New Jersey Bariatric Center
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Meal Prepping for a Happier and Healthier You!

By Ann Espinoza, RD | May 3, 2017

Last month we were fortunate to have Registered Dietitian Ann Espinoza of Season Your Health as a speaker at our April support group.  In Ann’s own words, “My goal is to alert the universe that healthy foods can also be delicious! Many people have the false perception that healthy foods are bland and boring. I assure you that you can eat well AND enjoy tasty food again! That is how the name, "Season Your Health" was created.”

Below are tips and recipes that Ann provided. Ann also prepared her own Teriyaki Ground Chicken recipe for everyone to try (which was a big hit!)

With our busy schedules, preparing meals on the same day you plan to eat them is very difficult, if not impossible! We've all been there. You "plan" to pack a healthy lunch in the morning to take to work with you and with one extra snooze cycle on the alarm clock, those plans are out the window. Before you know it, you're starving and heading to the drive through. Without proper planning and prepping, you raise the risk of making unhealthy food choices. For bariatric surgery patients, preparing a meal beforehand encourages portion control and mindful eating.

While meal prep may sound like a daunting task, it doesn't have to be hard. Essentially, there are two rules: 1) it should save you time in the kitchen and 2) it should make it easier for you to eat healthier during the week. Getting into a routine may take some trial and error to find what works best for you.  Here are some tips to get you started:


  1. Purchase good quality containers. Get glass containers or BPA-free, if they are plastic. (It will state this on the packaging). It’s a good idea to buy containers that are the same size so they stack easily in your fridge.
  2. Write down each breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack you will be eating for the week. Make it easy on yourself by choosing recipes that don’t require a lot of ingredients and time.  For instance, a slow cooker is a great way to make a large quantity of a meal you love. One-pan meals are also easy and delicious.
  3. Break down each meal and snack into a list of ingredients you'll need to purchase.
  4. Shop for your ingredients with list in hand! Do not go to the store when you are hungry or when you have no idea what you’re making. Go to the supermarket prepared.

Prepping & Cooking

  1. Allot time for yourself to meal prep for the week. Whether it's early Sunday morning or later in the evening after you've put your kids to bed, find a routine that fits your lifestyle.
  2. The point of meal prep is to make life easier for yourself during the week, but this also doesn’t mean you have to pre-cook all of your food. Consider what you will cook in advance and portion out, and which foods you can prep for cooking later in the week. For example, you can put your chicken breasts in a marinade, place them in the freezer and simply defrost and cook when you’re ready to use them. The same thing applies to homemade turkey burgers.  If you like your vegetables or protein freshly cooked, you can portion them out for each meal and put them in containers ready to be steamed or cooked.  There are lots of possibilities.
  3. Grill or bake chicken, fish, hard boiled eggs or other lean protein.  These can be used during the week to make salads.
  4. Portion snacks into snack-size bags. This is very helpful in preventing you from eating straight out of the bag and consuming too much at one time.
  5. Add seasonings to your meals to make them taste great!
  6. Put everything in containers and store them in the refrigerator so they are easily accessible.
  7. Do what works best for your lifestyle. Package all your meals for the week in containers at one time or do it day-by-day with the foods you’ve prepared.





Teriyaki Ground Chicken (pictured)

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 carrot, shredded in food processor
  • 1 green or red pepper, diced
  • 1 can (8 oz) diced water chestnuts
  • ½ cup Soy Vay Teriyaki sauce
  • 2 chopped scallions (optional)
  1. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Cook ground chicken until no longer pink.  Drain any excess liquid and put chicken to the side.
  2. Meanwhile in another pan, add remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil, carrot, pepper and water chestnuts. Cook for about 5-6 minutes.
  3. Add ground chicken to the the pan with the sautéed vegetables. Pour in the teriyaki sauce and mix together until evenly coated.
  4. Sprinkle with chopped scallions, if desired. You can have the mixture alone or put into lettuce wraps.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 can (15 oz) no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) corn
  • 1 jar (16 oz)  salsa (I like Desert Pepper brand)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Hot sauce, to taste (optional)
  • Garnish: ¼ of avocado, diced (optional)
  1. Trim fat from the chicken breast.
  2. Pour the can of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and cup of broth into the bottom of the slow cooker and spread evenly with a spoon.  Layer the chicken breast on top of this mixture.
  3. Add in remaining ingredients and stir until evenly mixed.  Cover slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
  4. Once done, remove lid and shred chicken.  Place on low for another 20 minutes.
  5. Top 1 cup of soup with avocado if you choose.

Shrimp Scampi with “Zoodles” (Zucchini Noodles)

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (easiest to just buy them this way)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 medium zucchini, spiralized or made into noodles with a Veggetti
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Italian seasoning, to taste
  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium sauce pan. Add shrimp and sauté for approximately 2-3 minutes on each side until they turn completely pink.
  2. Add garlic when the shrimp are almost fully cooked to prevent the garlic from burning.  Put shrimp aside.
  3. Put zucchini noodles in the same pan. Sauté for 2 minutes.  Add lemon, salt and Italian seasoning.
  4. Add the shrimp back to the pan with the zoodles.
  5. Serve and enjoy!
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