Make Meal Prep Fun: Salads and Snacks in a Jar!
I hear so many of my mommy friends lament over the desire to have healthy meals in the house, yet there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to complete the biggest time-saving step: preparation. Taking time to meal prep can seem stressful, trust me I’ve been there; but once you start doing it you will be amazed at how it actually saves time in the long run. I don’t have kids yet, but my husband and doggie keep me pretty busy, so I get it! In our new book The Dr. Sears T5 Wellness Plan we lay out our top time-saving tips to set you and your family up for success in the kitchen. Let’s use two S’s, salads and smart snacks, from Dr. Bill’s 5-S diet as examples. Have you heard of the fun and trendy “Salad-in-a Jar”? Using Mason jars, you can have gorgeous salads and snacks all prepped and ready to enjoy.
Make it a family affair by having each member choose their favorite ingredients and help with the chopping, or how about doing a fun event with your friends? Each person brings over a few ingredients and you all build your meals/snacks together. Watch this video for ideas: Salad in a Jar With Coach Erin
Here are the steps:
Salad in a Jar
Pint-size jar=side salad, and quart size jar =entrée size.
Layer 1: The Dressing
The first layer of the mason jar salad is always the dressing. You can use any type of dressing you like. I prefer olive oil/balsamic vinegar which will come out of the mason jar easier. If you use a thicker dressing you will have to give it a good shake and probably use your fork to scrape it out. Use about 1-3 tablespoons of dressing.
Layer 2: Hearty Vegetables and Legumes
This layer is very important because it is used to shield the dressing from the lettuce and other vulnerable ingredients. In this layer, you would use vegetables that can hold up to being in dressing for a week or so. Vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, celery, carrots, peppers, and any other hearty vegetable you like.
Next sprinkle beans and less hearty vegetables like mushrooms, zucchini, sprouts, and green beans. If you are using an avocado then that would be added to this layer as well (sprinkle with lime juice to keep fresh). Basically, this layer acts as a second barrier between the dressing and lettuce.
Layer 3: Pasta and Grain Layer
This layer is where you add your pasta and/or other healthy whole grains, such as couscous and/or quinoa.
Layer 4: Protein and Cheese
In this layer, I put eggs and cheese. I like to keep these ingredients away from the dressing because I do not feel they do well if sitting in dressing for a couple days or more. If you are using shrimp or other seafood I would add those ingredients to this layer. For cheese, I have used blue cheese crumbles, feta cheese, goat cheese, shredded cheese, and cubed cheese in my mason jar salad. Each of them has worked fine. Cheese tip: generally, the harder, the healthier, such as parmesan.
Layer 5: Lettuce, Nuts, Seeds, and Dried Fruit
In this last layer, you want to put ingredients that would wilt or become too soft and soggy if exposed to dressing for too long. This definitely includes any type of lettuce or greens. I also included nuts in this layer because I have found that the nuts at times lose their crunch if too close to the dressing layer. My favorite greens to use are arugula, baby spinach, kale, romaine, and mixed greens.
After you fill the mason jar with the different layers, just put the top on and close tight. There’s no rule for how much to put in each layer. You can even skip a layer or two. The layer you always want to include is the #2, the hearty vegetables. Just make sure you have enough other ingredients to keep the dressing and lettuce away from each other until you’re ready to enjoy your salad.
Snacks in a Jar
Snacks can really make or break your healthy lifestyle, so be prepared with these bad boys. The glass jars help keep it fresh and they look so pretty in the fridge. Simply pack a pint jar with part of your snack, and then use another little plastic container (an empty fruit cup/applesauce container) with another component of your snack. For instance, you might have sliced apples in the jar and fill the little cup with peanut butter. The little cup sits on the top of the other snack item and is sealed by the lid so the snacks stay fresh for days.
Have fun playing with options, but here are some ideas:
Hard-boiled eggs + cherry tomatoes
Bell peppers + guacamole
Greek yogurt and berries/pomegranate seeds + granola
Apple slices + cheese cubes
Carrots + date balls or oatmeal energy bites
Celery + peanut butter/almond butter
Grapes + roasted chickpeas
Mandarin orange + pistachios
Apple slices + dark chocolate and nuts
Bell peppers and cucumber + hummus
What a gift it is to enjoy whole-food as a family! Beware of the “All or Nothing” mindset. Small changes/adjusting of habits grow into big results over time. Have fun building your salads and snacks!
Cheers to Health,
Coach Erin Sears Basile