10 Tips to Make Paleo Meal Prep Easier

By Alex Hoffmann on February, 4 2021
Nutrition
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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

Paleo meal prep can be a bit more complicated than regular meal prep. Since the Paleo Diet is clear about which foods to eat and which to avoid, it’s important that you not only have the right foods on hand, but that you prepare for what needs to be refrigerated, what needs to be separated (think: homemade sauces and dressings that need smaller containers), and more. 

While the meal prep can be challenging at first, the work is worth it in the end thanks to the benefits of the Paleo Diet. Following this way of eating can help mitigate the risks of chronic issues such as unhealthy weight or body mass, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and Type-2 diabetes, reports Nutrition Journal

Get your paleo meal prep right with these simple tips so you can fuel your body every day without stress or frustration.  

Keep Reading: 10 Meal Prep Containers for Busy Personal Trainers

 

#1. Always Keep the Staples Stocked

Many of the basic paleo cooking items can be stored at room temperature, so it’s easy to keep these staples stocked. With the right foundational products in your kitchen, you can tackle step one of meal prep: planning your weekly menu. Here are some key ingredients to keep in your kitchen at all times:

  • Cooking Fats: ghee, avocado oil, coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil
  • Gluten-Free Flours: almond, cassava, arrowroot, coconut
  • Vinegars: raw cider, balsamic, white or red wine 
  • Dried Herbs and Spices: most varieties are paleo    
  • Condiments: almond butter, tahini, coconut aminos (some will need refrigeration)
  • Natural Sweeteners: honey, raw stevia, Grade-B maple syrup, full-fat coconut milk (some will need refrigeration)

#2: Focus on Variety Above All

The trick to a sustainable Paleo Diet is using a variety of foods to include different colors, textures, and flavors. This will ensure the meal plan keeps you excited instead of becoming repetitive and boring over time. Remember to focus on variety for both produce (fruits and vegetables) and protein, since all meals are predominantly made up of these two items.

Use this list to come up with new food ideas as you grocery shop: 

  • Vegetables: beets, mushrooms, garlic, fennel, onions, carrots, leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, fermented veggies 
  • Fruits: lemons, apples, oranges, limes, pears, avocados, grapes, tomatoes, olives, plums, berries, apricots (choose low-glycemic fruits)
  • Proteins: grass-fed beef and lamb, free-range chicken and poultry, wild-caught fish and shrimp, pasture-raised eggs 

 

#3. Buy Only What You’ll Actually Use

Bulk amounts of produce are likely to expire, so when planning your menu, note the quantities for each produce item on your list. This cuts down on both food and financial waste. 

In addition, select recipes that include vegetables or fruits you actually want to eat. Just because an ingredient is “trendy” or commonly used in Paleo recipes doesn’t mean you have to stock the fridge with it. 

This might sound obvious, but if you purchase a bundle of kale when it’s not your favorite green, chances are, most of it will spoil in the back of the vegetable drawer. Opt for the green of your choice to ensure it gets used—and that you enjoy the meals you’re prepping.

Keep Reading: 10 Tips for Salad Meal Prep

 

#4. Make Sauces and Dressings From Scratch

Some condiments on the market are technically paleo, but too often, these products contain artificial preservatives or refined sweeteners that don’t align with a paleo diet. Part of good Paleo meal prep is using this time to make your own sauces or dressings, which makes it easier to control the nutrient density of each condiment as well.

With herbs, spices, avocado oil, vinegar, and thickeners such as ghee, mustard, or coconut milk, you can blend together multiple sauce combinations. Use the resources below to find Paleo-friendly recipes that you’ll love:

#5. Don’t Forget Paleo Snacks

Even the healthiest eating habits can be sabotaged by mindless eating when you don’t have the right snacks nearby. Resist the temptation to reach for processed, sugary junk food by prepping nutritious paleo snacks too. Choose low-carb ingredients that can be stored either at room temperature or refrigerated for at least a week. For example:

  • Oven-roasted kale chips seasoned with olive oil and sea salt
  • Zucchini bites coated in almond flour
  • Cashew and walnut trail mix
  • Crispy bacon-wrapped butternut squash
  • Crispy homemade sweet potato chips

Check out these Paleo snack recipes from Greatist for more paleo-friendly snack ideas.

