In our previous articles in the ‘Meal Prep’ series, we introduced you to the basics of meal prep and then gave you some idea of what dishes you can make ahead for breakfast and enjoy on the go, in school or at work. This time we are going to give you some ideas of what to prep and pack for main courses such as lunch or dinner, more specifically, we are going to start with the side dishes.
As you might remember, we recommended putting the meal together from three parts: grains/starch + proteins + veggies with some basic ingredient examples. But let’s see, what can you exactly do with them?
Preparing grains such as bulgur, couscous and the different kinds of rice seems self-explanatory as you just have to cook them. If you are short on time, it is good to know that bulgur doesn’t even need to be cooked for a long time: pour boiling water on it, let it soak for 20 minutes while you’re preparing other parts of the dish, and it’s done! But what can you do to make these side dishes less boring? Spice it up! Most people tend to eat them plain, but by using natural spices you can give it so much extra flavor without adding extra calories. Be careful with salt and other spice mixed high in sodium though!
Sweet potato is also a great and healthy side dish for meal prep. Wash it thoroughly, lightly sprinkle with olive oil, poke holes in it with a fork then just pop it into the oven on 160°C. (Baking time varies depending on the size of the sweet potato, you can assess if it’s cooked or not by poking it with a knife or fork and see whether it is soft already.) When the sweet potato is done, you can either leave it and pack it as a whole, or make a sweet potato mash.
For the sweet potato mash, peel the potato after it cooled down and put it in the bowl. Since it is already cooked through, it should be easy to just mash it with a fork. If you are not strict with calories, you can add a little butter and salt – or some people like their sweet potato with a dash of cinnamon. The result is a delicious side dish, which is a much healthier alternative for the regular mashed potatoes.
Now let’s see what we can do with our veggies! Yet again, the easiest and most popular way is to steam them. Steaming is a great way to prepare vegetables as it doesn’t require any oil that would add extra calories and by using some spices or garlic you were really get a tasty, healthy side dish in no time. Some veggies we recommend for steaming: broccoli, cauliflower, (baby) carrots, peas, green beans.
However, if you feel you have had enough of the steamed vegetables and need some change and new tastes, you should try making pan roasted vegetables. The idea is that you spread all your favorite vegetables on to a baking sheet, lightly spray them with olive oil and spices, then roast them in the oven. It uses much less oil then deep frying or stir frying even and helps retain the taste and aroma of the vegetables more than steaming. For a more detailed recipe check out our Pan Roasted Chicken and Vegetables article!
Our third idea is to make a mash: you can do it with lots of vegetable, not just sweet potatoes. Just cook or bake broccoli or cauliflower until they are soft, then mash them with some pink salt, black pepper and garlic until smooth. For these you might need a blender to get the perfect consistency.
And last but not least: have you heard of cauliflower rice? Although rice is not unhealthy, but it is still quite high in carbs – and if you are on a low carb diet, you will LOVE this alternative instead! It is actually really easy to make. You first just have to cut your cauliflower into bigger chunks than grate it all to a fine, rice-like consistency. Once it’s done, you can either sauté it in a large frying pan on a little coconut oil or even cook it through in the microwave. It takes less than 10 minutes; it is delicious and low in carbs – the perfect healthy side dish!
We hope you liked this article and could get some ideas for side dishes for your next meal prep session – stay tuned for the next article on meal prep ideas for your proteins!