Meal Prep for Inflammation: Eat Your Way to a Healthier You

Meal prep for inflammation doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re struggling with inflammatory issues, having a meal plan can be an efficient and effective way to manage your symptoms. This comprehensive guide will take you through the ins and outs of preparing meals that not only taste great but also combat inflammation.

Meal Prep for Inflammation
Jennifer from Vancouver, Canada, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Things You’ll Need: Meal Prep for Inflammation

Meal Prep for Inflammation – Tips

When it comes to managing inflammation through your diet, being prepared isn’t just a convenience—it’s a strategy. Careful meal planning ensures that you’re always a few steps away from a meal that not only satisfies your taste buds but also fights inflammation.

Below are essential meal prep tips that can act as your roadmap on this anti-inflammatory culinary journey.

Tip 1: Stock Up on Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Rather than aimlessly wandering through grocery aisles, go in with a list focused on anti-inflammatory foods. Berries like strawberries and blueberries contain antioxidants that combat inflammation. Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are rich in vitamins and minerals that support healthy bodily functions.

Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel provide Omega-3 fatty acids, known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Don’t forget spices like turmeric and ginger; they’re not just flavor enhancers, they can also lower inflammation levels.

Tip 2: Plan Your Meals and Snacks

You’re less likely to reach for processed, sugar-laden snacks if you’ve planned your meals and snacks in advance.

Spend some time each week drafting a meal plan. Include a mix of proteins, healthy fats, and carbs that are known to have anti-inflammatory benefits. This upfront time investment pays off by helping you make beneficial, quick choices throughout the week.

Tip 3: Portion Control

While it’s tempting to consume more of these healthy foods, remember that moderation is key. Excessive calorie intake, even from healthy foods, can lead to weight gain.

Being overweight exacerbates inflammation. Utilize measuring cups, a food scale, or even your hand (as a rough measurement tool) to ensure that you’re consuming an appropriate amount of food.

Tip 4: Use Healthy Cooking Methods

Your cooking method can either preserve an item’s anti-inflammatory properties or negate them. Steaming retains the most nutrients in your veggies, while broiling and grilling offer healthy ways to prepare proteins.

On the flip side, frying or using high heat for extended periods can create harmful compounds that trigger inflammation. Be mindful of how you’re cooking, not just what you’re cooking.

Tip 5: Batch Cooking

Imagine coming home tired and finding a nutritious, anti-inflammatory meal waiting for you in the fridge. You can make this a reality through batch cooking.

Prepare large quantities of meals based on your weekly plan and store them in portion-sized containers. Not only does this make sticking to your meal plan easier, but it also saves you time and effort throughout the week.

Tip 6: Pre-Cut Veggies and Fruits

The thought of chopping vegetables or fruits can sometimes be a deterrent to cooking. Eliminate this hurdle by pre-cutting them and storing them in airtight containers. When it’s time to cook or snack, you’ll have ready-to-use ingredients that can be quickly assembled into a nutritious, anti-inflammatory meal or snack.

Tip 7: Store Food Properly

Invest in quality airtight containers or use vacuum sealing for longer shelf life. Proper storage techniques maintain the quality, taste, and nutrient content of your food, making your anti-inflammatory meals more effective. Label your containers with the date of preparation to keep track of freshness.

Tip 8: Keep Hydration in Mind

Dehydration can sneak up on you and exacerbate inflammation. Along with your meal prep, consider preparing herbal teas or naturally flavored water. Store them in the fridge for a refreshing, hydrating option that helps keep inflammation in check.

General Meal Prep Instructions for Inflammation

Meal preparation isn’t just a trend; it’s a proactive way to ensure that you’re consistently eating meals that align with your anti-inflammatory goals. Let’s break down the general meal prep instructions into more detailed steps, so you’re fully equipped to make the most out of your cooking sessions.

Washing Vegetables and Fruits

Select the Right Sink: Make sure your sink is clean before you begin washing your fruits and vegetables. This prevents any risk of contamination.

