How to Cook Healthy Meals for the Week in Under an Hour

The key to weight loss or weight maintenance is smart organization. If you have a healthy weight loss meal ready to eat when you're hungry, you're more likely to keep your calorie count in control and reach your health and fitness goals. So it's smart to learn healthy meal prep skills.

Many people shop and cook on Sunday evenings, but you can do it whenever you have an hour to spend in the kitchen. These instructions will guide you through the entire process of healthy meal preparation, storage, and reheating. Eat these meals for dinner or pack and reheat them for lunch.

Need breakfast ideas? Use a nutritious 300-calorie breakfast that you can prep for the week as well.

Healthy Meal Prep Grocery List

A woman in a grocery store with a cart full of food, using the shopping list that's on her iPhone.

 RunPhoto / Getty Images

Before you begin to prepare your week's worth of healthy meals, you need to have all of your ingredients ready. Grab these items from the grocery store.

  • 4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Each of your six meals should contain 3-5 ounces of protein. If you don't like chicken, choose lean pork, fish, or lean beef. Or if you are a vegetarian, choose hearty beans or tofu.
  • 1-2 pounds green vegetable. This meal prep plan uses green beans, but feel free to choose any green veggie that can be steamed on the stovetop. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and asparagus work well, too. These veggies are very low in calories and super healthy, so you'll load up on these in each of your prepared meals.
  • 1 pound brightly colored vegetables. Add a pop of color to your meal with a colorful vegetable. Carrots are great because they are cheap, easy to cook, and nutritious, but choose the veggie that you enjoy most. 
  • 6 medium potatoes. Yukon gold potatoes work best, but red potatoes work too. Skip the russet potatoes because they are often too big.

In addition to these foods, you'll need to have six resealable containers. This plan uses Ziploc 3.5 cup round containers because they stack nicely in my refrigerator. But many companies make containers that work just as well.

Step One: Wash and Steam Veggies

Start the cooking process by washing and steaming your green and colorful vegetables. Trim the ends off of the green beans and throw them in a colander to rinse under the faucet. Then peel and slice your carrots.

Steam the vegetables separately on the stovetop. It should take only 10 minutes or so for the vegetables to cook. You'll know when the veggies are cooked when you can pierce them with a fork. But don't cook them too long. You don't want mushy vegetables in your healthy meals. 

Step Two: Wash and Steam Potatoes

While your veggies are steaming, take five minutes to scrub the potatoes. Then pierce each potato with a knife. You'll steam the potatoes on the stovetop as well. But these will take a little bit longer. Plan 20-30 minutes for the potatoes to cook.

If you don't like potatoes, you can use a healthy grain instead. Try wild rice, couscous, or flavored quinoa instead of potatoes.

Grains are a good source of fiber, and some grains, like quinoa, provide a healthy dose of protein as well.

Step Three: Roast and Slice Chicken

To prepare the chicken breast, lay each breast out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can also add flavor and crunch by sprinkling flavored bread crumbs on top. Some healthy eaters even drizzle balsamic vinegar on their chicken for a savory taste.

You can use other parts of the chicken if you prefer. You'll probably notice that boneless, skinless chicken breasts are more expensive than other parts of the bird. But keep in mind that nutrition facts for different parts of the chicken can vary, so your calories may increase as well.

Place the baking sheet into an oven that has been preheated to 375 degrees. Roast for 20-30 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked. Then cut each breast into thick slices.

Step Four: Assembly

Once all of your ingredients are cooked, it's time to assemble your healthy meals for the week. First put one potato in each resealable container. Then add a big handful of green vegetables and a few colorful vegetables. Finally, add a few slices of chicken breast and seal each container.

Stack the containers in your refrigerator or freezer. You can keep a few meals in the refrigerator and a few meals in the freezer for later in the week. If you maintain a diet-friendly refrigerator, you'll have plenty of space next to your healthy protein snacks and drinks.

Each meal provides approximately 260 calories, 3 grams of fat, 17.4 grams of carbohydrate and 31 grams of protein. The nutrition in your meal may vary depending on your portion sizes.

How to Reheat Prepped Meals Each Day

To reheat your healthy meal, simply grab a container from the refrigerator and pop it into the microwave. Cook on 70 percent power for one minute. Then remove the container from the microwave and place the chicken on a plate. Heat the remaining ingredients on high for 2-3 more minutes. Add the remaining ingredients to your plate and you're ready to eat!

To prepare a frozen meal, remove it from the freezer and let it thaw in the freezer overnight. Then follow the same instructions (above) for reheating. 

Because the dinner is so low in calories, you can add your favorite sauces or condiments. Drizzle low-sugar barbecue sauce or another flavor on the chicken, add butter to your potato, or sprinkle almonds on the meal for added crunch.

Just be sure to add these toppings in moderation to keep the meal calories low and your diet plan on track.

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