As you begin preparing for a healthier diet, you might be a little concerned with how much prep, planning, and actual cooking is involved. A lot of people struggle with cooking their own meals, whether for lack of time, energy, or just because you simply don’t enjoy it. Especially this time of year it’s hard to find time to spend making meals when things are hectic and the weather is nice! This is totally normal but not at all a reason to avoid eating healthy.
What is a No-Cook Meal Plan?
meal plan that consists of dishes you don’t have to cook. There is still some prep work and putting it all together, but you are not actually turning on a stove or oven to get them done. Naturally, some meals will still be cooked throughout the week, but these meal ideas and tips are only for the dishes in between that don’t require you to cook anything.
Benefits of a No-Cook Meal Plan
There are actually quite a few benefits to choosing a no-cook meal plan. Here are some of the top benefits:
- It Saves You Time – Naturally, the no-cook meal plan is going to save you time. You are not worrying about turning on the stove and waiting for food to cook or using the oven for an hour or so each evening just to cook a meal. It not only saves you time with cooking, but you also save time by not having tons of dishes to wash as well.
- You Can Avoid All Forms of Heat Sometimes you want to eat healthy and prepare your family with a nutritious and yummy meal, but you donít want to make it too hot in your kitchen. It may be in the middle of a heat wave, when the very last thing you want to do is turn on the oven. Aside from using a slow cooker, you don’t have many options for having nice meals without using heat. Luckily, this meal plan doesn’t require heating up your home.
- Prep and Planning Day is Much Easier – When you are working on meal planning and prepping, it usually involves one day completely dedicated to getting meals ready for the week. This day goes a lot faster when you are only working out your meals for the week, grocery shopping, and prepping ingredients. You aren’t actually cooking anything beforehand for these meals, so it is going to simplify the process a lot.
- You Can Still Be Healthy – Don’t assume that only healthy meals are the ones you cook. There are tons of ways to be healthy and have filling meals that are in the no-cook meal plan.
Healthy No-Cook Breakfasts to Wake Up to
Now that you understand what a no-cook meal plan is and the many benefits of it, you can get started on thinking up meals for the week. It is always good to start with breakfast. Not only is it the first meal of the day, but it is the most important. Ironically, it also happens to be the meal that most people end up skipping for lack of time. Luckily, you can have delicious meals that are prepped beforehand and don’t require cooking on your part.
A smoothie really is the perfect breakfast. It is super easy to make, healthy, sweet, and easy to grab on the go. You can make them in the morning, but it is also easy to make your smoothies the night before and have them ready for the morning. It is as easy as grabbing the smoothie on your way out the door, preventing you from grabbing a donut or driving through a fast food restaurant for an unhealthy breakfast.
Smoothies can be made with ice, but instead of ice, you can just use some of your frozen fruit that is already prepared. You need liquid, such as milk, along with yogurt, and anything else to add for nutrition or flavor, such as protein mix, chia seeds, or oats.
Similar to a smoothie, a yogurt parfait has many of the same ingredients, but it is smaller and uses a spoon instead. You also don’t need a blender for it, so it can actually be easier to put together than a smoothie. You just need to layer in your favorite yogurt, along with fruit, and additions like maple syrup, nuts, or seeds. Try using a healthy yogurt option like Greek yogurt for your parfait, and topping it with granola or muesli.
Breakfast toast might need to be toasted which requires cooking, but a bagel doesn’t. These taste great when they aren’t toasted, and can be good for a quick no-cook meal. Think of what you would put on top of your breakfast toast and put it on top of a whole wheat or whole grain bagel. Things like mashed avocado, salmon and veggies, hummus, or eggs and just about anything else will be great on your bagel.
Oatmeal is a yummy breakfast that isn’t difficult to make, but it does require some cooking. An alternative is to make overnight oats, where you soak the rolled oats for at least 8 hours, then wake up to cold oatmeal. There are tons of recipes, but the basic recipe is to soak the oats in milk and additives like maple syrup and chia seeds.
No-Cook Lunch and Dinner to Prep Ahead of Time
Now is time to talk about some no-cook meals for the rest of the day, including lunch and dinner or between-meal snacks. These meals are all cold or room temperature, so they don’t require cooking beforehand. You might be surprised by how much you can actually do without turning on a microwave, stove, or oven.
