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meal prepped meals

The following meal-prep strategies are pulled from Life Time’s first-ever cookbook, 1-2-12. The cookbook is based off a unique to Life Time, but time-tested nutritional system of consuming one daily protein shake and two whole-food meals per day, all within a 12-hour eating window. Learn more about the 1-2-12 system here.

Meal-prep personalities in this article:

The Minimalist The Ingredient Lover The Full-Recipe Prepster

If you’ve ever started the week with a fridge full of ready-to-go meals, you know that level of planning and organization feels oh-so satisfying — and makes healthy eating a whole lot easier. Yet despite what you might see on social media, there’s not a one-size-fits-all method for meal prep.

Maybe you’re a foodie who loves trying new recipes. Or perhaps you don’t mind doing some sautéing or roasting but are not really up for creating elaborate meals. Or, say, you’re someone who can barely find the time to eat let alone cook — what’s one to do?

Finding an approach that works for you (and that you’ll actually do) is the trick. As a nutrition team, we know the key to helping others be successful is to teach them the practical, day-to-day “how” of healthy eating. Many people know the types of foods they want to be consuming, and we want to bridge the gap between knowing and doing when it comes to meal prep and food choices.

Based on our work with clients — and what we do ourselves — the Life Time team of nutrition experts developed systems of “doing” for three common meal-prep personalities. They are all centered around getting a minimum of 30 grams of protein per meal because of the health benefits a high-protein diet brings.

The personalities include the following:

  • The Minimalist: This type prefers a low-to-no cook method that utilizes pre-prepared or ready-to-eat ingredients paired in the right portions for quick, nutritious, and simple meals.
  • The Ingredient Lover: This personality likes batch-cooking ingredients that they can mix-and-match in optimal ways, then flavor and assemble for multiple meals.
  • The Full-Recipe Prepster: This type makes use of easily scalable recipes that yield four servings, each with 30 grams of protein.

Each of these are detailed in-depth in Life Time’s 1-2-12 cookbook. Here is a glimpse at how to identify which one fits you and how you could implement the system into your routine — you may even mix-and-match methods depending on the meal, your week, or your current season of life.

The Minimalist

This is you if . . . you prioritize simplicity and saving time.

You’re someone who wants to minimize time spent in the kitchen but still values using food as fuel. You look to buy foods that require little-to-no cooking or preparation. Precooked proteins and precut veggies are your go-tos.

How do I meal prep this way?

For every meal, you’ll want to choose a food from the following categories: protein, vegetables, and healthy fats. If you’re active or have more muscle mass, considering adding a whole-food carbohydrate choice as well. Then, you’ll simply assemble or pair your chosen foods from each category together. This could include options like the following:

For protein: pre-hardboiled eggs, rotisserie chicken, organic and nitrate-free deli meat, or canned salmon or tuna

For veggies: salad mix, steam-in-the-bag veggies, or mini cucumbers or bell peppers

For healthy fats: olives, avocado, a guacamole pack, or nut butter

For carbohydrates: a hummus pack, fresh or frozen fruit, or heat-and-serve rice or quinoa

Pro tip: Since you’ll be making use of packaged foods, be sure to read the ingredients list and aim for quality items that are free of added sugars and refined oils.

Try it out:

  • 4.5 oz. store-bought rotisserie chicken
  • 1 cup frozen steam-in-the-bag carrots
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 tbs. grass-fed butter
  1. Prepare the carrots according to the package directions.
  2. Poke holes all over the sweet potato with a fork. Wrap it in a wet paper towel and microwave for three to six minutes, or until soft.
  3. Assemble the chicken, carrots, and sweet potato on a plate. Top with the grass-fed butter.

The Ingredient Lover

This is you if . . . you crave options and like to mix-and-match.

You’re someone who doesn’t mind doing some cooking if it offers you more variety — but you’re not going to spend hours in the kitchen either. You like to get creative with your assembly of meals and use of spices and sauces.

How do I meal prep this way?

Choose a few protein, vegetable, and starch sources to batch cook, depending on your activity level and goals. Decide how you want to prepare your items, whether that’s in the slow cooker, oven, or microwave, or on the stovetop or grill. (Note: You will not batch cook fats; they’re typically added during the cooking process or with sauces, marinades, etc.)

Once cooked, mix-and-match to assemble different meals — including at least one item from each food category in every meal — and add variety with various seasonings, sauces, or dressings.

Pro tip: To keep things efficient, choose multiple cooking methods so you can have your meals all cooking at once.

Try it Out:

Category Example Food Selection Example Flavoring Selection Example Chosen Prep Method 
Protein Chicken breast Balsamic marinade Stovetop
Veggie Arugula and beets Orange-balsamic dressing None
Carb Sweet potato Chili-garlic spice rub Oven

Balsamic Chicken

Makes 4 servings

  • 4 organic chicken breasts
  • Avocado oil

For the balsamic marinade:

  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. dried basil
  • ½ tsp. dried parsley
  • ¼ tsp. dried thyme
  1. Mix all marinade ingredients together.
  2. Slice the chicken breasts into evenly sized pieces. Add to the marinade and cover. Allow to marinate for two to 24 hours.
  3. When ready to cook, remove the chicken and discard any remaining marinade.
  4. Heat some avocado oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  5. Once hot, add the chicken, leaving space between each slice. Pan fry for four to six minutes per side, or until cooked through.

