A Veggie “Meal Prep” Plan: how to stock your kitchen to eat more veggies

Jessica Penner, RDNutrition, Recipes, SIde DishLeave a Comment

With this veggie meal prep plan you’ll have 5 different types of veggies in stock so that the easy choice is also the healthy choice!

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My foundational food recommendation across the board for anyone and everyone is to always include a fruit or a veggie at every meal or snack.

Does that sound overwhelming to you?

With a little bit of both planning and keeping your home stocked strategically, it can be very doable!

(hint: you don’t HAVE to be eating fresh produce all the time!)

A little planning, a little prepping can go a long way! Here is my 5-part system for ensuring we always have veggies available!

  1. Raw veggies
  2. Roasted veggies
  3. Frozen veggies
  4. Salad veggies
  5. Canned and jarred veggies

And if you want to know how I plan for and shop for fruit so that we can be eating fresh fruit for two weeks, check out this post!

Veggie Meal Prep Plan #1: RAW VEGGIES

I keep a box of snackable veggies in our fridge. I strategically rotate what goes inside so that we are eating a wide variety! But I will almost always have carrots because they are a favourite, inexpensive, and will last a long time!
When we have a box of pre-cut veggies in the fridge, it’s super easy and convenient to pull the box out and serve it with any meal or snack. And you know how it goes… when life gets busy and chaotic EASY and CONVENIENT win every single time! So make the easy and convenient choice the healthy choice!
Here are my three tips for stocking a veggie box!
  1. Choose three different colours. Did you know that the colour of a fruit or vegetable is an indication of its phytonutrients? Dark orange means there’s beta carotene, a form of Vitamin A. Green usually means there’s Vitamin K.
    • orange: carrots
    • red: cherry tomatoes, radish
    • green: celery, broccoli, snap peas
    • white: cauliflower, kohlrabi, parsnip, endive, jicama
    • brown: mushrooms
  2. Switch it up:
    1. For kids; Choose one they love, one they like, and one they’re still learning to like… as in one they refuse to eat!
    2. For adults: Choose two favourites and one newer one.
  3. Stick with hard veggies: Hard veggies will retain their quality much longer when cut than soft ones. Avoid as these tend to go mushy:
    1. Cucumbers
    2. Bell peppers

Veggie Box with kohlrabi, snap peas, carrots, and broccoli

These are some of my favourite healthy dips to stock in the fridge:
  1. Hummus
    1. Caramelized Onion Hummus
    2. Spinach and Artichoke Hummus
    3. Sweet Curry Hummus
    4. Thai Red Curry Hummus
  2. Greek yogurt ranch
  3. Salsa mixed with plain yogurt
  4. Mustard… this may sound strange but my 5 year old loves it!
  5. Mhammara (roasted red pepper dip)

Veggie Meal Prep Plan #2: ROASTED VEGGIES

I like to roast a couple of trays of veggies when I meal prep so that they’re ready to go throughout the week.

Roasted veggies are great to have on hand for:

  • Stir-fries: combine with a protein, rice/noodles, and a sauce
  • Curries: much the same as the stir fry but with a curry sauce
  • Nourish/buddha bowls: served cold with grains, protein, and a sauce or dressing
  • Salads: roasted veggies, cooled, and dressed with a vinaigrette and feta cheese make a great salad!
  • Side dishes: serve as is alongside any main dish
  • Soups: toss into a blender with herbs, spices, and broth

These veggies work well to roast:

  • Bell peppers
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Eggplant
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Squash (pumpkin, spaghetti, butternut, acorn, etc)
  • Zucchini

To learn my easy method for roasting veggies using a magical all purpose seasoning, read this post. Here’s a video demonstrating this method with asparagus:

Veggie Meal Prep Plan #3: FROZEN VEGGIES

Here’s a little “did you know” that I always love to tell people….

Frozen fruits and veggies often contain MORE nutrients than fresh! Yes, it’s true! Air, light, and time can degrade certain vitamins and antioxidants but these all get locked in when frozen.

