The Ultimate Healthy Convenience Item List for #MinimalistMealPrep

My personal meal prep method has evolved to be this: spend as little time as possible to get the job done (#MinimalistMealPrep). Instead of doing everything myself or making everything from scratch, I find shortcuts where I can that don’t sacrifice health in the process. I want to encourage others to do the same, especially if you are just getting started with meal prep, as it can be overwhelming and time consuming if you are trying to tackle it all.

That being said, I wanted to put together a list of all the things I could think of that I use to make my quick and easy meals and snacks… Things that are either ready-made or very quick to make (i.e. mostly hands off, other than cook time) and/or ingredients I commonly use to pull together an easy meal. Also included are snacks and kitchen items that help with the #MinimalistMealPrep process.

I am including breakfast things here too, but usually it is lunch and dinner that people end up spending the majority of their time on. One of my favorite ways to make meal prep quick for lunch and dinner is to prep what I have come to call a #OneBowlMeal. This is essentially more of an outline than a recipe, and refers to pairing a protein of choice and sides/veggies of choice together then pulling it together with a seasoning or sauce of choice to make an easy, but complete meal. It is essentially a no-measure, no-recipe-needed meal. You are able to mix and match to change things up so that your taste buds don’t get bored without having to prep a lot of different things, especially when you use convenience items. This will also *cough* conveniently *cough* save you time.

All items here might not be 100% “clean,” but they are what I consider to be healthy enough to include on a routine basis. Remember that consistency is better than perfection when it comes to healthy eating and that you should be satisfied by what you eat (#LikeHowYouEat). Please also remember to do what works for you, and do not include foods that you don’t love (or foods that don’t love you back) just because I have put my stamp of approval on them. I love dairy, but it doesn’t love me back, so I have learned to limit it.

Notes: Some items will be duplicated in categories, as they might fit into several different ones. I will update this list as I come across new finds.

Proteins:

  • Pre-Boiled Eggs: Egglands best and the Walmart brand are both good. Can use for salads, topping toast, to make egg salad, eat whole with salt and pepper, etc.
  • Carton egg whites/flavored egg whites: Use to make pancakes, omelets, meatloaf, add to bulk up whole eggs with less calories, in baking, in casseroles, in smoothies (you can eat them raw because they are pasteurized), add to oatmeal, etc. See this post for more info on flavored egg whites.
  • Tyson Frozen Cooked Chicken: I like the Teriyaki thighs and Italian Herb and Tomato strips. Great for salads, #OneBowlMeals, etc.
  • Boars Head lunch meat: Besides sandwiches, you can use for rolling and eat for a snack, chop for salads, etc. I like the no sodium added turkey.
  • Chicken sausage: It is lower in fat and usually comes in great flavors, so it is a great protein addition to add to things when you also want flavor that plain ground meat doesn’t add (like soups, casseroles, and anywhere you would use ground meat). Also can chop and use in omelets, over salads, for stir frys, or #OneBowlMeals, etc.
  • Protein powders: Can use in shakes, smoothies, baking (in place of flour–note that some protein powders work better than others in baking), making raw protein bars/bites, add to oatmeal, egg whites, Greek yogurt, sprinkle over berries, etc. My favorite brands are Equip foods beef protein (chocolate is my #1 flavor choice, but all are good), Dales Raw Foods (this vanilla is my #1 flavor choice), Naturade Pea Protein (the vanilla is amazing–almost like cake batter! Haven’t tried other flavors to vouch for them).
  • Powdered Peanut butter/Peanut Flour: Can reconstitute and use like peanut butter, or use in baking like flour, mix in smoothies/shakes, in savory sauces (like lower calorie peanut sauces), etc. My favorite is PB2.
  • Tuna: Flavored packs or cans. Good for #OneBowlMeals, salads, casseroles, wraps, etc.
  • Salmon: Flavored packs (my favorite are the BBQ and the smoked), cans, or fresh smoked (found by the seafood at the butcher counter). Use canned and pouches to make tuna salad, to top salads, or eat strait from the pouch. Use smoked in wraps, to top crackers or bagels, etc.
  • Ground grass-fed beef, turkey, or chicken: I prefer 90% or leaner. Cook and crumble for taco salads, use to make meatballs, burgers, meatloaf, #OneBowlMeals, etc.
  • Frozen fish: Grilled or baked. Great for main dishes, salads, #OneBowlMeals, wraps, etc. Some of y favorites are tilapia or mahi mahi.
  • Frozen precooked or raw shrimp: Great for #OneBowlMeals, salads, wraps, etc.
  • Greek yogurt. Fage or 0% or 2%, or Oikos Triple Zero. You can use in baking, as a snack with mix-ins, freeze to make frozen yogurt, or yogurt bark, to thicken shakes and smoothies, to make sauces, etc. The plain is a great sour cream substitute.
  • Cottage Cheese: I like no-sodium added 0%, or 2%. Friendship or Daisy’s are may go-to brands. You can use in baking, as a snack with mix-ins, in salads, to thicken shakes and smoothies, in meatloaf, in lasagna, to make sauces, etc.
  • Quark: A lot like Greek yogurt, but technically a cheese. I like Elli. Use it the same way you would Greek yogurt.

