From burrito bowls to high-protein pumpkin soup, here are seven healthy lunches that will help you put your body into fat-burning mode, all approved by dietitian Melissa Meier.
Trying to lose weight? Preparation is key. From planning your meals and heading to the supermarket to actually executing your cook in the kitchen, healthy eating doesn’t just happen – it’s a well thought out sequence of events, but the good news is it’s pretty easy to get it right, once you’re in the swing of things.
If you’re into meal prep, healthy eating and losing weight can be even easier. One big shop and cook up later and your healthy meals are set for the whole week (#winning). But I’m not talking about the same old boring chicken, broccoli and rice – meal prep can be exciting, delicious and nutritious, without a trace of monotony.
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Plating tips for healthy portions…
In case you’re wondering, here’s your secret formula for any healthy meal – not just for fat loss, but basic healthy eating, too:
Fill half of your meal with non-starchy veg
Essentially, this is anything that’s not potato, sweet potato or corn (think: tomato, cauliflower, carrot, pumpkin, eggplant…). Mix up your veg of choice every week to ensure you’re getting a variety of nutrients.
Fill a quarter of your meal with lean protein
Not only does this include meat, chicken and seafood, but also eggs, tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds. Note that every meal you eat doesn’t have to include animal foods. It’s a wise idea to throw some vego options into your repertoire, too.
Fill the last quarter of your meal with quality carbs
Yes, carbs. They’re not bad for you, especially when eaten in the right proportion. In fact, carbs are an essential source of energy and can keep you feeling full and satisfied long after a meal. Think: sweet potato, long-grain brown rice, wholegrain bread, wholemeal pasta, beans. You get the drift.
Once you get this easy-peasy formula down pat, the meal prep world is your oyster – or at least a fridge and freezer chock-full of good-for-you eats. To give you a little inspo…
Here are my top seven dietitian-approved meal prep feasts…
You can thank me later.
1. Burrito bowls
Cook up a batch of bite-sized chicken pieces in a spicy Mexican seasoning. Boil a mixture of long-grain rice and black beans. Whip up a salsa made of tomatoes, lime juice and red onion. Throw it all together and voila – your burrito bowl is ready. Top it with a dollop of Greek yoghurt and a quarter of an avocado before serving each day.
2. Roasted veggie salad
Okay, so this one isn’t exactly a whole meal prepped at the start of the week, but it’s pretty simple once you do the groundwork on the weekend. Simply chop up a batch of whatever veggies you like (my faves are pumpkin, asparagus and capsicum), and add them to a tray along with a couple of cans of rinsed chickpeas, then roast. Then, all you have to do each day is throw a pile of roasted veg into a handful of mixed leaves along with a sprinkle of feta cheese and a drizzle of lemon juice. Yum.
3. Veggie-packed pasta
Yes, pasta can certainly be part of a weight loss diet – no strings attached. For a nutritious boost, I’d recommend opting for a legume-based pasta. Not only is it full of satisfying fibre, but it ticks both the lean protein and quality carb boxes, too. For a healthy sauce to go along with it, sauté as many veggies as you like in olive oil (think: onion, zucchini, carrot, pumpkin, capsicum…), throw in a few cans of chopped tomatoes and blitz until smooth.
4. Lentil salad
Legumes (read: beans, chickpeas, lentils) are oh-so good for you… have you realised they’ve been featured in every meal I’ve suggested so far? Packed with fibre, plant-based protein and slow-burning carbs, they’re also linked to a host of health perks. Green lentils are a great option for salads – they’re sturdy and hold up well after a couple of days in the fridge. Simply boil up a batch and fold through cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber and goats cheese once cooled.
To get some nutrient-dense eggs into your diet, frittata is a great option. All you have to do is roast a big batch of veggies, add them to a dozen whisked eggs and pour them into a baking tray. Top the mixture with sliced cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of cheese and bake. It’s seriously delicious! For a dose of quality carbs, serve your frittata with a small wholegrain bread roll.
6. Pumpkin and red lentil soup
Soup is delicious and nutritious, but many aren’t very filling (especially if they’re a vegetable-only dish). To make your soup a little more satisfying, add some protein (there’s those legumes again), and serve it with a wholegrain bread roll sans butter. The best part? Soup is excellent for the freezer – so you can make a huge batch to last much more than just five weekday lunches.
Extra lean mince like beef, chicken or turkey is a good starting point to make healthy meatballs. Add lots of veggies, like diced onion, grated carrot or zucchini, sliced mushrooms or even frozen peas and corn, as well as wholemeal bread crumbs, and roll the mixture into balls one tablespoon at a time. Brown the meatballs, cover in tomato passata and simmer until cooked through. Serve them with rice, pasta or simply on a whole grain slice of toast. Delish.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.