By Julia Vasquez, Dietetic Intern and Graduate Student, Texas Woman’s University
Reviewed by Jinan Banna, PhD, RD
Are you a busy college student or constantly finding yourself running out the door with hardly enough time to prepare a healthy and satisfying meal? If so, meal prepping may help to save you time and ensure you have a meal ready to go. Not only will meal prepping help to provide an easy grab and go meal, but each meal will be packed with nutrients. A salad is an easy meal you can prepare in advance. Salads are versatile, nutrient dense, and can be eaten on the go without the need of a microwave.
How do I meal prep?
Meal prepping refers to preparing your meals in advance to help save yourself time during the busy week. This can include preparing the individual components of the meal or putting entire meals together in containers. Meal prepping is great for those who want to have nutritious meals throughout the week, but may struggle to find the time during the week.
If you’ve been struggling with meal prepping, here is some advice to help make the process more enjoyable and efficient. Try implementing some of these tips and tricks into your meal preparation routine!
- Schedule and block out a convenient time during the week
- Have your recipes ready to go in advance
- Start by first preparing the ingredients that will take the longest such as cooking chicken, boiling eggs, or cooking quinoa
- Use a salad spinner to dry your leafy greens more efficiently
- Dice your vegetables using a vegetable chopper/mandoline to help save time
- To prevent your leafy greens from wilting, try to keep the dressing in a separate container
- Wear supportive shoes while in the kitchen
- Play upbeat music to help keep you motivated!
Build a better base
Selecting a base for your salad is the first step to building a better salad. The base is most commonly a leafy green; however, if you do not particularly enjoy them, you can use other ingredients as the base. Ingredients such as zucchini noodles, quinoa, couscous, or broccoli can also make a delicious salad base. Regardless of what you select, make sure to wash and dry them to help prepare them for your premade salads.
Here are some ideas for the base of your salad. You can select one or even more to create your desired salad bowl.
- Mixed greens
- Zucchini noodles
Protein add ons
Adding protein to your salad not only incorporates more flavor, but also helps to keep you full longer! Protein is most abundant in animal sources including meat, poultry, and fish. However, protein is also found in smaller amounts in nuts, seeds, and dairy products including cheese.
Even if you are vegetarian or vegan, you can add plant based protein sources to make your salad more filling too! One ½ cup serving of firm tofu contains about 10 grams of protein and has all nine essential amino acids, which make it a complete protein. Complete proteins are good sources of protein as they can provide the body with all of the essential amino acids. Here are some ideas for protein add ons for your salad.
- Chicken breast
- Black beans
- Hard boiled eggs
Other Salad Toppings
Once you select your salad base and protein(s) of choice. Now it’s time to select toppings to help create a delicious and filling salad for you on the go! These toppings can include vegetables, fruits, nuts, cheeses, and/or salad dressings. When preparing these ingredients for your salads, make sure to wash and dry them. Then you can slice, dice, or chop them by hand or in a food processor.
- Bell pepper
- Goat cheese
Salad dressings are another key component of salads. The salad dressings found in grocery stores are usually high in calories, saturated fat, and/or sodium. If you need additional guidance on selecting a dressing, read the blog post “How to Choose a Salad Dressing”. This blog post will help transform your salad and the perfect healthy salad dressing for you.
Delicious Salad Ideas
Do you need more inspiration for salad recipes? There are numerous flavor combinations you can create, so the sky’s the limit! McKel Kooiegna, MS, RDN, LDN has easy recipes for “Simple Protein Packed White Bean Salad”, “Cilantro Lime Southwest Salad”, and a “Simple Green Salad”.
Remember to keep your salad dressing in a separate container to help keep your leafy greens from wilting and getting soggy. When preparing your salads, begin by preparing the ingredients that take the most time first, then proceed to wash and dry your greens, then chop your vegetables and desired toppings, once complete assemble your salads in airtight containers. These pre-prepared salads can last you up to 4 to 5 days when stored in the refrigerator.
I would love to hear your favorite salad combinations below!