Cold Water Rinse: Place fruits and vegetables under cold running water. Cold water is effective at removing most of the dirt and potential pesticides.

Using a Brush: For vegetables with thicker, rougher skins like potatoes and carrots, use a soft-bristle brush to scrub the surface gently. This ensures that any trapped soil or residues are thoroughly removed.

Drain and Dry: After washing, drain the fruits and vegetables in a colander and pat them dry with a clean towel to remove excess moisture.

Cutting Vegetables and Protein

The act of cutting your ingredients might seem straightforward, but when it comes to meal prep for inflammation, precision and safety should be your top priorities. Let’s delve into the detailed steps of this fundamental yet crucial part of your cooking process.

Preparing Your Workspace

Select a Suitable Surface: Choose a stable, flat surface for cutting, like a kitchen counter or a dedicated prep table. The stability ensures safety while you handle the knife.

Cutting Board Placement: Place your cutting board on this stable surface. For an extra layer of security, you can put a damp cloth or a non-slip mat under the board to prevent it from moving during the cutting process.

Choosing and Handling Your Knife

Knife Selection: Opt for a sharp knife that feels comfortable in your hand. A dull knife is not only inefficient but also dangerous, as it may slip.

Proper Grip: Hold the knife firmly by the handle, ensuring your grip is neither too loose nor too tight for optimal control.

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Cutting Vegetables

Read the Recipe: Before you start, read your recipe to understand what kind of cuts are needed—be it chopping, dicing, or slicing. This will guide your knife work.

Technique: Employ the right cutting techniques. For example, for chopping, you can make lengthwise cuts followed by crosswise cuts. For slicing, guide your knife in a smooth, singular motion to create even slices.

Safety First: While cutting, curl your non-dominant hand into a claw shape to hold the vegetable steady, keeping your fingers tucked in. This protects them from the sharp blade.

Cutting Protein

Separate Board: Use a different cutting board for raw meats or fish. This minimizes the risk of cross-contamination.

Meat Preparation: If the meat is too soft or slippery, you can put it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up, making it easier to cut.

Cutting Directions: Cut meat or fish against the grain for tenderness. Be sure to follow any specific instructions your recipe may have regarding the size and shape of the cut.

Cross-Contamination Prevention

Board Management: Always use separate boards for fruits and vegetables, and another one specifically for raw proteins like meat or fish.

Cleaning: After you’re done cutting, wash the boards with hot, soapy water. If you’ve used the board for raw meat or fish, you might want to sanitize it further using a bleach solution.

Cooking Grains

Measuring Grains: Use a measuring cup to measure the amount of grains you need. If the package doesn’t specify, a general rule of thumb is a 2:1 ratio of water to grains for most like quinoa, brown rice, and farro.

Water Preparation: Place the measured grains into a pot and add the necessary amount of water. Some people prefer to add a pinch of salt for seasoning at this stage, but that’s optional.

Cooking: Place the pot on the stove and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low.

Cover and Simmer: Cover the pot with a lid and let the grains simmer. The time will vary depending on the type of grain, so consult package instructions or reputable recipes for precise cooking times.

Check for Doneness: Open the lid carefully and taste a small amount to ensure it’s cooked through. If it’s done, remove it from heat and let it sit for a few minutes before serving or storing.

Meal Prep Recipes for Inflammation

Now that you’re familiar with the general guidelines for meal prep for inflammation, let’s move on to some delicious and healthy recipes. Each recipe includes a list of things you’ll need and step-by-step instructions on how to prepare the dish.

Recipe 1: Turmeric Chickpea Stir-Fry

Photo by Kyle Killam:

Things You’ll Need

Step 1: Drain and Rinse Chickpeas

Open the Can: Use a can opener to open the can of chickpeas.

Drain the Liquid: Pour the chickpeas into a strainer to drain the excess liquid.

Rinse the Chickpeas: Place the strainer under cold running water, making sure to move the chickpeas around so they are thoroughly rinsed.