Veggies:

  • Pre-chopped and ready to eat veggies: Great for snacks, steaming, or roasting. Saves time by not having to wash and chop whole veggies.
  • Mann’s Nourish Bowls: These are the perfect size to pack for lunch and just steam in the microwave. I use these as a base for my meal as they have a good variety of mixed veggies, and then I add a precooked protein. Some of them come with a rice packet, but a lot of times I don’t use it. Sometimes I use the sauce and sometimes I discard and use my own. My favorites are the Monterey Risotto, Sesame Sriracha, and Bacon Maple Brussels, but there are some new ones with spiralized veggies that I haven’t tried yet that look good.
  • Green Giant riced veggies: I love these because they stem in the microwave. You can use them in place of rice, as mix-in to bulk up your scrambles, mixed into oatmeal or to make noatmeal (i.e. paleo oatmeal), as a mix in for meat loaf or stir frys, in casseroles, or on their own as a side.
  • Green Giant spiralized veggies: A super efficient way to make veggies noodles without using a spirilizer. I prefer steaming fresh zucchini noodles to these as their frozen ones are a bit mushy and super long, but they are good in a pinch or if you use them for something other than noodles, like baking. The butternut ones are really good as noodles though.
  • Fresh spiralized veggies: Most stores have pre-noodled veggies in the fresh produce section that you can simply steam. Saves time not having to spiralize them yourself.
  • Premade veggie kebabs: I love the convenience of having a variety of veggies to add to a simple meat for a complete meal. Just season and roast or grill.
  • Frozen edamame: A great snack to have on hand to satisfy the late night salty munchies! There are several brands, but I usually get PictSweet. They some in two sizes (small and large) that steam in the microwave.
  • Frozen mixed, chopped, seasoned: Great for roasting, steaming, to have on hand for #OneBowlMeals, etc. I like the ones that steam in the microwave and some come with seasonings that don’t have a lot of calories. Check your labels as some  are high in fat and sodium.
  • Frozen mashed veggies: Great for sides or even using in place of sauces. Check your labels as some are high in fat and sodium.
  • Canned/shelf stable cups/cartooned: Things like artichokes, olives, beans, etc. Good to toss in salads or #OneBowlMeals. I love the little cups of olives for a perfect salad portion.

Sauces, condiments, dressings, seasonings:

  • Saucy Lips Foods: Delicious minimal ingredient sauces for dipping, salads, and sauces. I love the Tangy Mango, Zesty Cilantro, and Pineapple Thai.
  • Tessemae’s: Dressings, marinades, and sauces for salads, veggies, meats and more. My favorites are the Zesty Ranch, Matty’s BBQ, and Ketchup. I really want to try the roasted garlic spread!
  • Liquid aminos: An alternative to soy sauce that tastes pretty much the same. Use for making sauces, dressings, as a marinade, or mix with salsa and guac for a salad dressing alternative.
  • Coconut aminos: Similar to liquid aminos , but a bit sweeter, so use in more for marinades and sauces. I also like the flavored coconut aminos sauces.
  • Panera Bread salad dressings: My favorites are the Balsamic, Poppyseed, Fuji Apple, and Greek, but I am on the hunt for several flavors that aren’t yet in my stores.
  • Nutritional yeast: Great alternative to dairy for cheesy flavoring. Add to sauces, salads, veggies, meats and more.
  • Cavender’s Greek seasoning: I use this on veggies for roasting and on meats, especially on chicken. Fair warning: DO NOT buy the salt free (it is terrible).
  • Everything bagel seasoning: I prefer Bagel Spice, as TJ’s is too salty for me.
  • Guacamole: My favorite is Good Foods Chunky. This is the brand that Moe’s Southwest Grill uses! Use for dipping or mixed with salsa and liquid aminos for a salad dressing.
  • Salad Supreme Seasoning: Good sprinkled on salads or on raw veggies.
  • Hummus: Great for dipping raw veggies, on top of chicken before baking, or in salads. I love all the flavors that are available now. Hope Foods and Lantana Foods have some really good ones.
  • Flavored Mustard: Check labels for added sugars.
  • No sugar added ketchup.
  • Cinnamon: My favorite is Saigon.
  • Cocoa powder: Hershey Special Dark is my favorite. I also like Metabolic Effect Craving cocoa which is sweetened with stevia and has BCAAs. Both can be added to shakes, in baking, in Greek yogurt, etc. Craving Cocoa can be made into a pudding as it has thickeners, or into a hot or cold beverage.
  • Stevia drops: My favorite brand is Sweet Leaf. I like the flavored ones for baking and in Greek yogurt, shakes, oatmeal, etc.
  • Dried herbs and spices: Besides regular dried herbs and spices, I like Gourmet Garden found in the cooler section by the produce. Great for sauces, dressings, mixing in scrambles or stir fry, etc. They are fresher than dried, but last much longer than fresh.
  • Fresh Market Maple Bacon Spice Rub. Amazing on veggies and meat.

