I can’t believe my very first book, Mediterranean Diet Meal Prep Cookbook, is officially released today! Needless to say, I am very excited to see the culmination of a ton of hard work!
Healthy meal prep is a great way to save time during the week AND ensure you have nutrient-rich food ready at your fingertips. One of the keys to easy meal prep is choosing a variety of recipes that aren’t overly complicated.
I find that it helps to have 1 meal during the week that you can just throw together into a to-go container, oftentimes with components that don’t need to be cooked. Breakfast is the perfect opportunity for this type of easy meal.
A bento box is a Japanese-style lunch box that has been adopted around the world to hold any type of meal. If you google “bento box breakfast or lunch”, you’re likely to find containers of food that look almost like snack boxes, holding multiple types of foods. I like bento box containers because they often have separated compartments. You don’t need a special type of container, but if you’re the type of person that doesn’t like foods to touch, then a container with compartments is for you.
When building a healthy breakfast bento box, you’ll want to make sure you have certain components:
- Complex carbohydrates
- Healthy fats
- Variety of texture
- Sweet and savory flavors
Examples of complex carbohydrates (aka stuff with fiber!)
Fruit – options include strawberries, tangerines, cubed melon, pineapple, sliced apples and pears, green and red grapes, pomegranate seeds
- Dried fruits without added sugar
- Veggies – carrot sticks, celery sticks, sliced cucumbers and bell peppers, broccoli and cauliflower florets, snap peas
Whole grains – whole wheat pita, lavash, whole wheat bread, whole grain tortillas, crispbread, and rice cakes
Sodium side note
Bread can harbor quite a bit of sodium. If you are on a low sodium diet, the following brands offer lower sodium options:
- Angelic Bakehouse: sell a no-sodium added 7-Grain bread, a reduced sodium 7-Grain bread, and a reduced sodium 7-Grain Wrap (I buy these products at Sprouts).
- Food for Life: Ezekiel 4:9 low sodium Sprouted Whole Grain Bread ( I buy this at Trader Joe’s). Their Ezekiel Whole Grain Pocket Bread is a good choice too at 100mg sodium for the entire pita round.
- Toufayan Bakeries: this brand carries a 100% Whole Wheat Smart Pocket at 50mg sodium per pocket.
- Corn tortillas are a naturally low sodium option at around 10mg for 2 tortillas (I have the Trader Joe’s brand)
- Brown rice cakes have about 25mg sodium per cake (Lundberg brand)
- Boiled eggs
- Unsalted edamame
Beans, chickpeas, lentils, and dried peas (also known as pulses)
- If using canned pulses, be sure to read nutrition labels. The reduced sodium option often isn’t the best choice surprisingly! The organic options seem to have less sodium many times. Also, some brands, such as Eden Foods, sell no-salt-added canned beans. Also, be sure to drain the liquid, rinse under running water for 10 seconds, then drain the beans for 2 minutes. Doing this can reduce sodium content by up to 41%.
Sliced prosciutto or lean deli meats
- if you are on a low sodium diet, choose a high-quality, no-salt-added sliced deli meat instead. Boar’s Head carries a no-salt-added sliced turkey and roast beef, both without caramel color
- if you are on a low sodium diet, a piece of roasted or poached salmon would be the best alternative to smoked salmon, which can contain a high amount of sodium. OR, make your own smoked salmon with a lower sodium brine
Sliced swiss cheese or fresh mozzarella
- I chose these items because they’re lower in sodium than other types of cheese. Swiss cheese has about 54mg per 1-ounce slice and fresh mozzarella has 45mg per 1 ounce.
- Unsalted peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pecans
- Unsalted, unsweetened nut butter, peanut butter, and tahini
- Pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds
- Olive oil, avocado oil, culinary algae oil (Thrive brand)
- Olives (depending on your sodium limit, either omit olives or check out low sodium olives which are around 40mg per serving)
**Peanuts, nuts, and seeds also contain protein and fiber
Variety of Textures
Creamy vs crunchy
- Crunchy Perisan cucumber slices with creamy hummus
- Plain Greek yogurt with fruit and topped with crunchy granola
- Crunchy seed crispbread (or brown rice cakes) with creamy mascarpone (or ricotta) and berry chia jam (recipe below and from Mediterranean Diet Meal Prep Cookbook)
A note about mascarpone (and other cheese) and saturated fat:
Mascarpone cheese is an indulgently creamy Italian cream cheese with a subtle natural sweetness. The sodium content of this product is extremely low, at only 5mg per Tablespoon. However, it does have 3.5g of saturated fat in that Tablespoon. While a heart-healthy diet emphasizes plant-based oils, you can still have some saturated fat. Just try to keep your total daily amount to no more than 6 to 10% of total calories per day. For example, if you eat around 2,000 calories per day, you’d want to aim for no more than 13 to 22 grams per day. Remember, a healthy diet isn’t all or nothing. It’s about balance! You are allowed to have some fun with your food!
Sweet and Savory Flavors
- Including sweet and savory flavors in the same meal can add more excitement for your tastebuds
- Sweet flavors from fruits and dates, lightly sweetened plain Greek yogurt with honey
- Savory flavors like eggs, lean meats, vegetables, sundried tomatoes, garlic and spices in yogurt-based dips or hummus
If you have ideas for breakfast bento boxes, share them with me in the comments!
Mixed Berry Chia Jam and Mascarpone on Crispbread
Crispbread is a large, hearty cracker that makes a great vehicle for sweet and savory toppings. While technically Scandinavian, it fits well into a Mediterranean diet. My favorite crispbread is a gluten-free version from Trader Joe’s made from a variety of seeds. If you are looking for a lower sodium option than crispbread, brown rice cakes make a great replacement. This recipe is from Mediterranean Diet Meal Prep Cookbook.
- Author: TastyBalance Nutrition
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes, plus 1 hour to firm in the fridge
- Yield: 3 servings, plus an extra 2/3 cup jam that can be frozen
1 (1-pound) bag frozen mixed berries
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chia seeds
3 Tablespoons mascarpone cheese
6 slices crispbread (or brown rice cakes for a lower sodium option)
- Place frozen berries in a saucepan over medium heat. When berries are defrosted, about 5 minutes, mash with a potato masher. You can leave it chunky.
- Turn heat off and add the lemon juice, maple syrup, and chia seeds.
- Allow jam to cool, then place in the refrigerator to thicken for about an hour.
- If eating immediately: spread 1/2 Tablespoon mascarpone and 1 Tablespoon jam onto each of the crispbread or rice cakes.
- If meal prepping: Place 2 crispbread in each of 3 resealable sandwich bags. Place 1 Tablespoon mascarpone and 2 Tablespoons chia jam in each of 3 containers with dividers. Alternatively, put the mascarpone and jam into separate small sauce containers. Each slice of crispbread gets 1/2 Tablespoon of mascarpone and 1 Tablespoon jam.
Storage: Store crispbread at room temperature and chia jam and mascarpone in the refrigerator. Mascarpone will last 7 days in the refrigerator while chia jam will last 2 weeks. Chia jam can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Keywords: breakfast, meal prep, chia jam, mascarpone, vegetarian, nut free