5 Tips for Salad Meal Prep During the Holidays

By Alex Hoffmann on November, 23 2020
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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.

The holidays are busy, and regular habits like salad meal prep often fall to the wayside for you and your clients. The problem is that instead of eating healthy, it becomes easier to indulge with parties, comfort food and alcohol readily available at parties and events. 

In fact, the NY Post reported on a recent holiday stress survey and found that 74 percent of people overindulge in unhealthy snacks during the holidays—and 60 percent feel guilty afterward.

The good news is: salads are easy to prep and take with you. If you and your clients can stick to this key habit, with salads ready to take on-the-go, you can eat them for dinner after a busy day, supplement a holiday meal, and avoid the overindulgence guilt, all while staying on track with your health goals. 

While there are physical health benefits to sticking with healthy habits, like meal prep, during the holidays, there are also mental health benefits. A scientific study found that spending more time on food preparation “was associated with indicators of higher diet quality, including significantly more frequent intake of vegetables, salads, fruits, and fruit juices.”

Don’t let a busy schedule drive you or your clients to lose all the gains you’ve made this year. Use these tips to make salad meal prep easier during this hectic time.

Keep Reading: 3 Health Tactics to have Less Stress This Holiday Season

 

Invest in The Right Containers 

High-quality containers can make the difference between successful meal-prepping and a dreaded task you avoid. With the right-sized storage options readily available, you can properly prepare all your ingredients and still have room in your fridge—a must during the holidays. 

Don’t forget about organization. Digging through old take-out containers or finding mismatched lids takes time and time is precious during this season. Make it easier to do salad meal prep during the holidays and you’re more likely to stick with it, with 89 percent of those surveyed by the American Health Association in 2020 saying convenience is a factor in eating healthy at work.

Make your life easier by investing in high-quality containers if needed, and don’t forget to keep them organized so you’ll stick with this key healthy habit during the holidays. 

 

 

Wash and Store Your Ingredients 

Greens are typically the base for any salad, and for good reason. Dark, leafy greens offer high levels of Vitamin A, C, E, and K, fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, but are low in carbohydrates, sodium, and cholesterol. They also reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems, according to scientific studies

With so many greens to choose from, you won’t have to use the same type of lettuce each day either. Keep it fun and healthy by using a combination of the following greens:

  • Mixed greens: A classic salad option, mixed greens are readily available in washed and ready containers. 
  • Kale: Wash and chop this green, but to make it tastier, right before you make a salad, massage it with olive oil, lemon, and a bit of salt. 
  • Spinach: This superfood green can be an addition or served on its own. 
  • Cabbage: Shredded multi-color cabbage offers an amazing extra crunch and bulks up your salad. You can buy it pre-chopped or in a head (bonus, it's also very cheap). 

Pro-tip: Put a paper towel in your greens or base to absorb extra moisture; this helps them stay fresh longer. 

Keep Reading: Counting Gravy Calories: How to Find the Right Balance on Thanksgiving

 

Prep and Portion Toppings 

Toppings are what make or break a salad. The right toppings make it delicious and even more nutritious. However, they can also be the most time-consuming element to prepare. Your future self will thank you if you pre-chop and store vegetables and pick up nuts and other toppings for your salad meal prep at the beginning of the week. 

As you plan your salad meal prep, consider trying all different healthy toppings:

  • Veggies: Chop cucumbers, onions, peppers, and other classic toppings, but don’t forget to think outside the box. Chop some corn off the cob or pre-roast tomatoes, red peppers or squash chunks. 
  • Fruits: Berries can add a sweet element and require low maintenance—wash and add. Don’t forget about dried fruit—but check the ingredients to avoid buying dried fruit with added sugar.
  • Healthy fats: Incorporate healthy fats like avocados, almonds, or seeds, like hemp, pumpkin, chia, or sunflower.
  • Grains: If your diet allows, grains like cooked rice, farro, or quinoa can make your salad more filling. 
  • DIY dressing: Get creative with dressings. Olive oil (also a source of healthy fat) and a squeeze of citrus is refreshing, but you can also make a creamier option by adding a dollop of hummus, Greek yogurt or dijon. Get more dressing recipes from Wholefully’s DIY salad dressing guide.

Remember toppings can also make your salad high-calorie or high-fat, so opt for lean, whole ingredients. 

 

Include a Protein 

Lean proteins make a salad a meal, so don’t forget this integral option during your meal prep. A recent Harvard review details the significant research surrounding the health benefits of protein, including lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, bone health, and more. You can either repurpose protein from leftovers, or you cook, grill, and store protein for a week's worth of salads. 

Try some of these lean and healthy options: 

    • Lean meats or fish: Grill or bake lean meats like chicken breasts, white fish, or salmon. Then chop and store. 
    • Deli meats: If you’re short on time, buy low-fat, high-quality deli meats to simply rip up and throw into a salad. 
  • Vegetarian options: Hard-boil and peel eggs.
  • Vegan alternatives: Prepping your favorite beans can offer delicious protein to your salads. Depending on diet, also consider options like Tofu, seitan, or tempeh. 

Keep Reading: How Much Cardio is Too Much?

 

Consider The Layered Method

While prepping individual elements or repurposing what's in your fridge allows you to create a different salad each day, you could also pre-make a complete salad ahead of time with the layered salad option. 

This is the perfect option for those busy holiday weeks where you can’t even throw together a meal. Check out this salad-in-a-jar guide to use the mason jar method and get your salad meal prep done all in one day.

 

Meal Prep Salads this Holiday Season For Healthy Food Options on Demand 

It only takes a few minutes to throw together a salad when all your ingredients are ready to go. During the holiday hustle and bustle, you’re more likely to opt for a healthy lunch or supplement a meal with a salad when it’s the easy option, so take time to salad meal prep this holiday season and encourage your clients to do the same by sharing this helpful guide with them. 

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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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