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The Visual Guide to Easy Meal Prep*

Useful Tips and Healthful-Sounding Recipes, But…

Do you have a hard time getting dinner or other meals on the table every day? In this book, the author introduces her take on the concept of advance meal preparation and gives her five steps for meal prep success. The introductory sections of the book do provide a firm foundation in what you need to consider if you decide to attempt this advance meal prep. I have occasionally done multi-meal food prep, so I know that organization and planning is a key to success (along with sturdy shoes). The author goes into a little about how to grocery shop for healthful ingredients and even do some pre-preparation before your cooking day.

The author espouses what she calls healthy cooking, and for the most part, I would say that it is. Although, when I looked over her “approved food list” (and something about that rankles my independent, don’t-tell-me-what-to-eat mentality), I was somewhat dismayed to find that potatoes were not on it. I am not one who believes that potatoes are inherently evil, unlike some, and I believe they have a place in a well-rounded, healthy diet so long as you are not following a low-carb or anti-inflammatory diet plan.

Speaking of plans, the author does give four meal prep plans that you can follow depending upon your dietary preferences or needs: low carb, vegetarian, gluten free, and dairy free. For each plan, she gives a couple of breakfasts, mains, and snacks. Each plan has enough for four days of food, with the three main meals and one or two snacks covered. While the author does discuss how to strategize your cooking day in general in the introduction, she goes into greater detail in each of the plans. She tells you precisely which recipes, or parts of recipes, to do and in which order so that you make the most efficient use of your time and resources (like oven or stovetop time). I think both these detailed plans and the more general plan are a fantastic way to get you thinking about how to structure your own meal prep sessions with your family favorite recipes.

The recipe portion is divided into just a few basic sections like breakfast, mains, snacks and sides, and dressings, dips, and sauces. Unfortunately, the author does not give any sort of nutritional information for any of the recipes. I think this is odd for a cookbook that is meant to be healthy. Everybody has a different approach to what they think healthy eating is. Some watch their carbs while others watch fat, amongst other things. It would have been nice to have the macronutrient breakdown as well as the calorie count. Even though she gives meal prep plans for four very specific diets, she doesn’t label the recipes as being friendly to them. Sometimes, of course, this is easy to figure out (no chicken for a vegetarian, no cheese for someone who’s dairy free), but other times, it is more tricky and perhaps even impossible if you are, say, really eating low-carb since she doesn’t give any nutritional counts.

For each recipe that needs to be reheated on eating day, the author gives brief but useful instructions. I will admit I have a hard time imagining some of these recipes being good warmed up, like an omelet. Eggs always seem to be the best right after they’ve been cooked. So I wonder how the egg dishes would actually be on day three or four.

One thing that I found kind of funny is that there is no specific dessert section, but dessert recipes are definitely included in the snacks and sides section. I’m wondering if the author thought that she couldn’t have an official dessert chapter in a healthy cookbook or if she didn’t have enough healthy desserts to warrant an entire chapter. Surely, she is not saying that one should snack on dessert foods? For some reason, in what is meant to be a healthy cookbook, I find that kind of funny.

I feel like this book could have been organized better, though I’m not quite sure what should have been done. I’m wondering if perhaps the plans should have been at the back, as I often see in cookbooks, and the recipes clearly marked with what diet(s) they would work with. Perhaps, too, she could have had hyperlinked master lists of recipes for each diet. I just feel like this book needs some better organization since it seems to be appealing to at least four different and distinct crowds as well as the general cook. Maybe the book would have been better split into four separate books based around the different diets, with only the recipes that would be suitable for it. Maybe she could have had a fifth cookbook that was more about the generalities of meal planning with multiple plans to really help the cook-reader get a sense of how to strategize and execute multi-meal cooking, based not just around diets but seasons and holidays as well.

All in all, I think this cookbook shares some good tips and techniques if you want to try prepping and cooking ahead. Some recipes are complicated, which could be hard to do on a big cooking day, but some look relatively straightforward. The organization is a little confusing, and there are issues with the recipe information, as I stated. I would call this cookbook a mixed bag, so to speak, with some good information and recipes but definitely lacking in a few areas.