2 Down-and-Dirty Meal Prep Essentials Everyone Can Nail

The holiday season can be a wonderful time full of parties, family, and travel. But it can also make for a stressful time full of commitments, people you may clash with, and airport drama.

And what if you don’t particularly like the holidays or are lonely at a time when everyone else seems to be with friends and family?

Whatever your situation or outlook, December can be a challenging month fraught with bad food choices.

Plan + Prep = Peace

One thing you can do at a time like this is plan a little, prep, and keep healthy food options at the ready to form the building blocks of your meals.

With all the activity swirling around me, I find it comforting and centering to open my refrigerator and find quick, filling, tasty choices to help get me through the day.

Here are two of my favorite basics to easily prep and keep at the ready. They aren’t fancy recipes, but I hope they help you make some healthy choices with minimal work.

Happy Holidays!

Leggo that Eggo

Let’s start with breakfast. At the best of times, breakfast can be a challenge, much less when you have a lot going on! If you don’t leave sufficient time in your morning routine to make breakfast, you’ll start your day feeling rushed and defeated. One super easy way to turn breakfast into a fast grab-and-go win is Egg Cups.

Recipe

This is so easy I hesitate to call it a recipe! Take a standard muffin tin (the kind that makes 12 regular sized muffins) and spray it with cooking spray. Pour ¼ cup liquid egg whites into each muffin cup and bake at 350° for about 20-30 minutes.*

“Well, okay, but that sounds incredibly boring!” you might say. And you’re right! That’s the starting point. Below are some ways to spice them up. I like putting the ingredients right in the cups instead of mixing them with the egg whites because it means one less bowl to clean and you can mix it up and make a few different types at one time.

  • Add 2 teaspoons bacon crumbles or diced pre-cooked sausage and 1 tsp. of shredded cheese to each muffin cup before pouring in the egg whites.
  • Press a piece of ham into each muffin cup, making a little cup to pour the egg whites into.
  • Dice up some bell peppers or mushrooms and add 2 tsp. to each cup before adding the egg whites.
  • Put a generous pinch of chopped spinach in each cup.

When it comes time for breakfast, you can grab a few egg cups and either eat them cold or throw them in the microwave for about 30 seconds to warm them. If I have time to sit down, I like to put them on a plate, add some salsa and shredded cheese, and then warm them.

*I’ve recently discovered that my oven is off by about 10-15 degrees, so my cooking times are often off. But I don’t love telling people to go by strict timing guidelines anyway because everyone’s oven may be a little different. I’ve found this usually takes about 20-30 minutes, unless you fill your oven with four pans of them like I do and it takes twice that time! You can tell they’re ready when they look set and a knife comes out clean when you poke them.

Keep Abreast of Things

Lean chicken breast can be a great staple of a healthy diet, but it can get boring eating grilled or broiled chicken all the time. With a little help from your slow cooker, you can add flavor without adding too many calories and end up with a stockpile of shredded chicken good for a variety of uses. I like to freeze single portions of the chicken to pull out at any time and warm up to eat on their own or add to a recipe.

Recipe

I put the chicken breasts in the slow cooker, add about a cup of liquid per two pounds of chicken (though, let’s be honest, if I’m using a jar of salsa, I’ll probably just throw in the whole thing!) and cook on high for 2-3 hours. I’m paranoid about cooking chicken, so I always use my instant read thermometer and make sure the chicken is cooked to 165°.

Pull the chicken out of the slow cooker with tongs, shred it with two forks, and then stir it back into your cooking liquid for about another half an hour to get some more flavor. Here are a few of my favorite things to add to the chicken:

  • Salsa (Red or Green)
  • Frank’s RedHot Sauce
  • Barbecue Sauce (if the barbecue sauce is very thick, you can add some water or chicken broth to thin it out a bit so it doesn’t burn as it cooks)

There’s a ton of ways to enjoy the chicken once it’s cooked:

  • Just eat it plain!
  • Make tacos or roll it up in a piece of lettuce if you want to avoid the carbs.
  • For a buffalo chicken salad, add ¼ c. of light mayonnaise or Greek yogurt (or a mix of the two) per pound of chicken cooked in hot sauce.
  • Make nachos! Nachos get a bum rap as a meal because when people think of nachos they think of those huge portions you get in a restaurant. I measure out one serving of tortilla chips (or two servings if I have the calories to spare in my day or am feeling indulgent), top them with my chicken and some additional salsa, and then measure out a single serving of shredded cheese to melt on top.
  • Top with a fried egg.
  • Serve on a bed of fresh spinach.

Hopefully these meal prep basics will give you an easy, healthy alternative to all of the unhealthy food land mines that are everywhere around us during this season.

Happy cooking and happy holidays!


A few times a month, members of Lisa’s Cooking Club get together to prep food for the week.

MFF Ninjas, past and present, can join Lisa’s Cooking Club by requesting to join the Facebook group.

Outside of NYC? You can get great recipe ideas from Lisa’s website and follow her on Pinterest.


A long time ago, in a gym far, far away (well, 41st Street) Lisa Spodak asked new trainer Mark Fisher for some help with a circuit workout. The rest, as they say, is history. Lisa isn’t a chef and doesn’t like to cook, but she started the Cooking Club in 2013. When she’s not swinging a kettlebell or doubling the protein in every recipe she finds on Pinterest, Lisa loves going to the theater and training for marathon breast cancer walks.

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