Meal prepping isn't always my strongest and for a while I was eating out for almost every single meal; buying smoothies for breakfast, salads for lunch that I could easily make at home, and ordering take out regularly. I find that I get extremely bored of making/eating the same things over again, I don't have too much time to actually prep, and I teach in the evenings so by the time I am done with classes; I quickly grab something on my walk home.
After doing this for a while, I noticed that I just felt terrible; tired, bloated, my digestion was off, I was having constant headaches, my skin was looking a little dull and just overall "blah." Even though I was opting for healthier things, I knew that many of places used canola oils, seed oils, salt, added sugars in dressings - tons of it! I started making small goals with myself to eat lunches at home everyday, but a smoothie out in the AM or take out 3 nights a week was reasonable. Once I started to prep food for the day time meals; I started to feel more like myself again and decided to make some more time for prepping foods for the week.
I just did a few simple things to keep things constantly changing up so I wouldn't become bored nor would it be taxing on time, that I want to share in hopes that it might help. I don't have time to post up in the kitchen all day for hours to prep a lot of food for the week, but these little hacks each day or week have made such a difference!
I also updated my caesar salad with an avocado massaged kale, a protein packed dairy free caesar dressing with a roasted chicken! I prefer lacinato kale massed in apple cider vinegar, lemon, as well as half an avocado. The avocado is full of healthy fats (good for skin!) and reduce the bitterness of the kale tremendously. So does the apple cider vinegar and the lemon, plus it helps aid in digestion! I changed up the dairy free caesar dressing as well; it is super creamy and tastes like the real deal! I also started to roast a whole chicken once a week and noticed that it would be enough for 4 or so meals! Huge time savor. I make this meal every week because it is really simple and satisfying. I change it up with the protein or add in other roasted veggies to keep me from becoming bored. Recipe for all below!
First, a few different hacks that I have been working on:
I try to make a few different dressings, spreads, or dips each week and can totally change any meal, salad, snack you are having. For example, I love making my sunflower seed pad thai sauce for the stir fry, but then the next day using it to dip in cucumbers, veggies, or even crackers. One meal you can use a pesto sauce for zucchini noodles, spread it over flatbread, or sprinkle it on top of a salad. It makes each meal few different and new. I am listing all the ones on my blog here:
1. Ginger Mustard Vinaigrette
2. Sunflower Seed Pad Thai Sauce
3. Beet Pumpkin Seed Pesto
4. Simple "Cheese" Sauce
5. Curry Lemon Tahini Sauce
6. Few Variations of Pesto spreads
7. Green Tahini Dip
8. Mustard Vinaigrette
9. Avocado Hummus Dip
10. Cauliflower "Hummus" Spread/Dip
11. Curry Cashew Cilantro Lime Sauce
12. Mint Tahini Dressing
13. Cilantro Avocado Sauce
14. Basil Avocado Sauce
2. Superfoods are my friends!: Any chance I can get; I am constantly sprinkling on hemp seeds, flaxseeds, turmeric, ginger, etc on any meal & always adding in cinnamon, maca powder, cacao powder or nibs, bee pollen, peppermint extract or whatever else I can in my smoothies for extra nutritional benefits. One week I might make energy bites (search them all on my blog!) with extra bee pollen, cacao nibs, and nut butter, but the next week I will just change up the nuts for seeds as the base, change up the nut butter, and leave out the cacao nibs and replace them with goji berries! Simple little hacks can go a long way especially when it comes to spices, seasonings, and superfoods! All you have to do is get out of a rut when using the same ones every single day or meal. If you know you are going to have a salad everyday for lunch; one day use savory spices such as ginger, turmeric, cumin on top and the next day add lime or lemon, mint leaves, hummus, or anything spicy!
This is also where the dressings come in handy too- different day; different dressings. I also get stuck in the biggest smoothie ruts, while the base of my smoothies are generally the same (almond milk, kale, spinach, blueberries, and bananas) so, I try my best to add in different things each time; such as extra cinnamon, cacao powder, peppermint or vanilla extract, different nut butters, hemp seeds, etc! You get the idea.