Set Aside: Once rinsed, set them aside in a bowl for later use.

Step 2: Prepare the Vegetables

Choose Your Vegetables: Select the vegetables you’d like in your stir-fry. Bell peppers and carrots are excellent choices for their vibrant colors and nutrients.

Washing: Wash the vegetables under cold running water.

Chopping: Place your vegetables on a cutting board and chop them into bite-sized pieces.

Step 3: Cook the Stir-Fry

Heat Olive Oil: Place a skillet on the stove and turn the heat to medium. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and allow it to heat.

Add Chickpeas: Once the oil is hot, add the drained and rinsed chickpeas to the skillet.

Introduce Turmeric: Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder over the chickpeas.

Stir: Use a spatula to stir the chickpeas, ensuring they are evenly coated with the turmeric powder.

Include the Veggies: Add the chopped vegetables to the skillet.

Stir-Fry: Stir-fry the mixture until the vegetables are tender, which should take approximately 5-7 minutes.

Season: Add salt to taste.

Step 4: Storage

Cooling: Allow the stir-fry to cool down to room temperature.

Airtight Container: Place the cooled stir-fry in an airtight container.

Fridge: It will last for up to 3 days in the fridge.

Freezer: If you want to store it longer, it will last up to 1 month in the freezer.

Servings

This recipe makes 4 servings.

Recipe 2: Anti-Inflammatory Green Smoothie

Image from Wallpaper flare

Things You’ll Need

Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients

Wash Spinach: Place the spinach leaves in a colander and rinse them under cold running water.

Peel Banana: Use your fingers to peel the skin off the banana.

Step 2: Blend the Smoothie

Gather Ingredients: Place all the washed and peeled ingredients in a blender.

Blend: Secure the blender’s lid and turn it on. Blend until all the ingredients are mixed into a smooth consistency.

Check Texture: If the smoothie is too thick, you can add a little more almond milk to reach your desired texture.

Step 3: Storage

Immediate Consumption: This smoothie is best when consumed immediately.

Fridge: If you must store it, pour it into a sealed container and keep it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Note that the texture and taste may change slightly over time.

Servings

This recipe makes 2 servings.

Recipe 3: Ginger Salmon Salad

Image from PickPik

Things You’ll Need

  • 2 salmon fillets, preferably skin-on for added flavor
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Assorted leafy greens (e.g., arugula, spinach, kale)
  • 1-2 lemon wedges per serving
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Step 1: Preheat the Oven

Turn your oven to 400°F (200°C).

Use an oven thermometer to double-check the temperature if your oven tends to run hot or cold.

Step 2: Prepare the Salmon

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for a non-stick surface and easier cleanup.

Place the salmon fillets on the sheet, skin-side down.

Peel a fresh ginger root and grate it until you have about a tablespoon.

Combine the freshly grated ginger and extra-virgin olive oil in a bowl.

Spoon this mixture over each fillet, spreading it evenly across the surface with the back of the spoon.

Step 3: Bake the Salmon

Place the baking sheet in the oven.

Set a timer for 12-15 minutes, adjusting for the thickness of your fillets.

Check for doneness by seeing if the salmon flakes easily when you twist a fork into it.

Step 4: Assemble the Salad

While the salmon is baking, wash your leafy greens thoroughly under cold running water.

Drain the greens, either in a colander or using a salad spinner.

Divide the leafy greens among the plates, creating a bed for the salmon.

Once cooked, place the salmon on top of the greens.

Add a lemon wedge or two to each plate for optional added zest and flavor.

Step 5: Storage

Allow any leftover salmon and salad to cool down to room temperature before transferring to an airtight container.

Store in the fridge for up to 2 days. Leafy greens tend to wilt when frozen, so it’s not recommended to freeze this dish.

Servings

This recipe yields 2 servings.

Recipe 4: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

public domain food CC0 photo: View public domain image source here

Things You’ll Need

Step 1: Roast the Sweet Potatoes

Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).

