Meal prep 101

Monday, 19 March 2018

If you are a fan of social media you would’ve no doubt seen an array of ‘meal prep’ snaps or videos cross the World Wide Web. Not only does meal prep make for a great photo but, done right, it can support healthier living. Meal planning and preparation can help you get a good mix of nutrition and save you money, time and stress. The key is to combine planning with preparation!

The first step is to know what to aim for. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating is a great place to start. Aim to get a variety of nutritious foods from the five healthy food groups including

  • Vegetables and legumes (beans)
  • Fruit
  • Grain (cereals) foods, mostly wholegrain
  • Lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, and legumes (beans)
  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced fat)
  • And plenty of water.

For more information about recommended serves visit

When considering how to balance your meals and boost your intake of the five healthy food groups use this handy-guide to help.

Hand posture

For Example:

Hand posture

You may need to tweak this to meet your own individual needs, but it’s a good guide to help you balance your meal.

The next step is to plan your dinner meals. Begin by considering your protein choice, then mix and match your carbohydrate and veggie options based on this. Ideally aim for at least one meat-free day during the week by experimenting with options such as lentils, beans, chickpeas, tofu, eggs, nuts or other meat-free protein sources. For the rest of the week aim to include lean red meat one to two times, skinless chicken or poultry one to two times and fish/seafood (especially oily fish like tuna or salmon) two to three times per week. Keep in mind deli, processed or smoked meats tend to be higher in salt and saturated fat and increase our risk of health problems. Limit these foods as much as possible. Next base your lunchtime meals on leftovers or quick and easy ideas to save you time and avoid food waste.

Mix and match…

Lean Protein Nutritious Carbs Salad or non-starchy veg
Fish and seafood Wholegrain bread Tomato
Skinless chicken or turkey Brown and/or low GI rice Lettuce
Lean red meat Pasta Cucumber
Eggs Quinoa Mushrooms
Nuts and seeds Barley Capsicum
Tofu Beans (e.g. kidney beans, baked beans)* Onion
Beans (e.g. kidney beans, baked beans)* Lentils* Green beans
Lentils* Chickpeas*
Chickpeas* Corn
Sweet potato

* These are good sources of both carbohydrate and lean protein.


How to make the most of leftovers…

Lunch Dinner
MONDAY Canned tuna, quinoa and salad Steak with sweet potato and vegetables
TUESDAY Leftover steak sandwich with salad and a little tomato chutney Roast chicken, potato and roast vegetables (e.g. zucchini, carrot, mushrooms, etc)
WEDNESDAY Frittata or omelette with leftover roast veggies Leftover roast chicken with stir-fried vegetables and low GI brown rice


After this create a shopping list. It also helps to have the pantry, fridge and freezer stocked with kitchen essentials as well. Consider adding the following essentials to your shopping list:


  • Grains: quinoa, rolled oats, barley, brown/ low GI rice, wholemeal pasta, cous cous
  • Wholegrain crackers or crispbreads
  • Wholegrain bread and wraps
  • Canned tomato/ tomato paste, beetroot and corn (no added salt varieties)
  • Dried or canned lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc. (no added salt varieties)
  • Canned fish (no added salt varieties)
  • Wholegrain cereals
  • UHT low fat/skim milk
  • Herbs and spices (fresh and dried)
  • Cooking oils: spray, olive, canola, sesame / peanut
  • Fresh food – potatoes, sweet potato, onion, garlic, ginger
  • Nuts and seeds


  • Frozen vegetables
  • Frozen fresh lean varieties of meat, chicken or seafood

Prioritise an hour or so during your week to cook your meals a head of time. Where possible cook your ingredients in bulk batches and portion out into freezer containers or zip lock bags. Don’t forget to label and date your meals to help you navigate the freezer later in the week.

For more inspiration or ideas download the FREE NDSS Factsheet Healthy Meal Ideas or speak to an accredited practising dietitian.

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