No fuss cooking hacks

Prep for meals in advance. Being proactive about meal planning can save a lot of time and stress in the long run. While the upfront work may sound scary, you’ll be thankful when you find yourself running late and only have a few minutes to eat. Pick a day or a night to prepare several meals that you can simply warm up throughout the week. Or take the time to separate your snacks into portion-controlled bags that you can grab on your way out the door. Raw vegetables are always a simple, nutrient-dense option. If you’re new to meal planning, check out our great beginners guide, which is full of tips and tricks to get started.

1. Grab a pen and paper. Write the days of the week on the left side of the page and the meals you want to plan across the top.

2. Sketch out your weekly eats. Vague descriptions like quick dinner, leftovers, or packable lunch are fine for now. Don’t forget to plan for leftovers and make note of special dietary restrictions here as well.

3. Tally them up. Note how many meals you’ll need, grouping together similar ones. For example: 2 quick dinners, 3 packable lunches

Now the fun part! Once you know how many meals you’ll need, it’s time to find some healthy recipes and fill in your calendar for the week. Here are some tips to help.

4. Create a master recipe list Having a list of go-to meals is one of the easiest ways to expedite the meal planning process. Consider trying one or two new recipes and use a few old favorites to fill in the gaps. Every time you find a new meal you love, add it to the rotation!

5. Find a few new dishes to try Finding delicious, healthy recipes isn’t hard–you just need to know where to look. Health-conscious cookbooks and food magazines are great but the internet can literally provide millions of healthy recipes at your fingertips.

Plan for leftovers. If you are preparing a large meal, double the batch. Prepare one to serve and the other to put in the freezer or fridge. This way you have double the food but half the mess! You can also prepare extra chicken or steak to cut up and add to a salad to make for a filling lunch the next day.

Prep a big soup. Soups are a simple way to eat more produce and fiber-rich beans. Opt for homemade, broth-based soups instead of creamy ones. Make a big batch and freeze some of it for another week. Pour single servings into to-go containers to make it easy to grab and go for work lunches. Sip on soup for lunch to fill your body up with good stuff.

Blend your veggies. Add a smoothie or fresh juice to get a few servings of fruits and veggies in your diet. Smoothies make a great breakfast or snack. Make them yourself so that you’re in control of the ingredients. If you’re making it a meal or want a snack that lasts,blend fruits and veg with proteins like Greek yogurt, kefir or milk and healthy fats like cashews, nut butters, avocado or coconut oil.

Make mason jar salads. Not only do these look awesome, but they also make salads fun and functional. No more oddly shaped to-go containers that don’t fit right in a lunch box and never seem to get dry in the top rack of the dishwasher. Prep a salad in a mason jar by filling the bottom of the jar with a simple vinegar based dressing, toppings like chickpeas or grilled chicken, chopped veggies, feta cheese, apples, nuts and seeds and lots of greens at the top. Seal tightly with a lid. When you are ready to eat, just shake the jar and dump into a bowl. Once you start using the mason jar, you’ll be taking salads to work on the daily.

Batch roast your veggies. Before your week begins, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and roast off your favorite veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mushrooms, butternut squash, kale and sweet potatoes. This small step will help ensure healthy eating during the week. Toss roasted veg on a salad, in an omelet or breakfast scramble, serve on the side of grilled chicken or in a wrap. To roast vegetables, preheat oven to 425 degrees, line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, arrange veg on baking sheet not to overcrowd the pan, mist veg with olive or coconut oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 25-45 minutes, depending on toughness of the veggies, until vegetables begin to turn brown and crisp.

Stock your pantry. Pantry staples make it easy to whip up a dinner in no time flat. Convenient pantry items include low-sodium canned beans, canned tuna, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, nut butter, mixed nuts, unsweetened dried fruit, and whole grains like oats, brown rice and whole-grain pasta.