Brain Healthy Meal Prep for the Family: MIND Diet Lunches
It's not always easy to consistently eat the ideal foods for brain health, especially with busy schedules or picky eaters in the family. However, with a little preparation you can set yourself (and your kids) up for success by prepping lunches before the week begins. Not sure where to start? We've crafted a convenient salad and lunchbox meal prep solution that emphasizes the power of the MIND diet and Mediterranean way of eating. And you’ll save time and energy by utilizing the same ingredients for your salads and your kids’ school (or summer camp) lunches.
Research has shown that the MIND and Mediterranean diets are both strongly linked to preserving cognitive function and reducing the risk of age-related brain diseases. By adopting these dietary patterns, studies suggest we can experience longer lives with significantly lower rates of dementia and cognitive decline. The MIND diet specifically focuses on incorporating brain-boosting foods such as berries, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean proteins, and healthy fats, while reducing the consumption of processed foods, refined sugars, and saturated fats.
How can prepping food in advance help you keep healthy habits during the week? It provides a practical solution to overcome the challenges of maintaining a healthy eating routine (like busy schedules and no time during the workday to prepare a healthy meal). With our MIND lunchbox meal prep, you can proactively plan and prepare brain-boosting meals ahead of time, ensuring that you always have nourishing options readily available. By dedicating a specific time to meal prep, you can control portion sizes, choose nutrient-dense ingredients, and eliminate the need for last-minute unhealthy food choices. This proactive approach empowers you to stay on track with your brain nutritional goals, even during busy days when time is limited.
Follow along through the process of creating two types of meal preps: a salad jar meal prep and a lunchbox meal prep. The beauty of this method is that you can customize the contents of your lunchbox by selecting components from your salad jar, catering to the preferences of both adventurous and picky eaters.
To get started, you will need a large quart-sized mason jar for the salad jar meal prep and a compartment-based lunchbox. While any lunchbox will do, we recommend using a stainless-steel bento box, like this one, for its durability and versatility.
How to build your own MIND Salad & Lunchbox
Choose your greens (choose 1 or a blend of 2):
Pick your proteins (choose 1):
Add your veggies (choose as many as you’d like – the more the merrier!):
- Brussel sprouts
- Bell peppers
Add your carb (choose 1):
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
Add some extras (choose as many as you’d like):
- Pumpkin seeds
- Hemp hearts or chia seeds
Customize your dressing (choose to your liking):
- Olive oil
- Chopped herbs
- Balsamic vinaigrette
- Apple cider vinegar
How to layer your MIND Salads:
Meal prep salad jars offer a convenient and brain-healthy way to enjoy fresh salads throughout the week. To maintain the crispness and preserve brain-boosting nutrients, it's crucial to layer the ingredients properly. Begin by placing the dressing at the bottom, followed by hydrating ingredients like tomatoes and cucumbers. As the next step, add brain-healthy grains like quinoa, which provide a source of complex carbohydrates and additional nutrients. Next , include lean proteins like chicken or tofu for sustained energy. Finally, include leafy greens packed with vitamins, and top with brain-healthy toppings like nuts or seeds, which provide essential omega-3 fatty acids. When it's time to enjoy your salad, simply flip the jar onto a plate, ensuring that every bite is perfectly dressed and not soggy.
You have the flexibility to choose and modify the components from your salad jar to accommodate preferences when preparing the lunchbox. Start by including the same carb and protein option you prepared and fill the remaining compartments based on what your eater enjoys! You can easily swap out larger leafy greens for finely chopped vegetables, such as bell peppers or carrots. Serve the same dressing you prepared on the side as a dipping sauce to allow your eaters to customize the amount of dressing they prefer or even explore different flavors by trying alternative dressings.
Weekly Servings of the MIND diet
Adopting the MIND diet doesn't have to be complicated or overwhelming. By following these guidelines, you can easily incorporate a variety of brain-boosting foods into your meals.
This plate shows the minimum servings you should aim for each week.
Sample MIND Salad Preps & Lunchbox for Brain Healthy Eating:
To help you get started with Mediterranean-inspired meal preps for salad jars and lunchboxes, see below for a practical example.
Spring Strawberry Salad
This Spring Strawberry Salad Jar recipe captures the essence of summer with its vibrant colors and refreshing flavors. The lunchbox version contains the same ingredients with different components.
MIND Diet Servings:
Whole grains: 1x
Every journey towards optimal brain health begins with small steps and incremental changes. It's important to remember that any effort you make towards following a brain-healthy diet and adopting other healthy lifestyle habits can yield positive results. The key is consistency and progress over time.
As you make progress with diet, RELEVATE can help fill in the gaps where your diet falls short. RELEVATE is designed upon the framework of the Medi and MIND diets, and includes 17 nutrients for long-term brain health. Learn more about RELEVATE here.