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5 Meal Prep Tips That Will Make Your Week Way Easier

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    Chicken

    Chicken is the lean protein powerhouse we all know and love, so knowing how to prep it for a week of meals is key. Aim for buying a whole chicken or chicken thighs, since keeping the skin on will help to keep moisture in for heating and reheating. You can always strip the skin off when you're ready to eat to cut back on fat.

    A full chicken should be cooked in the oven, but you can grill, bake, or poach chicken thighs. Bring the chicken to room temperature directly prior to cooking to keep the juices in the meat, and remember to let it rest for five minutes after to allow any juices to be reabsorbed (nothing is worse than dry chicken breast!). To refrigerate, keep it in a sealed container and add sauces or any leftover juices to keep it moist. Try these great (and healthy) chicken dinner recipes or gluten-free chicken meals and store the leftovers for lunchtime.

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    Quinoa and Couscous

    The perfect pair for your choice of protein? If you're cutting back on rice and bread, quinoa and couscous are gluten-free and packed with fiber, B vitamins, and iron—plus 6 to 8 grams of protein per cup. You can keep ready-to-eat quinoa and couscous in the pantry or cooked in a fridge container for fast meals. To add more nutrients, cook them with stock and frozen vegetables. Try them out as an oatmeal substitute in the morning or with soups as a satiating carb addition.

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    Fruit

    Fresh fruit not only tastes great but provides a slew of nutrients like vitamins A and C, magnesium, and fiber. Not all fruit comes in a convenient form for consumption—pineapple, mango, kiwi, pomegranate, and coconut taste great but take some time to prepare. (See: How to Cut Fruit.) To make things simple (if you're strapped for time), buy prepared fruit from your grocery store for snacking, adding color and flavor to a meal, or even making a fruit chutney or salsa.

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    Frozen Produce

    The frozen aisle can get a bad rap due to unhealthy options loaded with fat, salt, and preservatives. Fill your grocery cart with frozen protein (chicken and seafood), fruit, vegetables, and grains. Avoid added sauces or added sugar. Frozen produce is as convenient as it is versatile: Use frozen vegetables such as beans, peas, mixed vegetables, broccoli, and cauliflower for soups, stews, or casseroles. Frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies (no ice required) and for yogurt or oatmeal. In fact, frozen fruit retains a higher amount of nutrients compared to fresh, from being flash-frozen during its peak ripeness. Use frozen grains such as quinoa, potatoes, rice, barley, and noodles to complete your dinner. Make extra and package it up for a meal the next day.

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    Sauces, Herbs, and Citrus Zest

    To bring out flavors and enhance nutritional benefits (vitamin C, folate, potassium, fiber) of a dish, add premade sauces, herbs, and citrus zest. Use tahini, sriracha, pesto, harissa, salsa, olive oil or soy sauces as a marinade, dipping sauce or a base for a salad dressing. Make a marinade ahead of time that can also be used as a dipping sauce.

    If marinades don't fit the bill, use herbs and citrus zest to amp up the flavor of your meal. Jazz up your vegetables, meats, and grains with a drizzle of olive oil and zest from a lemon or orange. Release the natural oils found in herbs by cutting them up freshly beforehand.

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    Salmon

    Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids—key for reducing inflammation and the risk of heart disease. Making fresh salmon is as easy as putting some olive oil, lemon, and thyme on it and cooking it (stove top, oven, or grill) for about 10 to 15 minutes. Try to undercook it slightly, so that the juices run clear and you can cut it with a butter knife. Use leftover cooked salmon for salmon cakes or patties by adding one egg, sautéed vegetables (onion and peppers), and breadcrumbs or cooked quinoa to bind the ingredients together. Form into patties and pan-fry for a few minutes per side. Not only are they great fresh but they're perfect for lunch in a pita pocket or on roast vegetables.