Talking with Toby Amidor, Author of The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook
Toby Amidor: Each of these make-ahead meals is delicious, healthy and made with minimally processed ingredients. I also kept in mind reusing a dish for different meals. For example, my Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken recipe can be made into a Barbecue Chicken Pizza. Both recipes are provided in my cookbook, along with additional ideas on pairing meals. I also give food safety guidelines for safe meal prepping. From defrosting to cooking to reheating, there are simple steps to follow to keep food safe and prevent illness when cooking in batches.
Having meals ready to go reduces my weeknight stress level tremendously. If I do forget something at the market, or want to whip up side salad, that’s quick and easy. My mid-week grocery runs are only for a handful of items and not a cartful. I also get my kids involved in selecting the recipes they want for the week, and leftovers are used for packed lunches, including my own. This means I’m also saving money mid-week and don’t have to drop $10-15 for lunch every day. Over a month that adds up to over $60 that I saved!
- Olive oil: Meal prep is all about keeping it simple. Although you can use a variety of oils in the recipes, most of them use olive oil — a must have for any meal prep kitchen.
- Canned beans: I always keep a few cans of no-salt added canned beans. I can use them to make a chili, toss over a salad, or add to a quinoa bowl in a flash.
- Lemons: This citrus fruit is one of my favorite flavor-enhancers. I use the juice and zest in marinades, dressings, and batters.
- Quinoa: Many of the dishes in my meal prep cookbook can be eaten with grains. I like to have cooked quinoa on hand for that extra boost of protein. I can add chopped fresh herbs to it or dried fruit and use it as a side for lean protein, stir fry, or over a salad.
Tell us a little about the meal plans featured in the book.
As everyone has different goals, my cookbook has a 2-week meal plan for three types of diets: clean eating, weight loss, and muscle building. The clean eating meal plan includes fruits, vegetables, lean protein, low fat dairy, whole grains, and healthy fats. Canned, frozen, and fresh foods are used (with no-added sugar and low sodium varieties). I have visited numerous farms and seen the canning and freezing process where foods are picked at their peak nutrition and quality and then preserved. The weight loss meal plan includes recipes that are lower in calories, but full of nutrition and flavor. The muscle-building meal plan is geared towards those who like to hit the gym and weights numerous times a week.
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Coat a shallow 9-by-9-inch baking dish with the cooking spray.
- Brush the chicken with the oil and sprinkle it with the salt and black pepper. Put the chicken in the baking dish and bake until a thermometer inserted in the center of a drumstick reads 165ºF, about 35 to 40 minutes.
- Just before the chicken is ready, in a small skillet over medium-low heat, toast the sesame seeds until slightly browned, stirring them frequently so they don’t burn, about 5 minutes.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the apricot jam and soy sauce. Cook, stirring frequently, until it boils, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove.
- Let the chicken cool for 5 minutes, then drizzle the apricot sauce over it and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.
REFRIGERATE: Store the cooled chicken with the sauce and seeds in a resealable container for up to 1 week. To reheat, microwave for 1½ minutes. It can also be reheated in a saucepan over medium heat.
FREEZE: Store the cooled chicken with the sauce and seeds in a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the microwave for 1 minute. It can also be reheated in a saucepan over medium heat.
Per Serving (2 drumsticks with 1 tablespoon sauce and 1½ teaspoons sesame seeds): Calories: 541; Fat: 32g; Saturated Fat: 7g; Protein: 46g; Total Carbs: 14g; Fiber: 1g; Sodium: 766mg
Photos courtesy of Nat & Cody Gantz (left and bottom right), and Melani Lust Photography (top right).
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc. , which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.