While the oven is preheating, peel the sweet potatoes and dice them into even, bite-sized pieces.

Spread the diced sweet potatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Check and turn them halfway through to ensure even roasting.

Step 2: Prepare the Black Beans

Open the can of black beans and drain off the liquid using a colander.

Rinse the beans under cold running water to remove any excess sodium or canning liquids.

Step 3: Assemble the Tacos

Place a dry skillet over medium heat.

Once heated, place one tortilla at a time to warm it up, flipping to warm both sides.

On each warmed tortilla, layer the roasted sweet potato cubes and black beans.

Cut the ripe avocado into slices and add it to each taco.

Cut the lime into quarters. Squeeze a quarter lime over the filling of each taco.

Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.

Step 4: Storage

If you have leftover components, store them separately to maintain freshness.

Use airtight containers for the sweet potatoes and black beans; they will keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Store any unused avocado in a sealed container with a piece of onion to help prevent browning; consume within a day.

Servings

This recipe yields 4 servings.

Read more meal prep topics here – Meal Prep for Every Situation: Your Ultimate Guide

Recipe 5: Quinoa Berry Breakfast Bowl

Photo from Pxhere

Things You’ll Need

  • 1 cup quinoa, preferably pre-washed or thoroughly rinsed
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1 cup mixed berries (such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey or other sweeteners of your choice

Step 1: Cook the Quinoa

Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl and rinse the quinoa under cold running water for about 1-2 minutes. Drain well.

In a medium saucepan, combine the rinsed quinoa and filtered water.

Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring the water to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the saucepan with a lid, and let it simmer.

Simmer for 15 minutes or until the quinoa grains have turned translucent and the small white “tails” are visible.

Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

Step 2: Prepare the Bowl

Transfer the cooked quinoa to a serving bowl.

While the quinoa is still warm, add the mixed berries on top. The heat will partially thaw the berries if you are using frozen ones.

Sprinkle the tablespoon of chia seeds evenly over the berries and quinoa.

Drizzle the raw honey (or your choice of sweetener) over the top of the bowl for added sweetness.

Step 3: Storage

Allow the quinoa bowl to cool down to room temperature.

Place it in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator.

This dish can last for up to 3 days when stored properly.

Servings

This recipe yields 2 servings.

Recipe 6: Spiced Lentil Soup

Jennifer from Vancouver, Canada, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Things You’ll Need

Step 1: Prepare the Lentils

Place the lentils in a sieve and rinse them under cold running water.

Drain well and set aside.

Step 2: Prepare the Vegetables
  • Peel the onion and chop it into small pieces.
  • Take the garlic cloves, peel them, and then mince finely.
Step 3: Cook the Soup

In a large pot, add a small amount of vegetable oil or water for a healthier option.

Add the chopped onion and minced garlic to the pot.

Sauté on medium heat until the onions become translucent, usually taking around 5 minutes.

Add the rinsed lentils to the pot, followed by the vegetable broth.

Stir in the ground cumin and paprika.

Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not mushy.

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Taste the soup and season with salt as needed.

Step 4: Storage

Allow the soup to cool down to room temperature.

Transfer the soup to an airtight container.

Store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or portion it into freezer-safe containers and freeze for up to 2 months.

Servings

This recipe yields 4 servings.

Recipe 7: Broccoli and Cauliflower Stir-Fry

Image from Stockvault

Things You’ll Need

  • 1 cup broccoli florets, washed and drained
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets, washed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Step 1: Prepare the Vegetables

Begin by washing the broccoli and cauliflower heads under cold running water.

Shake off excess water and place them on a chopping board.

Using a sharp knife, separate the florets from the stem for both broccoli and cauliflower.

Aim to cut the florets into evenly sized pieces to ensure uniform cooking.

Step 2: Cook the Stir-Fry

Place a skillet on your stove and set the heat to medium.

Pour the extra-virgin olive oil into the skillet, allowing it to warm up for a minute.