Snacks:

  • Brad’s veggie chips: A whole food alternative to potato chips made from fruits and veggies. They are more like crackers than chips. My favorite are the Cheddar, Kale, and Sweet potato.
  • Rice cakes: I like Lundburg Rice Cakes and Thins and Suzie’s thins. Quaker also makes some good flavored cakes, with the best being the Tomato and Basil.
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers Superseed: My favorite is the Everything flavor.
  • Air popped popcorn: I like black Jewel.
  • DNX bars: I love these as a savory alternative to protein bars. I also love that they travel well and won’t melt the way sweet protein bars do. The Peri Peri chicken is may favorite.
  • Dales Raw Foods: My favorite are the Mint Chocolate and the Chocolate Cheesecake.
  • NuGo Egg White Bars: My favorite are the Maple Pecan and Blueberry
  • Rx Bars: My favorite are PB&J, Maple Sea Salt, Blueberry, Chocolate Sea Salt, Chocolate Coconut, and the seasonal Pumpkin Spice and Gingerbread. Coffee Chocolate, mint Chocolate, PB/PB chocolate are also good. Apple Cinnamon and Chocolate Chip are meh, ok. I do not care for the Berry, Mango Pineapple ,or Chocolate Hazelnut.
  • Evo hemp bars: I had the fruit protein bars before they rebranded the package, so I am not sure if the product is exactly the same, but all the flavors are good. It appears they have discontinued some of them, and added one I haven’t tried yet. Also they now have protein bars I haven’t tried.
  • BHU protein bars: I tried the vegan, primal, paleo, and superfoods sample pack. Clear winner is the Peanut Butter White Chocolate, followed closely by Apple Chunk Cinnamon Nutmeg (think oatmeal raisn cookie), but the Chocolate Tart Cherry Pistachio and are also great.
  • Kim’s magic pop: My favorite are the onion, honey wheat, and sweet potato. See this post for a detailed explanation of all the products and tips on ordering.
  • Mixed nuts and flavored almonds: My favorite are Raspberry glazed almonds, salty sweet and salty sweet PB mixed nuts from Emeralds. Also, Back to Nature Cashew, Almond, Pistachio mix.
  • Pre-Boiled Eggs: Egglands best and the Walmart brand are both good.
  • Pre-chopped and ready to eat veggies: Things like baby carrots, mini cucumbers, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, baby sweet peppers, etc. Good with hummus, Salad Supreme Seasoning, or on their own.
  • Metabolic Effect Craving cocoa which is sweetened with stevia and has BCAAs. It can be made into a pudding as it has thickeners, or into a hot or cold beverage.

Fruit:

  • Chopped fresh fruit bowls.
  • Freeze dried fruit: Note this is different than dried fruit which is higher in sugar. Add to oats, Greek yogurt, or eat on its own.
  • Frozen fruit: good to have on hand for smoothies/protein shakes, mixing in baked goods, mixing in oatmeal, slightly thawed with a sprinkle of Splenda, cinnamon, protein powder, etc. for a healthy treat in place of dessert, mixing into Greek yogurt, mixing into cottage cheese, cooked with scrambled eggs (don’t knock it ’til you try it!), etc.
  • Apple slices: Pre-sliced in bags, snack packs, or boxes. The toss them in ascorbic acid (vitamin C) so they won’t brown.
  • Snack pack unsweetened applesauce: Great to have on hand for baking and a low sugar snack.

