Healthy Meal Prep – Mix & Match Lunch Salads

Here at Our Chaotic Kitchen, we’re all about healthy meal prep ideas. When we’re doing our weekly meal prep, we prioritize vegan recipes, since we’re all about those vegetables. We also like to keep things gluten-free if possible. Nobody in our family has gluten sensitivity or intolerance, but we want to be inclusive to those who do. Finally, we want to do what we can to make our weekly meal prep as easy as possible.

Healthy Meal Prep: The Foundation of a Healthy Week

This week we got a surplus of greens from Hungry Harvest*, so we knew we’d have to make ourselves some salads. We wanted to make sure we stayed within our healthy meal prep guidelines, but we also wanted to find a way to not eat the same exact thing every day. This mix-and-match solution was easy and fun!

*The link above is a referral link. If you click it and order, you and we each get $5 off our next order, so everybody wins!

The base of each salad is the same: diced cucumber, diced cubanelle pepper, shredded hearts of romaine, and sliced grape tomatoes. Cucumbers and peppers sit at the bottom of each quart jar, so the lettuce doesn’t get soggy. The tomatoes get their own quarter pint jars. Each salad then gets a topping and dressing of its very own! We decided this week to make two different types of salads.

A good supply of mason jars is the cornerstone of healthy meal prep

Falafel and Beet Hummus Salad

We had some leftover beet hummus in the fridge, so we used the rest of it as a dressing. We’ve written before about our love of easy falafel patties, and they seemed like just the right thing to spruce up this salad. The result is a beautiful, vibrant salad full of Middle Eastern flavor. Here’s a quick recipe for easy falafel patties using chickpea flour.

Ingredients:

1 cup chickpea flour
3/4 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 Tsp baking soda
I Tbsp ras al hanout
1 Tsp cumin
1/2 Tsp salt

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients together into a thick batter. Heat some olive oil on medium high heat. Once hot, place heaping tablespoon-sized dollops of batter into the oil. Fry evenly on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side, until golden brown.

Taquito Filling and Black Bean Dressing Salad

We made taquitos this weekend for some tasty lunches this week (recipe to follow!), and we had some leftover filling. The filling was made from cauliflower rice, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and taco spices. It made an ideal topping for a Mexican-inspired salad! We used the black bean dip that we made to go with the taquitos as a base for the dressing.

Healthy Meal Prep Can Be Easy Meal Prep

The important thing here is that we didn’t have to go far out of our way to make delicious, healthy salads for the week. We just made smart use of foods we already had around. Maybe you don’t like hummus or black bean dip or falafel. That’s fine! Sometimes keeping things healthy is all about keeping them easy, so that we have less excuse to slip up. So go ahead and use whatever leftovers you’ve got in your fridge to make a lunch salad more fun!

This Week’s Hungry Harvest

As is now our tradition, we like to post a picture of at least one of our crazy kids with our latest Hungry Harvest delivery. This week we got a whole bunch of corn, carrots, lettuce, peppers, broccoli, portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, grapes, squash, cabbage, an onion, plums, and a bag of passion fruit. The kids love helping us lay everything out, and they love helping us put it away in the fridge afterwards.

We also have an outtake that was too cute not to share. The produce didn’t turn out well in this photo, but the kids were just having the time of their lives.

Losing Weight While Having Kids

We’ve heard a lot from parents who have packed on some extra pounds after having kids. We were both determined not to fall into that trap, and not to let having kids be an excuse to not be healthy. And you know what? It’s worked! Let me go through a few of the things we’ve done to manage our much busier lives in a smarter, healthier way. Note: This certainly is not to say that losing weight is the only, or even the primary component to being healthy. It’s one of the things we needed to do for ourselves, but please consult your doctor before attempting any kind of methodical weight loss program.

One of the tools we use is the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale. It automatically syncs weight and body fat percentage to the Fitbit app, so we can have a real-time record of our progress. Some people definitely don’t do well with daily weigh-ins, since weight can fluctuate in the short term, and those fluctuations can get discouraging. For both of us, though, there’s something very rewarding in looking at a graph charting our weight over the course of 3+ years and seeing a fairly steady decline (pregnancies excepted, of course, for both mom and dad). More than just keeping track of our weight, looking critically at this data helps us see patterns we might otherwise not be aware of. Does our weight tend to go up around a certain time of the week? A certain time of the year? What can we do to combat that?

Above is Tim’s weight for the last 4 years or so, with the birth of each child noted. It’s easy to see the weight gain during each pregnancy as well as the weight loss after each birth.

So how did we do it? We lost some weight after each child was born, but as you can see above, we really kicked into high gear over the last 8 months. The answer is 90% healthy diet, 10% exercise. When we say healthy diet, we mean four things:

1 Portion control
2 No added sugar
3 No dairy, with small exceptions
4 Tons of vegetables

Let’s take these one at a time. First, portion control. One way to eat healthy is just to eat less, as long as you’re still getting what your body needs, but it’s way easier than anybody realizes to just eat a whole lot of food in a sitting. We’ve been combating this by planning meals pretty rigorously, and by not keeping snacks around, especially at work. If you know you’re a person who can’t have a big barrel of hard pretzels from Target sitting on your desk without eating the whole thing in an embarrassingly short time, then maybe just don’t get the big barrel of hard pretzels from Target in the first place, to use a totally random example that’s not at all derived from real life.

Second, no added sugar. We’re not religious about this particular rule, but as a healthy guiding principle it’s served us well. A lot of stuff is really delicious without making it sweeter than it needs to be. One side effect of lowering the amount of sugar we put in stuff is that we tend to want less sugar in stuff. The habit of not eating so much sugar is affecting our tastes so that we don’t actually want as much sugar. There’s a part of us that’s a little sad that a donut doesn’t taste as good as it used to, but on the other hand, if that means we eat fewer donuts, then it’s a win.

Third, little to no dairy. When Vivi was little we thought she had a lactose intolerance, so we cut dairy out of our diets (it was easier to just not have it in the house at all, rather than just have one or two of us cut it out). We learned to take our coffee black. Once we found out that Vivi didn’t have lactose intolerance, we had gotten used to a scaled down reliance on dairy, and it’s helped us like crazy. There was a whole lot of less healthy fat we were getting through cream, butter, milk, and cheese, and which we generally don’t miss. We’ll still allow ourselves some indulgences now and then, like a small latte or some feta crumbles on a salad, but this is another one which, once we cut it out, we’ve been shocked by how little we’ve missed it. We eat mostly vegan now, and no longer relying on dairy has really opened us up to a lot of different techniques and ingredients that we never would have considered before.

Fourth, tons of vegetables. This one mostly speaks for itself, but I want to emphasize one thing: even if you think you don’t like some vegetables, give them another try. Cook them a different way. See if you can figure out a way to love them. We used to loathe broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, until we discovered the heathy, life-changing magic of roasting. Now when one of those comes in our Hungry Harvest, we practically jump for joy. We could eat crispy brussels sprouts and cauliflower tacos all damn day.

There are a couple of other little things we do around the edges. We’re vegetarian, which we feel helps us, but isn’t necessarily for everybody. We still have eggs and fish occasionally, but by and large our diet is plant-based and mostly vegan. We try generally to stay away from gluten, not because there’s anything wrong with gluten for us, but because foods with gluten tend to be more calorie dense, so it’s a bit easier for us to have a blanket rule.

Is there anything you’ve done to successfully lose weight since having kids? Let us know!