Last January, we shared a Meal Prepping and Habit Formation post intended to support your pursuit of New Year’s goals. We continue the tradition by sharing more meal planning guidance, including tips for utilizing popular kitchen appliances and another easy recipe to add to your dinner rotation—a Weeknight Sheet Pan Dinner.

At the start of a new year, Members often ask us how to jumpstart their health goals or implement a new diet or new lifestyle, often desiring a “fresh start.” Unfortunately, typical New Year’s resolutions fall flat, with most people giving up by mid-February because the goals are not sustainable nor built on habit change. Diet culture and media often attempt convince us that health and fitness transformations require major changes to our lives. Research shows you are far more likely to be successful in your long-term goals when your focus is on implementing small, realistic habits day-to-day. We encourage gradual change to your nutrition habits that lead to sustainable, long-term success rather than crash diets, detoxes, and juice cleanses.

One such habit might be committing to your own level of meal preparation, especially if you have nutrition-focused goals and you feel you do not have time to cook healthy meals during the week. A great aspect of meal prep is that you can do as much or as little as you wish (and have time for!) Even if your prep is merely chopping up raw fruits and veggies for the week, this helps save time and brings you one step closer to achieving your goals. While prepping your meals for an entire week is great, it can also be overwhelming, and it is not essential to making positive change. Customize the following tips to your family’s needs, schedules, and goals (and review our post from last year!)

Use the Instant Pot® to save time

Pressure cookers (e.g., Instant Pots®) are great for meal preparation because they cook foods quicker than standard methods. Consider using a pressure cooker if prepping the following food items:

  • Grains
    • For brown rice, use a 1:1 rice to water ratio. Then cook for 15 minutes on high pressure, then natural release for 5 minutes;
    • For quinoa, use a 1:1.5 quinoa to water ratio. Then cook for 1 minute on high pressure, then natural release for 10 minutes;
    • For steel cut oatmeal, use a 1:2 oat to liquid ratio. Then cook for 4 minutes on high pressure, then natural release for 10 minutes.
  • Proteins
    • For hard-boiled eggs, add 1 cup water, then place eggs on top of rack. Cook for 5 minutes on high pressure, then natural release for 5 minutes;
    • For chicken, add 3-4 chicken breasts, 1 cup water or broth, and desired seasoning in your pressure cooker. Cook for 15 minutes on high pressure (12-15 minutes for frozen chicken), then do a quick release of the pressure;

Slow Cookers – a hands-off method.

The internet has many recipes for slow cooker meals that will help keep dinner interesting. From casseroles and soups to braised meats and curries, the options are nearly endless.

  • Need an easy place to start? Try our own Vegetarian Chili (feel free to add lean ground beef or turkey, if desired) or Chicken Quinoa Soup in the Slow Cooker for a convenient, balanced weeknight meal.

Try the Air Fryer to add crunch to your vegetables.

Air fryers cook a wide range of foods. Many use this handy appliance to cook vegetables, which gives a satisfying, crunchy texture.

  • Vegetables
    • For starchy vegetables, like squash, potatoes, and beets, cook at 375 F for 20-30 minutes;
    • For non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, and carrots, cook at 375 F for 15-20 minutes.

Next time you are looking to prepare food on a weekend try following some of these tips, making use of your appliances and finding new, interesting ways to prepare your usual meals. Want more suggestions or recommendations? Talk to Lauren and Tavierney, our SHIFT Registered Dietitians

Happy Cooking!

Lauren & Tavierney

SHIFT Registered Dietitians

*Didn’t have time to prep any meals and need a quick 30-minute meal that will feed multiple people? Check out the recipe below for our Easy Sheet Pan Dinner, a tasty, balanced, and time-saving solution.

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Easy Sheet Pan Dinner

Makes 2-4 servings

Ingredients

4 preservative-free chicken sausages

3 cups sweet potato, diced into 1/2” cubes (or substitute with any starchy vegetable)

4-6 cups non-starchy vegetables, chopped (we suggest broccoli, bell peppers, and cauliflower)

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning (or seasoning blend of your choosing)

Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Slice sausage into 1” pieces and chop all the veggies and potatoes
  3. Add vegetables, potatoes, and sausage to sheet pan (or two, if needed)
  4. In a separate bowl, mix oil, garlic, and seasonings.
  5. Drizzle over vegetables and sausage and toss until fully coated with oil and spices
  6. Bake for ~20-30 minutes, tossing halfway through
Nutrient Breakdown
Nutrient  Amount per serving 
(1/4 of the recipe)
Energy 345 calories
Total Fat 19 grams
     (Saturated Fat)  3.4 grams
Total Carbohydrates 29 grams
     (Dietary Fiber) 6 grams
     (Sugar) 9 grams
Protein 17 grams