BUFFET STYLE MEAL PREP SCHOOL
LESSON 3: Buffet Style Meal Prep Core Healthy Foods
In Lesson 3 of my Buffet Style Meal Prep School, I’m going to cover my favorite core healthy foods that I use in my buffet style meal prep. These are the foods that are BOTH healthy and versatile. Because I specialize in Autumn Calabrese’s Portion Fix/21 Day Fix Eating Plan, I will be referencing that throughout this post.
Before I get started, I want to say something LOUD & CLEAR—this is a GUIDE to help you get started. The ultimate goal is for you to create your very own list comprised of the core healthy foods YOU and YOUR FAMILY know and love. The Portion Fix/21 Day Fix Eating Plan is FLEXIBLE—it can absolutely work with a variety of foods and different palates. And, it’s a great way to cook family meals!
Let’s get started, shall we?
Why Choose Core Healthy Foods?
The main reason to choose several core healthy foods is to SIMPLIFY healthy eating in order to avoid overwhelm. When we’re overwhelmed, we burn out. The Portion Fix/21 Day Fix Eating Plan is NOT overwhelming once you learn how to do it. Another reason to focus on core healthy foods is to save time, energy, and money.
1) Avoiding Overwhelm
There are A LOT of core healthy foods and everyone has different opinions as to which are the best. As you can see below, the Portion Fix/21 Day Fix food list is lengthy and probably includes a lot of foods you don’t usually eat. A lot of people see it, get overwhelmed, and don’t move forward. I want to help you NOT get stuck!
In order to avoid feeling overwhelmed, I want you to make a SHORT list of core healthy foods that you’ll use every week—these are healthy foods that you’re already familiar with and used to eating. You can expand your food horizons AFTER you get the hang of buffet style meal prep and portion control eating!
Because I follow the Portion Fix/21 Day Fix Eating Plan, all of my core healthy foods I have chosen below are from this list.
2) Saves Time & Energy
A realistic lifestyle is NOT one that requires you to constantly be on Pinterest to find new recipes to cook every week. It IS one that does not require an excess of time and energy to live and can become second nature. If you narrow down the your food list to several core healthy foods, you will save TONS of time planning and prepping your week’s meals.
3) Saves Money
Fresh single ingredients foods have a narrow window of perfection and spoil quickly. If you don’t focus on your favorite core healthy foods, you might end up with a ginormous shopping list and a lot of waste. Your goal is to be thoughtful about creating a meal plan that minimizes food waste and helps you stick to your food budget by using as many core healthy foods as possible in your week’s meals.
Choose Nutrient Dense Foods
Your core healthy foods should be nutrient-dense.* These are foods that contain high amounts of macro and micronutrients that are essential to our health. Besides giving our body the nutrients it needs, research has shown that nutrient dense foods actually boost our metabolism, help us lose body fat, and help us build muscle. (I highly suggest you read this to learn more—The Benefits of Nutrient Dense Foods.)
As you can see above, the Portion Fix/21 Day Fix Food List does NOT include ANY processed foods—and neither should your short list of core healthy foods. That’s because processed foods are nutrient POOR!
* If you’re following the Portion Fix/21 Day Fix Eating Plan, Autumn makes it easy for you AGAIN by listing the foods in order of their nutrient content! The ones on top give you the most nutritional bang for your container. However, ALL of the foods she has chosen are good, so even the ones on the bottom are still good choices.
My Favorite Buffet Style Meal Prep Core Foods
I’ve compiled a list of my favorite core healthy foods I use for my buffet style meal prep to educate you on some excellent staple foods so that you can create your own awesome list. I grouped them by 21 Day Fix containers/food type.
I do NOT address quantities in this post because that is determined by your personal situation and goals—or, if you are following the Portion Fix/21 Day Fix Eating Plan, your calorie bracket. (You will find the instructions on how to determine your calorie bracket in your Fix Eating Plan guide.)
Always choose organic whenever possible!
>>> Red Container (Protein)
Protein is a powerhouse macronutrient and is particularly helpful for helping to keep us satiated for longer and for muscle recovery. Think lean and clean with your protein choices!
My favorite buffet style meal prep core healthy foods for the red (or protein) container are:
- 95+% lean ground beef
- Ground turkey
- Chicken breasts/tenders
- Nitrate free turkey slices
- Turkey bacon
- Frozen shrimp (LOVE having this on hand because I can just grab however many I want)
- Canned tuna (click on this link to make sure you get the healthiest tuna you can!)