Arugula and Beet Salad with Orange-Balsamic Dressing

Makes 4 servings

  • 4 cups arugula
  • 2 cups roasted beets, sliced

For the orange-balsamic dressing:

  • 4 tbs. olive oil
  • 4 tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbs. orange juice
  1. Whisk together the dressing ingredients.
  2. Toss the dressing with the arugula and top with the beets.

Chili-Garlic Sweet Potatoes

Makes 4 servings

  • 2 to 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 tsp. olive oil

For the chili-garlic spice rub:

  • 2 tbs. chili powder
  • 1 tbs. salt
  • 1 tbs. garlic powder
  • 1 tbs. dried oregano
  • 1½ tsp. paprika
  • ¾ tsp. cumin
  1. Cut the sweet potatoes into large wedges and toss with the olive oil.
  2. Mix the spice rub ingredients together. Toss the sweet potatoes with the spice rub.
  3. Roast at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until soft.

The Full Recipe Prepster

This is you if . . . you want the most variety and prefer to work off a specific recipe.

You’re someone who doesn’t want to think about how to mix-and-match ingredients — you want to follow a plan. You appreciate creating a dish from scratch and may have a family to feed or like to be able to have leftovers. You enjoy having an inventory of time-tested recipes you can pull from to amp up the enjoyment of your nutrition plan.

How do I meal prep this way?

Select the recipes you want to make for the week and plan to batch cook them so they last for multiple days. If your chosen recipes serve four and you want to get 12 meals out of them, follow this guideline:

  • If you’re cooking one recipe, triple it.
  • If you’re cooking two recipes, double one recipe and make the other one as written.
  • If you’re cooking three recipes, make all three recipes as written.

Pro tip: This is another opportunity where, if you’re making more than one recipe at a time, choose recipes that require different cooking methods so all your food can cook at the same time. Look for recipes that feature 30 grams of protein per serving to help fuel your body.

Try it out:

Garlic-Seared Steak With Asparagus

Makes 4 servings •  Prep time 20 minutes •  Cook time 25 minutes

Garlic-seared steak with asparagus on a plate next to a bowl with a side salad and smaller bowls of pesto and parmesan.
  • 4 5 oz. grass-fed tenderloin steaks
  • Himalayan or Celtic salt to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
  • 2 tbs. grass-fed butter or ghee, divided
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus spears, ends trimmed
  • Optional: 2 to 3 sprigs fresh rosemary or 4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Let the steaks rest at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes.
  2. While the steaks are resting, smash the garlic cloves and set aside for about 10 minutes.
  3. Heat an oven-safe cast-iron or carbon-steel skillet over medium-high heat. Melt half the butter or ghee in the skillet and sear the steaks for four minutes on the first side. (Do not disturb the steaks while they are searing.)
  4. Flip the steaks over and add the smashed garlic cloves and the remaining butter to the center of the skillet. Place the optional herb sprigs over the steaks before transferring the whole skillet to the preheated oven.
  5. Roast the steaks for four to six minutes. (Four minutes for rare/medium rare, longer if desired.)
  6. Remove the skillet from the oven and remove the steaks from the heat to rest on a plate for 10 minutes.
  7. While the steaks are resting, return the skillet (with the melted butter, garlic, and herbs) to medium heat on the stovetop and add the asparagus spears. Sauté the asparagus for five to seven minutes over medium heat, until bright green and tender.
  8. Serve the asparagus alongside the steak and drizzle the remaining herbed garlic butter from the skillet on top of the steaks.

Bonus! Blueberry Blast Shake

No matter your meal-prep-style preference, as part of the 1-2-12 nutrition system, the daily protein shake is a staple for all.

Makes 1 serving

Blueberry Blast Shake
  • 1 serving vanilla Life Time Vegan + All-in-One Shake Mix
  • 1 cup unsweetened nut milk
  • 2 tbs. whole raw walnuts
  • ½ cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  1. Blend and enjoy.

Keep the conversation going.

Leave a comment, ask a question, or see what others are talking about in the Life Time Training Facebook group.

samantha-mckinney-life-time-training-registered-dietician
Samantha McKinney, RD, CPT

Samantha McKinney has been a dietitian, trainer and coach for over 10 years. At first, her interests and experience were in a highly clinical setting in the medical field, which ended up laying a strong foundation for understanding metabolism as her true passion evolved: wellness and prevention. She hasn’t looked back since and has had the honor of supporting Life Time’s members and nutrition programs in various roles since 2011.

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More From Life Time

The contents of the 1/2/12 nutrition kit, including the cookbook, shaker bottle, and glass meal prep containers.

Introducing 1-2-12: The Newest Thing in Nutrition

Thirty years of experience have taught us how to help our clients achieve results no matter what: A protein-first, nutrient-rich diet. Now, our formula for success is available to all in a simple, easy-to-follow kit — the 1-2-12 Complete Nutrition System.

Purchase 1-2-12

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