Meal Prep Plan: A Week of Easy Low-Carb Meals

Meal Prep Plan: A Week of Easy Low-Carb Meals

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Kelli Foster
Sep 19, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

One of my top priorities right now is eating healthful, tasty food that makes me feel good and gives me energy. It's as simple as that. What that looks like varies from week to week, but right now it means pushing the pasta, rice, beans, and sweets aside to focus on low-carb meals filled with protein, good fats, and green vegetables.

This Power Hour will help you prep a week of low-carb breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for two adults in just two hours. All that's left to do at mealtime is some reheating and quick assembly. Ready to get started?

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

In my family of two, we lean on big-batch recipes that can cover most of our meals for the week. To make sure it doesn't feel like we're eating the same thing day in and day out, we create easy variations on our favorite recipes and avoid eating the same dish two days in a row.

I prefer to keep weeknight cooking to a minimum, and opt for prepping dinners that only need to be reheated and/or assembled. I'm also not one for counting carbs, so this is a loose plan that simply seeks to avoid common high-carb foods.

My Meal Prep Goals

  • Breakfast: A satisfying breakfast for myself and my husband that can easily be packed up for work (five days).
  • Lunch: Lunch for me and my husband (four days).
  • Dinner: Dinner for me and my husband (four days).
  • Nutritional Goals: This week, we're following a low-carb diet, filled with high-protein meals and lots of low-carb vegetables. I don't count macros or carbs, but I do avoid common starches such as rice, pasta, and beans, and eat vegetables that are high in fiber.

Meal Prep Plan Snapshot

  • Feeds: Two people
  • Prep Time: About 2 hours
  • Meals Covered: About 80% (no weekend meals)
  • Weeknight Cooking Required? Minimal — five to 10 minutes of reheating and assembly to get dinner on the table.

My Meal Plan

Breakfast

Lunches

  • Greek Tuna Salad: Alternating between tuna salad lettuce wraps and tuna salad on a bed of arugula with a hard-boiled egg, served with a cheese stick.

Dinners

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

My Shopping List

Below are the ingredients I bought or used for this meal prep plan. I also relied on staples and condiments already in my pantry, like cooking oil, vinegar, tomato paste, kimchi, and spices.

  • Produce: 1 pound mixed mushrooms, shredded carrots, baby spinach, Bibb lettuce, arugula, 2 small heads bok choy, radicchio, grape tomatoes, cucumber, yellow onion, 2 red bell peppers, riced broccoli, fennel, 3 avocados, fresh parsley, lemon
  • Meat: 1 pound ground beef, 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
  • Dairy: 12 large eggs, sharp cheddar, half-and-half
  • Pantry: Jarred roasted red peppers, 4 cans tuna, 1 28-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes, chicken broth, pitted Kalamata olives

Power Hour: How I Get the Prep Done

With under two hours on the clock, this plan walks you through prepping nearly all of your meals for the week ahead. My approach to meal prep is all about efficiency, multitasking, and embracing the "meanwhile." This means I always start with the tasks that take the most time, and I aim to take advantage of those sporadic hands-off moments (the oven preheating, water coming to a boil, etc.)

My Sunday afternoon prep list is as follows (and we've created a handy pinnable image with the menu and prep list, if you want to save this for later!):

  1. Cook chili: I prep the components to start the chili. While the aromatics are cooking, I clean and chop about 12 ounces of mushrooms (which are a low-carb substitute for the beans in the recipe). I add the chicken thighs and remaining ingredients to the pot, bring the chili to a boil, then let it simmer for about 15 minutes over low heat.
  2. Make egg casserole: Meanwhile, I preheat the oven to 375°F, prepare the egg casserole, and bake it for about 50 minutes.
  3. Shred chicken and simmer chili: By now it's time to remove the chicken thighs from the chili and shred the meat. Then I return the shredded chicken to the pot and simmer for another 30 minutes.
  4. Brown beef and sauté the vegetables for Buddha bowls: Meanwhile, I prepare the components for the Buddha bowls by browning a pound of ground beef in a skillet. I drain any rendered fat and transfer the meat to a plate. To minimize dishes, I wipe the skillet clean and use it to sauté the broccoli rice and bok choy, both of which take just a few minutes to become tender.
  5. Hard-boil eggs: I add another pot to the stovetop to hard-boil the eggs at the same time. I drain them, fill the pot with cold water and lots of ice (for a lazy, makeshift ice bath), and then submerge them in the ice.
  6. Make tuna salad: I chop the vegetables and herbs, then mix in the tuna and vinaigrette for a double batch of tuna salad for a week of lunches.
  7. Wash lettuce: To make sure lunch is squared away, I wash and dry the lettuce leaves that will be used as wraps for the tuna salad.
  8. Assemble arugula salad: The last order of business is to thinly slice a fennel bulb and toss it with a box of arugula. This will serve as the base for a couple of lunches and a simple side to round out our chili dinners.

And that's it! Lots of prep and cooking for one afternoon, but once it's done and everything is refrigerated, there's almost no extra work I have to do to feed myself in the week ahead. I count that as a big win!

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)
(Image credit: Jenny Chang-Rodriguez)

A Week of (Almost) Zero Weeknight Cooking

Here's how all that prep turns into ready-to-eat breakfasts, grab-and-go lunches, and dinners that just need to be reheated or assembled.

Breakfast: Veggie egg casserole with sliced avocado is one of our favorite low-carb breakfast options. It's loaded with protein and good fats, and we're all about a healthy dose of vegetables first thing in the morning. Since we're a family of two, this casserole is just big enough to last us through Friday.

Lunch: Finding lunch options near work that are low-carb, tasty, and don't cost over $12 a pop is super tricky, so packing lunch is a no-brainer for us. I start with a Mediterranean-style tuna salad that's mayo-free and loaded with chopped vegetables and herbs. To keep lunches varied, I alternate stuffing the tuna salad in lettuce cups and spooning it over the arugula and fennel salad and adding a sliced hard-boiled egg.

Dinner: Since this week's dinners are already cooked, not having to start from scratch is a huge time-saver. Our meals alternate between chicken taco chili partnered with a simple arugula and fennel salad on Monday and Wednesday, and takeout-inspired beef and broccoli Buddha bowls on Tuesday and Thursday.

* * *

I hope this is helpful to you! If you're following a low-carb diet, especially if it's new to you, figuring out exactly what to eat can be challenging. This puts it all together for you.

If you're not specifically looking for low-carb, you may still love this plan. And if not, stay tuned — there are even more Power Hours coming your way (see all the plans so far). Meanwhile, if you do rely on low-carb recipes as an eating tool, I'd love to hear some of your own favorite meals and meal prep strategies.

Power Hour Meal Prep is the series where we help you put it all together. We show you how to eat well during the week with an hour or two of Power Hour prep over the weekend. Every plan is different; mix and match to find your own personal sweet spot.

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