- Organic free range eggs (a HIGH quality protein)
- 0% or 1% plain Greek yogurt (PACKED with protein!)
- Fat free ricotta cheese (YES, it’s considered a protein in the Portion Fix/21 Day Fix Eating Plan!)
- Shakeology (this is my VERY favorite core food for the red container because it’s packed with protein and other amazing ingredients, cost effective, and can be eaten on the go).
>>> Orange Container (Seeds & Dressings)
My favorite buffet style meal prep core healthy foods for the orange (seeds and dressings) container are:
- Sunflower seeds
- Shredded coconut
- Salad dressings (make sure they’re Fix compliant if you’re following the Portion Fix/21 Day Fix program!)
>>> Yellow Container (Carbohydrates)
The main purpose of carbohydrates is to give us energy. Most carbs get turned into glucose that our body uses as energy. Any excess are turned into fat and stored for later use. That’s why it’s KEY to choose healthy carbs and limit them in our diet.
My favorite buffet style meal prep core healthy foods for the yellow (healthy carbs) container are:
- Sweet potatoes/yams
- Brown rice
- Steel cut oats (a healthy carb that is high in fiber and protein and actually helps you burn fat)
- Beans (love nonfat refried beans!)
- Whole grain pasta
- Whole grain crackers (like rye)
- Whole wheat pita or flat bread
- Corn tortillas
- Whole grain bread
>>> Green Container (Vegetables)
My favorite buffet style meal prep core healthy foods for the green (vegetables) container are:
- Romaine lettuce (not only do I use this nutrient dense food in salads, but I also use it as a food swap for sandwich bread)
- Spinach (one of the most nutrient dense foods on the list!)
- Broccoli (regular AND broccoli cole slaw)
- Squash (spiralized zucchini and spaghetti squash are GREAT swaps for pasta)
- String beans
- Canned pumpkin (SERIOUSLY delicious on top of ricotta cheese!)
>>> Blue Container (Healthy Fats)
Healthy fats are another important energy source and help our body function optimally. Note the word “healthy”—saturated fats (like those in fast foods, chips, processed cheeses, and rich salad dressings) are NOT on the list!
My favorite buffet style meal prep core healthy foods for the blue (healthy fats) container are:
- Fat free feta or goat cheese
- Fresh or skim mozzarella (I love string cheese for an on-the-go snack)
- Hummus (the high fiber content curbs hunger)
>>> Purple Container (Fruits)
My favorite buffet style meal prep core healthy foods for the purple (fruits) container are:
- Berries (blueberries and raspberries are the healthiest; frozen are awesome because you can always have them on hand)
- Apples (one of the best fruits for weight loss)
- Tomato sauce
>>> Teaspoon (Oils & Nut Butters)
My favorite buffet style meal prep core healthy foods for the teaspoon (oils and nut butters) container are:
- Extra virgin olive oil (improves heart health)
- Extra virgin coconut oil
- Nut butter
>>> Free Foods
The Portion Fix/21 Day Fix Eating Plan lets you eat as much as you want of the foods on the FREE list. I use them ALL!
- Lime juice
- Herbs & spices
- Hot sauce
- Organic flavor extracts
The point of buffet style meal prep is having these foods on hand to create simple meals during the week. So, you do NOT season ANYTHING that you cook ahead of time. This allows you to season it how you want to depending on the meal you’re putting together. For example, when I’m making a taco or tostada, I’ll add taco seasoning to my meat and veggies. But, if I’m feeling like Asian, I’ll add some Bragg’s Amino acid, lime juice and crushed red peppers. Italian is a popular one at my house, which has me using garlic, basil and onion powder.
I’m Here to Help!
Hopefully, you have enough of a handle on what core healthy foods you can start with with buffet style meal prep. Remember…with time, you’ll find which foods work best for YOU!
If you haven’t already done so, make SURE you check out Lesson 1 (An Overview of Buffet Style Food Prep) and Lesson 2 (Buffet Style Meal Prep Tips)! Here is the next lesson in my Buffet Style Meal Prep School—Lesson 4: Buffet Meal Style Prepping for the Week. Enjoy!
Do you have me assigned as your Beachbody Coach? If so, are you in my Fix Family Facebook group? If not, click below to join!