A Private Chef’s Tips for Healthy, Make-Ahead, Mix-and-Match Meals

published Jul 2, 2014
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(Image credit: Jill Slater)

Jesa Henneberry, who has a super-organized kitchen we toured and admired, is all about eating well — not just gustatorily, but also for fitness and health. Since she spends a lot of time planning out and preparing menus for her clients who have the same goals, it seemed like a good idea to ask Jesa for some tricks of the trade.

What are the best ways to plan meal aheads and keep a tight rein on portions?

(Image credit: Jill Slater)

Jesa’s Pro Meal-Planning Tips

  • Have a plan and a format to follow and cook foods in bulk to be portioned out later.
  • Do one big shopping trip and one big cooking day each week.
  • Make enough to get you through at least the first three to four days of the work week.
  • Invite friends over for a cooking party. It’s a great way to socialize and keep one another committed to a week of healthy eating!
  • Don’t be rigid about what to cook each week. Switch it up and go with what you see for sale at the farmers market or supermarket or foods that are seasonal and fresh.
  • Get a food scale. A food scale is imperative for keeping protein portions under control and consistent for each meal.

Jesa’s Recommended Weekly Meal-Prep Breakdown

  • 3 animal proteins. If you like to prepare your breakfast in advance, one of these could be an egg dish, too.
  • 2 starchy carbs, like baked sweet potatoes and quinoa.
  • 3 vegetables, either for salad toppings or dinner sides.
  • 1 big lettuce blend base for salads. Buy the pre-washed blends (“it saves time!”) and a variety of chopped toppings.
  • 1 container homemade salad dressing. By making it on your own, you will limit, control, or eliminate respectively the fat/oil, sugars, and stabilizers found in most bottled dressings.

Putting Together Your Meals: Do an Assembly Line!

Once you’ve prepared all your ingredients (the list above is a good place to start), arrange a big “assembly line” with your food storage containers and go to work mixing and matching them!

Jesa likes to start by making all her lunch salads because that is her preferred meal. She takes one of each of the prepped salad toppings and mixes them with one of the proteins for each day. Then she uses her handy small tupperware containers to hold a pre-measured salad dressing for each meal.

Next, for her snack/post-workout meals (Jesa is also an athlete), she fills containers with 1 cup prepped vegetables, 1/2 cup starchy carbs, and 4 ounces protein. Again, always mixing and matching.

Jesa uses any of the extras for quick weeknight dinner side dishes. Then the only thing left is to prepare a fresh protein!

Thanks for sharing, Jesa!