When the days are long and hot, you don’t want to spend hours cooking in a hot kitchen every day. The key to eating well while keeping cool is preparing meals and ingredients in advance so you can use them when you’re ready. To help you get started, we’ve put together this list of our favorite warm weather meal prep tips for summer.
1. Pre-Cut Veggies
To lose weight and stay healthy, Nutrisystem recommends eating at least four servings of non-starchy vegetables each day. In summer, when so many kinds of produce are at their peak of freshness, raw vegetables with dip make an ideal snack or side dish.
Cut up cucumbers, carrots, celery and other veggie favorites, then portion them out into individual servings using plastic bags or containers. Then you can just grab them when hunger strikes!
Many supermarkets now sell carrots and celery sticks already washed and cut, making your meal prep even easier. Pair them with a homemade dip made with Greek yogurt as the base instead of sour cream. We love it in our Cucumber Dill Dip recipe, which is creamy, flavorful and so simple to make. Whip up a few servings and keep the extras in the refrigerator in single-serving containers.
2. Canned Proteins
Chicken breast, tuna and salmon are all packed with protein and low in saturated fats. You can include any of them in your warm weather meals without turning on your oven. Just stock up on canned versions that are already cooked, so you can just open them and add them to your other ingredients. Be sure to get versions that are packed in water, not oil.
Keep things cool with our simple recipe for Easy Spicy Tuna Salad. If you feel like cooking, try to make Easy Fried Tuna Patties, which turns ordinary canned tuna fish into light and crispy “cakes” you can eat on a salad or sandwich. The recipe makes six patties, so you can make it once and have a week’s worth of proteins ready to go.
3. Grill Outside
Making food outside on the grill keeps your kitchen cool in summer. Even better, cooking over an open flame is an easy way to add flavor to your meals without loading on excess calories.
When you have the grill fired up to make dinner, add a few more chicken breasts, salmon filets or shrimp to the grate. You can store the extra grilled protein in your refrigerator to take out whenever you need a quick meal in the next week.
You get a full and satisfying dinner, complete with a SmartCarb, a PowerFuel, and a serving of vegetables with this zesty flavored Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad recipe.
4. Grain Bowls and Salads
Brown rice, quinoa and other whole grains are SmartCarbs that are high in fiber, so you feel full long after eating them. They make a hearty foundation you can pair with other fresh ingredients in cold salads and bowls.
Cook up several servings at a time to use in different meals. You can enjoy Quinoa Cucumber Salad as the main course of your lunch or as a side dish at dinner.
5. Boil-Free Veggie Noodles
Cooking pasta takes pots of boiling water that will steam up your kitchen. Instead, make your summer pasta meals with zoodles, zucchini that has been put through a spiralizer and cut into long, spaghetti-like strands. When raw, it has an al dente texture and mild flavor that makes it perfect for mixing with your favorite sauce or other ingredients. Even better, the zoodles are a vegetable that you can eat in unlimited amounts.
You can make zoodles yourself with a spiralizer or purchase containers ready to eat in the produce section of your supermarket. Buy extra because zoodles remain fresh in the refrigerator for about five days and they fit into lots of tasty meals.
Our recipe for Zucchini Noodles with Roasted Vegetables and Pesto features summer’s best flavors, including tomatoes and basil.
6. Chilled Soups
We often turn to soup to warm us in the frigid season, but it also can keep us cool on hot days. Chilled soups are easy to whip up in a blender and you can make a pitcher-full to enjoy for a week. No standing over a hot stove and stirring required.
The flavor options range from spicy tomato gazpacho to savory vichyssoise made with potatoes and leeks to sweet corn and coconut milk soup. Our Creamy Green Gazpacho and Grilled Shrimp recipe pairs the thick and rich soup with high-protein seafood made on the grill outside. Be sure to also try our recipes for Tropical Gazpacho and Spicy Melon Gazpacho with Shrimp.
7. Overnight Oats
Oatmeal is a healthy and filling hot breakfast in winter. You can get all the nutritional benefits of oatmeal and keep cool by making overnight oats. All you do is soak oatmeal in dairy milk, almond milk or Greek yogurt while you sleep, and they’re tender and ready to eat when you wake up. You get the texture of classic oatmeal but with no cooking.
Overnight oats also offer you lots of opportunities to add flavor to your breakfast with fresh fruit, nuts and spices like cinnamon and ginger. Breakfast tastes like dessert when you make this Blueberry Peach Pie Protein Overnight Oats recipe.
8. Icebox Cakes and Other No-Bake Desserts
Baking is no fun on a sweltering day, but you can still make a deliciously sweet cake for a party or just for your family. Icebox cakes are made by layering graham crackers with whipped cream and other ingredients, such as thin slices of fruit. Then it all goes in the refrigerator to set. As it chills, the cream and fruit soften the crackers, so they become tender and flaky like thin layers of cake.
The whole family will clamor for a serving of S’mores Icebox Cake, a satisfying version of the classic campfire treat. If you’re looking for more treats that will keep you cool this summer, check out the many other no-bake dessert recipes here on the Leaf.
9. Pre-Made Meals and No-Cook Options
The healthiest meals for you in summer might also be the quickest and coolest to make. The Nutrisystem menu is filled with so many enticing options that take no cooking or just need to be heated in a microwave.
You can choose from a wide range of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack items. Fill your pantry and freezer with your favorites so you’ll never feel too overheated to enjoy a satisfying meal.
Our Asian-Style Salmon with Pasta is a light dinner for a hot evening that will fuel you up with 31 grams of protein. You get a complete, balanced meal and it warms up in your microwave in less than 20 minutes. Finish your day with a cool Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich or Chocolate Brownie Sundae.
10. Fresh and Frozen Fruit
When you’re craving a sweet treat in a pinch, fresh or frozen fruit is a savior. Of course, fresh fruit is delicious all on its own. Slice up fresh apples or peaches, or munch on a bowl of fresh grapes or berries.
Frozen fruit can easily be transformed into a frozen dessert like nice cream or sorbet! Try our recipes for Vegan Banana Nice Cream or 4-Ingredient Raspberry Sorbet!
Explore the various Nutrisystem meal plans, or stock up on individual meals a la carte right here! >