Naturally, there are going to be a lot of no-cook salads, but they don’t have to be boring! You can really get creative and have a delicious salad without cooking anything. Plus, these are going to be healthier for you since they also have tons of veggies and other nutritious ingredients. For all of these salads, you can put them in a container beforehand, as long as the dressing is kept separate.
Here are some different salad options to try:
- Apple, Walnut, and Spinach Salad – This takes simple ingredients and turns them into a really fun and creative salad. You can start with spinach as your greens, or a greens mix with some spinach mixed in as well and top that with diced apples and walnuts. You can get creative by adding more fruit as well. This is okay without dressing, but you can also put dressing in a separate container.
- Tuna Antipasta Salad – An antipasta salad is one with luncheon meats and other ingredients in an Italian-style salad. You can go one step further by turning it into a salad with tuna on top. Tuna from a pouch or can doesn’t require any cooking, and it can add more protein to the salad to make it a more filling option.
- Chicken Salad – Believe it or not, you can definitely make a salad with chicken and not have to worry about cooking the chicken. Get a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, cut it up, and put the chicken in containers. This can then be used for various chicken dishes that are cold, including a fun lime chicken salad. Add the chicken along with snap peas and lime dressing.
Sandwiches and Wraps
The next option for a lunch or dinner that is healthy and doesn’t require cooking is to make a sandwich or wrap. If you don’t want to have just a boring sandwich you would have any other day, try adding different combinations. For example, you can turn the apple and spinach salad into a wrap or sandwich. Use low-carb or whole grain bread with thin apple slices, spinach, and some feta cheese. This can also be turned into a wrap with a whole wheat or spinach wrap. Another option is to make an Italian vegetable hoagie, using only veggies and with no meat to cut down on fat and calories.
Don’t forget that some soup doesn’t actually require any cooking. A really popular one is Gazpacho, which is a type of tomato soup that combines tomato ingredients and lots of seasonings. You can also make a Thai soup or a coconut curry soup that is healthy and doesn’t require turning on the stove.
The last idea for a no-cook lunch or dinner is to make a stuffed veggie dish. Here are a couple different stuffed veggie options to try out:
- Stuffed Avocados – Avocados are so perfect when you are trying to eat healthy, whether for nutrition, to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, or when you are trying to lose weight. You can turn them into a light lunch by cutting it in half, removing the pit, and adding some diced tomato, mozzarella cheese, and balsamic vinegar. This turns it into a nice caprese-style stuffed avocado. As an alternative, you can stuff it with tuna salad.
- Stuffed Tomatoes – Another option is to make stuffed tomatoes. This I a good alternative to a stuffed pepper since no baking needs to be done. You can stuff the open tomato with anything, though a nice mixture of chopped veggies like corn, bell peppers, and onions is a really light and flavorful option.
Essential Tips For No-Cook Meal Prep and Planning
Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when you want to meal plan and prep with no cooking involved. It helps you get further into the meal planning process and not make mistakes that others tend to make.
Use Meat That Doesn’t Require Cooking
Just because you don’t want to cook anything, doesn’t mean you can’t use meat and seafood in your meals. For example, both tuna and imitation crab often comes in cans, pouches, or even at the deli counter. You can get a container of this and add it to your stuffed tomatoes or avocados, fill a wrap, or top a salad.
You can also get a rotisserie chicken that is already cooked and turns into a lot of no-cook meals, or get other cooked meat options at the deli counter. Luncheon meat is a good alternative to use as well, just be careful with the salt and sodium content. Getting lunch meat sliced at the deli counter is highly recommended and also tastes better.
Have One Day Reserved For Prepping
When you are meal planning, even if you aren’t planning to cook anything, you still need to have enough time for the prepping portion of the process. Try to have one full day or at least half a day with nothing else to do but plan out your meals and get some of the prepping done.
Here are some things to do during your prepping day:
- Create a detailed meal plan, including every meal of the day for a week
- Go grocery shopping to pick everything up
- Cut up all fruits and veggies, put into appropriate containers
- Put together salads in mason jars or containers to be used later
- Have snacks in portion-controlled containers so they are easy to grab
Prepare the Salads in Jars or Containers Beforehand
Speaking of salads, this is one thing that is super easy to prepare beforehand on prep day. Remember that all of the salad ingredients can be put together in a jar or container. Mason jars are perfect for prepping salads. Since lettuce and other greens are light and can wilt easily, they should go on top. When layering the jars, put the heavier and denser items on bottom, with the lighter ingredients like greens on top of the jar. Keep the dressing, oil, and vinegar in a separate container.