Add the minced garlic to the skillet. Sauté it, stirring frequently, until the garlic releases its aroma—usually around 30-40 seconds.

Carefully add the broccoli and cauliflower florets into the skillet with the garlic.

Season the vegetables with salt and freshly ground black pepper to your liking.

Stir and cook the vegetables for about 5-7 minutes, or until they become tender but still maintain a bit of crunch.

Step 3: Storage

Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the stir-fry to cool down to room temperature.

Transfer the cooled stir-fry into an airtight container.

Store this container in the fridge, where it will remain good for up to 3 days.

Servings

This recipe yields 2 servings.

Recipe 8: Almond Butter Banana Smoothie

CC BY 2.0 DEED Attribution 2.0 Generic

Things You’ll Need

Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients

Choose ripe bananas that are yellow and have a slight give when pressed. They should peel easily.

Peel both bananas and break them into 3-4 smaller pieces each for easier blending.

Step 2: Blend the Smoothie

Place the banana pieces into the blender first to ensure they blend smoothly.

Next, add 2 tablespoons of your chosen almond butter to the blender.

Pour in 1 cup of chilled unsweetened almond milk.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon over the other ingredients.

Cover the blender with its lid, and blend on high speed until the mixture is smooth and well-incorporated, usually taking about 30-45 seconds.

Step 3: Storage

If not consuming immediately, pour the smoothie into a clean, airtight bottle.

Store this bottle in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Freezing is not recommended as it may change the texture of the smoothie.

Servings

This recipe yields 2 servings.

Recipe 9: Turmeric Chickpea Salad

Things You’ll Need

Step 1: Prepare Chickpeas

Open the can of chickpeas and pour its contents into a strainer placed over a sink to drain off the liquid.

Rinse the chickpeas under cold running water to remove excess sodium or canning liquid.

Transfer the rinsed chickpeas to a large mixing bowl.

Add 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric and 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil to the bowl.

Toss everything together to ensure the chickpeas are evenly coated with the turmeric and oil.

Step 2: Cut Vegetables

Wash the cucumber and carrot thoroughly under running water.

Place them on a chopping board.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from both the cucumber and carrot.

Dice the cucumber and carrot into bite-sized pieces, aiming for uniformity in size for even texture in your salad.

Step 3: Assemble Salad

Add the diced cucumber and carrot to the bowl containing the chickpeas.

Use a spoon to mix all the ingredients together until well combined.

Step 4: Storage

Once the salad is assembled, transfer it into an airtight container.

Store the container in the fridge, where the salad will remain good for up to 3 days.

Servings

This recipe yields 2 servings.

Recipe 10: Berry Chia Pudding

Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

Things You’ll Need

  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk, chilled
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup mixed berries (e.g., strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • A large mixing bowl
  • A spoon for stirring
  • Airtight container for storage

Step 1: Mix Ingredients

In a large mixing bowl, pour 2 cups of chilled unsweetened almond milk.

Add 1/2 cup of chia seeds to the almond milk.

Use a spoon to stir the mixture thoroughly, making sure the chia seeds are well-distributed in the milk to avoid clumping.

Step 2: Let it Sit

Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap.

Place the covered bowl in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or preferably overnight.

The mixture will thicken into a pudding-like consistency due to the chia seeds absorbing the liquid.

Step 3: Add Toppings

Once the chia pudding has set, give it a good stir to break up any clumps.

Add 1 cup of mixed berries on top of the pudding for a fruity twist.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of honey over the berries for added sweetness.

Step 4: Storage

Transfer any leftover chia pudding into an airtight container.

Store this container in the fridge where it will last for up to 5 days.

Servings

This recipe yields 2 servings.

Conclusion

Meal prep for inflammation doesn’t have to be complicated. These recipes offer a variety of flavors and nutrients designed to help reduce inflammation. Prepping these meals ahead of time can make your week easier and healthier. Enjoy your anti-inflammatory journey!

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