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You asked, we answered! Hundreds of Start TODAY members told us they wanted more healthy, balanced meal ideas to help them reach their health goals. This dietitian-designed meal plan gives you the flexibility to ease into a new year — all while learning the building blocks of healthy eating.
Besides saving time and money, meal prep offers some science-backed health perks. For instance, when you make meals at home, you’re not relying on fast food, takeout and prepared foods that studies link to poor diet quality and negative health outcomes. And when you prepare meals with nutritious ingredients, you’re limiting the ultra-processed foods that may raise the risk of heart disease and negatively affect your mental health.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the flavors you love. Use your favorite takeout dishes as inspiration for homemade meals that are just as satisfying.
What to Eat This Week, August 7, 2023
This week’s menu relies on convenient, whole and minimally processed ingredients like rotisserie chicken and frozen veggies to create fast, filling and flavorful meals. After some light cooking, you’ll be rewarded with dishes like Banana Pancakes, Rotisserie Chicken Fried Rice, and protein-packed Smash Burgers.
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Protein-packed breakfasts tame hunger and help curb cravings, which may minimize less healthy snacking that can raise your risk of heart disease. To simplify your morning routine, double or triple a recipe to serve throughout the week.
Banana Protein Pancakes
Mash one ripe banana and mix with two whisked eggs. Lightly coat a nonstick skillet with avocado oil and set on medium heat. For about 2 tablespoons of the batter in at a time, and gently flip the pancake when it starts to bubble and set at the edges. Transfer to a plate and continue with the rest of the batter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and top with a spoonful of nut or nutless butter.
Flavors like peanut butter and vanilla extract remind you of sweets, so your tastebuds are tricked into thinking you’re having something sugary, even if you aren’t. With that, you may not need the optional sweetener. If you use it, stick to a teaspoon or less.
Scrambled Eggs and Fruit
Make two scrambled eggs and garnish with avocado slices and salsa. Serve with a cup or piece of fruit.
Make-ahead lunches mean you’ll get a nourishing meal and avoid spending time and money on less healthy to-go options.
This all-in-one meal can be made and portioned ahead of time. Store the dressing separately and mix with the salad right before serving.
Tuna-Olive Salad Sandwich
To make the tuna, mix canned, drained tuna with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and pitted black olives. Add the tuna mixture to a whole-grain pita stuffed with lettuce and tomato, and serve with a side of raw veggies.
Rotisserie chicken is one of our favorite meal-prep shortcuts, so we’ve included it in two recipes on this week’s menu. With about 20 minutes of hands-on time each night, you’ll be set to enjoy healthy and delicious dinners throughout the week. If that’s too much cooking for you, double or triple one (or more) of the recipes to serve multiple times. As always, feel free to incorporate recipes from previous weeks, including suggested side dishes.
Christopher Testani for The New York Times
Pork chops are seasoned with an easy spice rub and roasted on a sheet pan with Brussels sprouts. Roast a batch of new potatoes tossed with extra virgin olive oil to serve on the side.
Courtesy Elena Besser
A bunless burger offers all the flavor and fixings of a burger without the calories and carbs from the bun. If you can’t live without the bun, try serving your burger on a whole-grain bun or English muffin, which boosts the fiber and nutrients. You can round out your burger with a simple salad and a side of sweet potato fries (from frozen or scratch).
Nathan Congleton / TODAY
This veggie-packed noodle recipe calls for soba noodles — spaghetti-like noodles made from buckwheat. If you don’t have soba noodles, you can swap in another whole-grain noodle. Add shelled edamame to your noodles (or serve them on the side) to balance your dish with plant-based protein.
Sloppy Joe’s — which inspires this recipe — can be astonishingly high in added sugars. This version swaps in an easy sauce that uses hardly any added sugar, but it still gives you that sweet-tangy vibe. If you can’t find whole-grain slider buns, serve the seasoned chicken on a regular-sized whole-grain bun or English muffin. Get your veggies in with a simple side salad.
Making fried rice at home puts you in charge of the ingredients, so you can use brown rice, lower-sodium soy sauce, and lots of veggies. For the best results, cook the brown rice in advance. Make a big batch if you want to make some grain bowls and other easy meal prep meals this week. Meanwhile, the recipe already includes a bag of frozen peas and carrots, but we recommend adding a bag of stir-fry veggies for more nutrition.
Snacks that contain whole food sources of protein and fiber offer a winning formula that keeps you full for hours. Here are a few ideas:
- Cubed pineapple (fresh or frozen and thawed) with cottage cheese.
- Banana, split and sprinkled with cinnamon and hemp seeds.
- Red pepper strips with black bean salsa. To make the salsa, rinse and drain a can of black beans and add a spoonful to store-bought salsa.
- Cucumbers and roasted edamame.
- Grape tomatoes and lentils (canned and rinsed) seasoned with lemon juice or vinegar.