 

#6. Always Check the Ingredients Label 

Sometimes the convenience and accessibility of a packaged store item is hard to pass up—especially on busy weeks and days. If you rely on some of these foods or condiments for your Paleo meal prep, read the nutrition facts and ingredients label first. While certain paleo brands at the grocery store are made from natural, whole food sources, others contain artificial, processed fillers that make them unsuitable for the paleo diet. 

Remember that even packaged items with wholesome ingredient lists will, more often than not, contain at least some preservatives to make them shelf-stable. The healthiest option is always to opt for fresh, natural whole foods and make your own condiments or seasoning blends as often as possible.

Keep Reading: A Dieter’s Guide to Intuitive Eating

 

#7. Meal Prep With Healthy Fats

Many foods on the paleo diet are rich in healthy fats, so it’s not difficult to find recipes that utilize the essential macronutrient. Avocado, nuts, salmon, tahini, chia seeds, ghee, and oils are all excellent sources of monosaturated fat which is the kind you want to prioritize. However, remember to avoid trans (or artificial) fat sources.   

Monounsaturated fats are beneficial for a variety of reasons, suggests U.S. National Library of Medicine, because the body converts those fats into burnable energy required to move and function. Monounsaturated fats can also help manage cholesterol to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, and they can aid in cell growth or repair. 

When meal prepping, keep fat content in mind along with fat intake recommendations. The National Library of Medicine recommends that your fat intake not exceed 25 to 30 percent of all daily calories.  

 

#8. Experiment with Paleo-Friendly Substitutions

Cooking on the paleo diet is an opportunity to be creative and experiment with foods you might not have tried before. Instead of solely focusing on the dietary restrictions, have fun with the paleo-friendly substitutions you can use to create new and different flavor profiles. 

Below are some ingredient swaps to use for your Paleo meal prep:  

  • Instead of white potatoes: turnips, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, celery root
  • Instead of dairy: nut milk and yogurt, cashew cheese, coconut milk or cream 
  • Instead of corn and beans: diced tomatoes, peas, carrots, peppers or mushrooms
  • Instead of peanuts: cashews, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, macadamias, pistachios
  • Instead of white or wheat flour: coconut or almond flour, arrowroot powder
  • Instead of pasta noodles: spiralized veggies, kelp noodles, spaghetti squash
  • Instead of rice and grains: riced cauliflower, broccoli, squash or plantains
  • Instead of breadcrumbs: ground flax, nuts, pepitas or sesame seeds
  • Instead of tortillas: lettuce or cabbage wraps, coconut flour wraps
  • Instead of pizza crust: sliced eggplant or sweet potato rounds, cauliflower crust, zucchini boats, portobello mushroom caps 

#9. Turn Leftovers into Breakfast and Lunch

The majority of paleo foods are versatile enough to be eaten for any meal of the day. This means a previous night’s dinner can be repurposed into breakfast or lunch later in the week. This cuts down on potential food waste and allows you to stretch your dishes. In other words, it means you can do less cooking and still prep plenty of food for all your meals. Here are some dinner ideas that translate to breakfast and lunch:

  • Dinner: spaghetti squash with tomato sauce for dinner one night
  • Breakfast: Add a fried egg or sliced avocado on top. 
  • Dinner: Salmon patties with salad
  • Lunch: Mash with a fork and add into a lettuce wrap. 

Keep Reading: 5 Reasons You Need a Sleep Log for Fitness Success

 

#10. Find Your Weekly Mainstays

Keep a few basic, mainstay recipes in the arsenal to make your life easier. This is helpful for the weeks that you have a limited amount of time for meal prep or not in the mood to come with fresh ideas.

These “back-pocket" meals should include easy, hands-off recipes that you can roast in the oven or simmer on the stovetop with minimal manual effort, before being transferred into the fridge for various meal combinations during the week. Some examples of back-pocket recipes include:

  • Tuna or salmon patties
  • Turkey meatballs
  • Spiralized zucchini noodles
  • Sweet potato chili
  • Cauliflower rice  

Make Paleo Meal Prep Work for You

Strategic Paleo meal prep can eliminate the guesswork and make it easier to stay on track, no matter how busy your week is. Use these tips to streamline meal prep from start to finish, so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying those delicious and nutritious paleo foods you crave.  

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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

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