Meal prep is a lifesaver for busy people who want to eat home-cooked meals without spending all day in the kitchen. The basic concept is simple: whatever needs cooking, cook it all in one big batch at the beginning of the week, pack it out into individual serving containers, and then just grab and go Monday-Friday.
Making your food in batches saves you time and energy on hectic weeknights. But here’s the real draw: you’ll only have to wash one single set of cooking dishes. Any Paleo cook can attest that reducing the pile of dirty dishes in the sink is huge for overall chef satisfaction!
When it comes to a keto-style Paleo diet, meal prep can be a bit different, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not bad. Here’s a look at the basics: how to get enough fat in without drowning every salad in oil, how to add variety without adding a lot of prep time, and how to make delicious keto meals that travel and reheat well (or go down well cold).
Getting the macros right
Traditional non-keto meal prep focuses on protein + starch (Chicken + brown rice. Salmon + sweet potatoes. You get the idea). Of course, this isn’t going to work for keto - way too many carbs, not nearly enough fat.
One way to make all these plans keto is to just swap the starch for low-carb vegetables and call it a day (Chicken + spinach! Salmon + cauliflower!). But depending on your protein, you might not actually get enough fat - or enough food - that way. Skinless chicken breast with steamed vegetables and no fat just isn’t enough food for a grown adult for lunch; you’ll be hungry again by 3 and that’s no way to live.
The obvious answer is to swap out the carbs for vegetables...and then add fat. Lots of fat!
- If you have access to a microwave, use a bed of vegetables to soak up a fatty sauce or dressing - cook a nice fatty roast and use some broccoli or cauliflower rice to catch the juices.
- If you don’t have a microwave at work, it can be challenging to get your meals fatty enough without feeling like you’re eating cold grease. Try avocados as an easy fat source that tastes great even at room temperatures. Bonus: they don’t need to be refrigerated either! You can just bring the whole avocado and then cut it and eat it right out of its own skin.
- Eggs are also surprisingly high in fat and low in protein, and they’re good hot or cold.
- Use salad dressings to add lots of healthy fat and get some more variety at the same time. Try Asian-inspired almond butter dressings for a break from the classic oil and vinegar or whip up a batch of homemade ranch (hint: dressings can also go on roasted vegetables - they’re not just for leaves!)
How-Tos and logistical variations
A few quick logistical tips for newbies:
Get high-quality containers - nobody likes opening their bag and finding their lunch all over their laptop! There is a time to spring for the name brand; this is that time.
Consider a Dutch oven or slow cooker for making big batches of protein conveniently.
You might not need breakfast at all on keto - one less meal to pack! Intermittent fasting is a common keto tweak that solves at least one of your meal-prep problems: just don’t eat breakfast at all and compress your eating time into a short window between lunch and dinner. Some people don’t have any calories before noon; other folks prefer coffee with cream or coconut oil. (You could also skip dinner and have your eating window between breakfast and mid-afternoon, but this is less popular).
Keep a few keto-friendly snacks at your desk. In case you encounter a lunch disaster, you won’t be totally up the creek. Try macadamia nuts, fat bombs, or squeeze packs of nut butter.
Sample keto cook-ups: breakfast
For the menu-impaired, a few simple meal prep ideas, with macros:
The simplest way to batch-cook eggs for breakfast: beat a dozen eggs together and pour them into a greased pan. Add some roasted vegetables, spices, cheese, bacon bits, and/or other fixings as desired and cook until it’s almost done in the middle (the recipe takes a while to cool down, so it will keep “cooking” itself for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven). This is good cold or reheated.
- Mediterranean: eggplant (2 cups raw), onions (1 whole), garlic (3-4 cloves), and bell peppers (1 whole), fried in 2 tbsp. butter before adding them to the eggs: makes 5 servings at 5 grams net carbs per serving.
- Indian: garlic (3-4 cloves) okra (1 cup raw, fried or roasted in butter), spinach (1 cup raw), and garam masala to taste, assuming 2 tbsp. butter for cooking: makes 5 servings at 3.1 grams net carbs per serving.
- German: cabbage (2 cups raw, shredded), mustard (3 tbsp.), onion (1 whole), and bacon: 5 servings at 4.4 grams net carbs per serving
- Fat-tastic deluxe keto domination: use 6 duck eggs instead of 12 chicken eggs + 3 slices of bacon with all the drippings: 5 servings at 1.44 grams net carbs per serving.
For the egg haters, a few other ideas:
- Sheet pan sausages and vegetables: 4 servings at 6 grams net carbs per serving, although you could just use more sausages for more servings.
- Breakfast pork sausages: close to 0 grams net carbs per serving and good hot or cold.
Sample keto cook-ups: lunch and/or dinner
For the office workers or the just plain run-off-their-feet-busy people, some batch cooking menus for lunch or dinner:
Protein option 1: pork shoulder
Roast up a nice piece of pork shoulder (use this recipe or any other low-carb pork shoulder recipe)
Dead simple option: also roast up a tray or three of low-carb vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower…) with lots of olive oil or butter. Divide the pork and vegetables into containers. Assuming 1 cup of broccoli + 1 tbsp. fat per serving, on top of 3-4 ounces of cooked pork shoulder with all the fat left on, that gives you about 6 grams of net carbs per serving.
Variety options for the same protein: cook the pork shoulder in one fell swoop, and then give yourself some variation in your meals with...
- Salad: shredded or chopped pork on spinach (2 cups) with walnuts (0.5oz) and red onions (1 tbsp); mustard + balsamic + olive oil for dressing: 6 grams net carbs per serving.
- Shredded pork: shred the pork shoulder and pack it with keto coleslaw (add lots of mayo!): 4 grams net carbs per serving
- Stuffed peppers: cut a green pepper in half and bake the halves until lightly charred. Stuff each half with shredded pork shoulder and wilted spinach. Top with cheese for the cheese eaters: 3.3 grams net carbs per half pepper without cheese; with cheese will depend on the cheese.
Protein option 2: meatballs
Use the fattiest beef or lamb you can find - try this recipe without the honey or any other meatball recipe you like.
Dead simple option: meatball kebabs (also spelled kabobs): skewer the meatballs with your favorite low-carb vegetables and go nuts! You can add variety to this very easily just by putting different vegetables on each skewer. Carbs will vary depending on the vegetables but typically they’ll be low.
Variety options for the same protein: make all your meatballs and then...
- Put the meatballs over a bed of mashed cauliflower (8 grams net carbs) and drizzle with garlic butter
- Use different dipping sauces. Add tzatziki sauce for Greek flavor, sriracha mayo for a spicy kick, garlic aioli, fresh pesto, or whatever other fatty condiments your heart desires!
- Pack the meatballs over a bed of zucchini noodles (3.4 grams net carbs)