Carbs:

  • Sweet potatoes: They sell steamable ones in packs and individually wrapped. Super convenient not having to wait to bake them.
  • Oatmeal: Besides the obvious uses, you can grind into oat flour for baking or mixing in with protein to make home-made bars/bites, add to meatloaf as a binder, etc.
  • Steamable quinoa, brown rice, whole grain rice, etc. You can find it in frozen or in shelf stable bags. I find the frozen to be more fresh-tasting, but the shelf stable can be helpful to have since they don’t require refrigeration. I love the frozen mixes from companies like Path of Life. My favorite is the Mediterranean Quinoa.
  • Brad’s veggie chips: A whole food alternative to potato chips made from fruits and veggies. They are more like crackers than chips. My favorite are the Cheddar, Kale, and Sweet potato.
  • Rice cakes: I like Lundburg Rice Cakes and Thins and Suzie’s thins. Quaker also makes some good flavored cakes, with the best being the Tomato and Basil.
  • Beans/chick peas: Canned/carton shelf stable (considered a starchy veggie).
  • Wraps: I like to stay gluten free now, but I used to eat Mission Carb Balance and Ole Xtreme Wellness low carb/high fiber before I started avoiding gluten as both of these brands were super soft, especially for being whole wheat/high fiber wraps. Flat out is another good brand. Siete makes several different tortillas made from alternate flours.

Milk/Dairy:

Note: I am lactose intolerant (lactose is the sugar found in milk) and also stay away from milk proteins casein and whey (for the most part) at this time due to some personal health issues, but I will include products I have used in the past here if I liked them. Mostly I use non-dairy products now. Also, just so you understand, most people who “don’t tolerate dairy” refer to being lactose intolerant (they have a deficiency in the enzyme lactase which breaks down the lactose sugar). If that is the case, then taking the supplement before eating dairy, or purchasing dairy products with the enzyme added (i.e. Lactaid brand) solves the problem. However, the proteins found in milk (whey and casein) are still present in these products and if you don’t tolerate them, it is not a matter of using the enzyme, but avoiding the milk proteins entirely.

  • Almond, coconut, or cashew milk. I usually get unsweetened plain or vanilla generic Walmart brand, Silk, or Califia. Use just like you would regular dairy milk in shakes, smoothies, cereal, baking, cooking, etc. I love cashew milk for coffee, but it is high in calcium and that is a no-no with thyroid meds.
  • Cheese: I like store brand reduced-fat Blue or Feta, grated or shaved Parmesan, Cracker Barrel 2% White or 2% Extra Sharp Cheddar. Because they pack a lot of flavor, a little goes a long way and adds satisfaction to meals. Use crumbled, shaved, or shredded to mix in salads, veggies, wraps, or sauces. Stick cheese as a snack or portion controlled serving for adding to wraps.
  • Greek yogurt cream cheese: Great for recipes to replace full fat cream cheese. It is higher in protein. I like Green Mountain Farms.
  • Greek yogurt. Fage or 0% or 2%, or Oikos Triple Zero. You can use in baking, as a snack with mix-ins, freeze to make frozen yogurt, or yogurt bark, to thicken shakes and smoothies, to make sauces, etc. The plain is a great sour cream substitute.
  • Cottage Cheese: I like no-sodium added 0%, or 2%. Friendship or Daisy’s are may go-to brands. You can use in baking, as a snack with mix-ins, in salads, to thicken shakes and smoothies, in meatloaf, in lasagna, to make sauces, etc.
  • Quark: A lot like Greek yogurt, but technically a cheese. I like Elli. Use it the same way you would Greek yogurt.
  • Ripple: Plat based milk and creamer. I love the creamer as it is the only plant based I have come across that is low calcium. Weird, but if you take thyroid hormone, you aren’t supposed to have calcium (or food) with it or it messes up the absorption. I am so excited to have cream in my coffee again.

Miscellaneous life saving tools:

  • Steamable bags for cooking foods in the microwave.
  • Aluminum foil for lining baking sheets.
  • Parchment paper for baking.
  • Crockpot liners for easy clean up.
  • Ziplock bags for portioning out snacks into single serving.
  • Cooking spray. I prefer olive oil or coconut oil.
  • Tupperware containers of all sizes for storage and meal prep.
  • Ninja/blender/Blendtec/Vitamix for smoothies, shakes, sauces, mixing batters, etc.
  • Spirilizer for veggies and fruits. This is still the best one in my opinion, especially for the price.
  • Food processor.
  • Veggie Chopper: faster to dice foods than using a cutting board and knife. I have this one and love it.
  • OXO chopper bowl: This is a game-changer for salads. I also use it for other things besides just chopped salads.
  • Immersion blender for sauces.
  • Mixing bowls of various sizes.
  • Crockpot.
  • Digital food scale: For measuring portions and servings.
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