3. Toppings! I typically do not plan out meals for the week because I often like to eat based on what I am craving, in the mood for, and how my body is feeling. Therefore, I generally have a variety of vegetables on hand, a few protein choices, spreads/dips, and then change things up with different toppings. I love:
Nuts (brazil nuts, walnuts, chopped almonds)
Seeds (pumpkin or sunflower seeds)
Chopped dates (for salads or chia puddings)
Paleo Granola (for smoothies, chia puddings, or yogurts)
5. Variety of produce: Instead of buying the same vegetables or protein sources each week opt for choosing different ones. Wild salmon and organic chicken one week and shrimp or organic lean turkey the next. Same goes for vegetables; I always grab the same ones but trying buying ones you can use for all meals; like sweet potatoes (breakfast with nut butter, yogurt + seeds), kale/ spinach which you can also use for smoothies, salads, or a stir fry etc, or even eggs so you can make breakfast for dinner one night! This is probably the hardest for me, but it challenges me to try new things and therefore I am less bored by the end of the week.
6. Snacks! I am a big snacker in between meals. If I know that I am going to be eating the same thing for lunch or breakfast, then I look forward to rotating the snacks I am eating. You can browse the snacks on my blog here, and read some simple/quick ideas below.
Hummus + veggies, crackers, cucumbers
Guacamole + veggies, crackers, chips
Cucumbers with olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, sea salt, pepper
Chia puddings topped with nut butter, shredded coconut flakes, cacao nibs
yogurt bowls with granola, nut butter, bee pollen, flaxseeds
Apples topped with nut butter, granola, chia seeds, and cinnamon
3 ingredient banana oat cookies
7. Plan ahead!
You don't necessarily have to plan out each meal, but there are some things you can do in the beginning of the week that will save you a lot of time in the kitchen.
1. Slicing/Cutting up the veggies for the week
2. Making a list of what you want from the store; saves time, money
3. Decide a few things that you want to make for the week & write them down: snacks, breakfasts for on the go, dressings, dips, 1-3 recipes you want to tackle. Make a few goals; one week change up the breakfast every day but keep lunches the same and vice versa for the following.
4.Freezing your smoothie bases (vegetables / fruits) in bags the night before to save time in the morning.
5. Dedicate one day during the week to roast a few things; while preparing your snacks or spreads for the week. I typically will roast a chicken (usually 1.5 hours) and during that time I prepare other meals, side dishes, snacks until the time is up. It makes it feel less intimidating and I find that I don't waste as much food since I am preparing small amounts in batches.
6. Remember to store everything away once it has completely cooled (vegetables / proteins) to prevent them from becoming completely soggy!
Hopefully a few of these will help; it always feels like such common sense but if you are anything like me I sometimes need a gentle reminder or just a little motivation each week to do this!
SO, here is the updated Dairy Free Avocado Kale Caesar Salad with Roasted Chicken:
Kale Caesar + Dairy Free Creamy Dressing:
Total time: 15 minutes
Dressing yields, about one cup
For the dressing:
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 tbsp. hemp seeds
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. mustard
dash of turmeric
sea salt AND pepper to taste
Water to thin to desired consistency
*Makes about 1 1/2 cup depending on the thickness; note that it will become thick after storing in the fridge. To reach desired consistency again, simply add in water.
Massaged Avocado Kale Salad
2 bundles of lacinato kale leaves
1-2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
Mix everything together in a bowl until well combined. Add water slowly to reach desired consistency. Taste test. Lasts up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
1. De-stem the lacinato kale leaves. Wash and dry.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add the kale leaves, half avocado, juice of 1/2 lemon, dash of sea salt, and apple cider vinegar.
3. Massage the kale with your hands for 5-10 minutes.
4. Combine the dressing with the salad, top with hemp seeds, nutritional yeast (for cheese flavor) and protein of choice! Note, I typically dress the salad the day I am going to eat it then store the rest in separate containers.
Roasted Whole Chicken:
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: depending on size; 1.5 hours
Total time: 1.5 hours
1 Organic Whole Chicken
Spices and herbs of choice:
-Fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, juice of a lemon, sea salt, and pepper
-Cayenne pepper, sea salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic and juice of a lime.
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and add about 3 tbsp. of oil to your cast iron pan or any oven safe dish you are using.
2. Add the chicken to the pan and lightly coat with olive oil.
3. Add seasonings of choice: sea salt, pepper, squeezed lemon or lime, garlic, oregano, thyme, turmeric, ginger, onion! If you are using fresh herbs, simply place them on top and inside of the chicken.
4. Roast the chicken for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. The skin will start to turn a golden brown and become crispy! After about 45 minutes, I check on the chicken and spoon some of the juice from the bottom of the pan on top to add in moisture, flavor, and crisp up the skin of the chicken.
5. Depending on the size of the chicken it should be done within 1.5 hours and you can check by slicing one of the breasts.
Note* if the chicken still needs more time in the oven but the skin is starting to burn or blacken simply cover with aluminum foil and continue to cook. Once the roasted chicken has cooled, I take the remaining pieces off and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.