People often think fresh is best but that’s not always the case. The main downside to frozen veggies is that, depending on the veggie and how they’re being used, the texture and flavour may not be as great as fresh.

A) Freezer Staples: The following are great to keep on hand to both add to recipes and as a backup plan for when/if you run out of fresh veggies!

  • Cauliflower or Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Edamame beans
  • Green peas
  • Green beans
  • Okra
  • Sliced beets
  • Spinach, kale, or swiss chard

B) Dinner Shortcuts: You can also pick up mixes to make dinner prep a breeze:

  • Stir fry mix
  • Fajita mix (then make my sheet pan chicken fajitas for a super simple meal!)
  • Classic peas, carrots, corn (good for fried rice!)

C) Save Your Tears!: Who wants to chop onions? That’s usually the most dreaded dinner prep so that’s something you can also skip and buy frozen!

Veggie Meal Prep Plan #4: SALAD VEGGIES

As a side dish or the base of a kick butt meal worthy salad, leafy veggies are great to have prepped in the fridge, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

  • Brussel sprouts (shredded)
  • Cabbage, green or red (shredded)
  • Romaine or other lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Spring mix

Here’s a recipe for making a salad mix that will last for a couple of weeks in your fridge.

And what use are salad veggies without salad dressing? In your weekly meal prep, I implore you to plan to make a homemade dressing. They only take a few minutes but officially taste 147x better than bottled dressing! Here are my top 10 favourites in a handy printable that you can tape to the inside of your cupboard for quick and easy reference!

DIY healthy salad mix

Veggie Meal Prep Plan #5: CANNED & JARRED VEGGIES

In my opinion, some veggies should NEVER be canned and eaten (hello peas!), but others work just fine.  The beauty of canned and jarred veggies is that, like a loyal puppy dog, they are always there for you 🙂 Here are the veggies I consider good canning or jarring contenders:

Canned and jarred vegetables

 

Forget all this if you don’t even enjoy veggies

All my wonderful tips for having veggies stocked and prepped are 100% useless if you have zero interest in actually eating them.  Or if you just choke some down out of obligation to the” health gods.”

I like to say “I eat veggies in celebration of the fact that I don’t HAVE TO eat veggies.” 

“I eat veggies in celebration of the fact that I don’t HAVE TO eat veggies.” Jessica Penner, BSc, RD

This is a twist on a Bruxy Cavey (pastor and speaker) quote, who likes to start off his church’s Sunday morning service by saying “we come to church in celebration of the fact that we don’t HAVE TO come to church.”  They gather, not out of obligation, but out of desire.

I eat veggies out of a sincere love and desire for them, not out of an obligation.

You may wonder why this matters. If you’re eating veggies, does it really matter if you enjoy them or not? What difference could this possibly make to your body?

There are two main risks to eating veggies out of obligation.

  1. You probably won’t eat very many. When I used to eat veggies because I felt I “should” I would choke down a few bites and feel pretty accomplished. It’s hard to eat a decent amount of something you don’t enjoy! Now that I’ve learned to LOVE veggies, I fill up at least half my plate with them! I probably regularly eat at least 5x more vegetables now.
  2. You risk rewarding yourself with other food. Essentially all our decisions are based on the rewards we get for the things we do. Some actions are intrinsically motivated, which means we find the action itself rewarding. Other actions are externally motivated, which means we look for a reward outside of the action itself. Now that I love veggies and am focused on making food choices that make my body feel good, eating veggies is a reward in and of itself. Before, I would only eat a few bites of veggies so that I could eat the food I really wanted, mainly sweets. I would reward my chore of eating vegetables with the reward of dessert. In other words, I justified the sweets by eating a few bites of veggies beforehand.

Final Words

In short, the key to eating plenty of veggies is two-fold:

  1. Make sure you have a variety of convenient veggies in your house
  2. Work towards eating veggies because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to!

 

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