top.
Salads seem to be the staple of healthy recipes. The only disadvantage of salads, is they usually require some prep time. But here is a great idea for making healthy grab-and-go salads. You can even include your favorite healthy salad dressing without having the salad go soggy. The trick is to make salads in small plastic containers or in pint-sized mason jars and then put the healthy salad dressing on the bottom, then a layer of veggies that won’t wilt from the dressing – broccoli, sugar snap peas, raw mushroom slices, cauliflower would all work nicely. Then put either your protein or any fruit you want to add with the protein on top of that. Above all of that put the green leafy veggies. Seal it. If you want croutons, crackers, or the like, put them in a plastic bag and tape the bag to the container. Another easy grab and go lunch ready for the taking – just waiting in your fridge.
Get gallon-sized resealable plastic bags. Now place the items to make your favorite wrap inside, each in their own resealable plastic bag. You’ll need the wrap – if you want low-carb, there are some great low-carb tortillas you can try, your protein of choice, veggies that will work well, maybe even a little brown rice. If you’ve got access to a fridge at your office, invest in some different condiments that you can keep there. But for this, you could also put some hummus, cream cheese, or 0% fat Greek yogurt with spices in a small plastic container to use as a spread. Now when you’re ready, just compile your wrap and enjoy. Of course, you could do the same and use your favorite healthy bread instead of a wrap too.
Want more healthy recipes from SHAPE Army? Try these healthy taco recipes, a perfect meal for Sunday Football or Taco Tuesday.
Check around for recipes. There are all kinds of easy veggies chips you can make, usually only needing the veggies, some olive oil, and seasoning baked in a single layer in the oven. If you use two baking pans at a time, you can double the amount by simply switching the placement of the pans halfway through the cooking time. Here’s a recipe you can try for zucchini-chips.
This is something you can keep on hand and make in no time. Combine ¾ – 1 Cup of 0% fat Greek yogurt, or low carb yogurt of your choice, with ¾ Cup of frozen berries (no syrup just the berries) and 1-2 packets of Stevia (or if you prefer 1 teaspoon of raw honey). Smash the frozen berries in the yogurt and mix all ingredients together. The frozen berries will partially freeze the yogurt, and you’ll have a wonderful sweet treat in about 1 minute prep time. You’ll know exactly what is in it and that it’s a healthy choice. You could probably safely keep the ingredients in a work freezer too – unless someone sees you making it – then all bets are off.
Make your own blend of raw nuts and seeds. Then carefully portion them into 1 oz. serving sizes kept in separate plastic bags. Nuts have a lot of protein and healthy fats. That means that a little will give you something to keep going and make you feel satisfied. But be careful, nuts can also be a bit addictive. Limit yourself to only one serving.
DIY freezer oatmeal cups.
Make up a batch of these and leave them in the freezer for easy enjoyment. If you are like us, you’ll like these best while still mainly frozen, diy-freezer-oatmeal-cups.
And now for some dinner options.
Stir fry freezer dinners.
This is similar to the chicken veggie bowls. Only you keep ingredients in separate plastic freezer bags. Bake the meat of your choice, season it well, or marinate with some soy sauce and sweetener. Let the cooked meat rest and when cooled, cut into cubes of about ½ inch each. Portion the meat into amounts that will make up a meal – if you are on your own, then individual sized, if you have a family of four to feed, than enough for the group. Now cut and prep your veggies – if you keep them about the same size, they should cook evenly. For veggies that are denser, like carrots, turnips, rutabagas, consider doing them julienne style so they will cook faster. Also prepare brown rice ahead of time. You can microwave it while you are stir frying the meat and veggies. Want a recipe, go to frozen-stirfry-dinners.
Make two pans of your favorite enchilada recipe. Bake them both. Enjoy one for dinner that night, and freeze the other pan. If you don’t eat all the enchilada for dinner, then freeze the leftover ones in individual plastic bags. These will make for easy grab and go lunches or snacks when you need one. Consider putting some un-chopped green onions in a plastic bag with the pan you freeze and keep them on top of the enchiladas, inside the lid or foil covering. This allows you to cut them just before serving, and the fresh cut will release their oils, adding more flavor.
Crockpot meat sauce.
Make a batch of meat sauce in your crockpot and then portion it into meal-sized bags. If you freeze these bags lying flat rather than standing up, they will thaw faster when you are ready to use them. Need a recipe – try this slow-simmered-meat-sauce.
Prepare everything ahead of time and keep in a large freezer bag. Just drop it all in the crockpot in the morning, cook on low for 8 hours and you’ll have 4-6 servings. Freeze leftovers for lunches. This is all it takes, 2 pounds chicken thighs, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 can pineapple chunks. Serve over brown rice with green veggies on the side.
Many of the amazing ideas we are sharing were inspired by sunday-funday-meals.