It is no secret that meal planning and prepping is a key to natural and sustained weight loss. I am (obviously!) a huge advocate for this type of lifestyle, and have been meal prepping myself into a happier me since my 2015 New Years resolution (that whole story is here).
But, just making a plan and prepping it is only part of why this habit is successful. Deciding what goes on your healthy weekly plan is often the tougher part.
I would say it is common knowledge that increasing nutrient dense vegetables into your diet is pretty important to healthy meal planning, but I know from personal experience, incorporating 2 cups of vegetables at both lunch and dinner (my daily goal!), can be a challenge. A person can only eat cut up raw veggies and plain lettuce salad so much, right?!
It is one thing to spend Sunday afternoon preparing your vegetables for the week, but it is a whole different skill to actually use them.
Here are some of the creative ways that I have managed to successfully add more veggies into my weekly meal plans.
Vegetable rices are not vegetable flavoured rices (although those are also yum!). They are vegetables cooked to mimic rice! I am seeing that vegetable rices are becoming more popular and they are popping up in little bags in the produce section at grocery stores . If you are crunched for time, sure why not grab a bag, I have during busy weeks – and, making cauliflower rice is messy to say the least.
So far, I have had sweet success making rice out of sweet potatos, carrots, butternut squash, cauliflower, and rutabaga!
Cauliflower can go right into a food processor to be riced, but for most other veggies, you are going to want spiralize the veggie first, and then put the noodles into a food processor for a couple of pulses to create the rice like shape and texture.
Interested in giving veggie rices a chance? Here is some more inspiration for putting vegetable rices on your weekly meal plan:
- Spicy Sausage and Rutabaga Rice Stuffed Zucchini
- Chili Garlic Cauliflower Fried Rice
- 10 Minute Healthy Cauliflower Fried Rice
- Butternut Squash Rice with Bacon
- Mexican Sweet Potato Rice
- Garlic Oregano Carrot Rice
- Sweet Potato Fried Rice
- Sausage and Brussels Sprout Rutabaga Rice
- Slow Cooker Salsa Kitchen with Sweet Potato Rice
Getting a spiralizer to turn veggies into noodles was easily one of the best decisions I have made! It is amazing how easy it is to incorporate so many more vegetables (and reduce your starchy carb intake) when you get a spiralizer!
After playing with my spiralizer for a few months, I found it really easy to replace many higher carb based noodles with veggies. My pasta nights are often zucchini noodles, pad thai is now made with rutabaga noodles, Asian style Chow Mein is made with spaghetti squash noodles, and pizza crusts are now sweet potato noodles.
Ready to get spiralizing? Check out my favourite ways to swap in veggies noodles:
- Low Carb Spiralized Pad Thai
- Sweet Potato Noodles with Cashew Sauce
- Rutabaga Baked Ziti
- Low Carb Spahgetti Squash Chow Mein
- Spiralized Dorito Pizza
- Spiralized Bell Pepper Taco Skillet
INSTANT MASON JAR SOUPS
These are so freaking awesome. You literally stuff a mason jar full of fresh veggies, add some bouillon on the bottom, and put in the fridge. At lunchtime, you add hot water and let steep for a couple minutes, and BAM veggie-riffic lunch.
I prefer to use spiralized veggies because they are so thin they actually do cook in just a couple minutes in the water while they are steeping. An alternative here is to add frozen or pre cooked veggies to your instant mason jar soups.
These little guys are deceiving. You stuff it to the brim and think “no way I will be full from that”, and when you go to eat it, you are not only full, but you just took down close to 2 cups of veggie (depending on what you put in there).
For instant mason jar soup inspiration, check out these recipes!
- Sweet Chili Chicken Instant Mason Jar Soup
- Ginger Sesame Noodle Instant Mason Jar Soup
- Italian Style Quinoa Noodle Instant Mason Jar Soup
- Instant Ramen Zoodle Soup
- Chickpea and Pesto Sausage Soup
- Instant Cup of Soup with Spiralized Vegetables
PUREE & HIDE
Pureeing veggies and using them as a base in a recipe has been one of my favourite ways to incorporate more into our meals. You need to puree ALOT of any vegetables to get substantial volume. That means you are really increasing the amount of veggies going into your weekly meal plan when you start pureeing, AND they can often go unnoticed by your picky eaters!
My first adventure in this was when I figured I could puree a ton of zucchini and carrots and put them into meat sauce without being noticed. Between purring and veggie noodles, my dinner went from wheat noodles and meat sauce, to zucchini noodles with meat sauce loaded with extra veggies.
For more inspiration on using pureed veggies and beans into meals, check out some of my favourite recipes:
- Beet Blueberry (Gluten Free) Muffins
- Avocado Chocolate Pudding
- Sneaky Spaghetti Sauce
- Chickpea Blondies
- Black bean Brownies
- Sneaking veggies into blended smoothies with Prep Ahead Smoothie Packs
ROLL ‘EM UP
I love rolling up my veggies because I can hammer out a whole bunch of ready to go snacks or meals pretty quick and they are anything but boring.
I have been on a kick of rolling up veggies into rice paper and after 2 of these bad boys, I am well on my way to being full. For added protein, it is super easy to add some cooked protein into your rolls.
Zucchini has also been a good way to roll up veggies into little nutrient dense bites and eat an entire zucchini in one sitting!
Feeling ready to rock and roll…your veggies… here is some more inspiration for you!