Meal prep has its perks, but sometimes it can feel like you're eating the same thing day in and day out. And bland lunches, mean opting for takeout more often. If you're tired of the grilled chicken breast, brown rice, and steamed broccoli grind, I've got you covered. Here are 20 mouth watering healthy seasonings and toppings to add to your weekly meal prep recipes without messing up your macros. Along with some culinary tips to help you become a master of flavor.
- Dried Seasonings List
- Fresh Herbs List
- Citrus Zest and Juice List
- Low Calorie Sauces and Dressing List
- Cooked and Pickled Veggies List
- How to Season Your Meal Prep
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Dried Seasonings List
Dried seasonings are essentially calorie free. They are made from dried herbs and veggies, that have been ground into a shelf-stable spice, bringing you a wide range of concentrated flavor.
Use a variety of dried seasonings in your cooking process - flavoring your proteins and veggies multiple ways - to keep things interesting. Or add them to prepped food to take the flavor up a notch, satisfy your cravings, and make your lunch feel a little less boring.
Moreover, including a variety of spices in your meal prep may provide some health perks (1). Explore your options, mixing and matching spice blends until you find what you like. Then keep challenging your taste buds.
Here's your complete list of seasonings to expand your palate.
10 Staple Spices
You probably have some of these in your spice cabinet already. These common pantry staples are widely used in recipes and enjoyed by most people, making them a fairly safe bet to try if you are new to the seasoning world.
- Black Pepper
- Celery salt
- Garlic Powder
- Garlic Salt
- Lemon pepper
- Onion Powder
- Onion Salt
Skip the salt in the cooking process to cut back on sodium and instead, add a sprinkling to your meal right before you eat. This won't add much sodium, but will really open up the flavors and bring some life to any pre-cooked dish. Try a nice finishing salt like Maldon sea salt flakes, or pink Himalayan salt.
8 Aromatic Spices
These fragrant seasonings tend to have a floral or herb-like scent and flavor that can bring a soft and unique taste to grain dishes, baked goods, veggies, and many proteins.
2 Spicy Seasonings
While many seasonings can add warmth and spice to your dish, there are really only two common dried seasonings that will turn up the heat. Use these in moderation to add some serious kick to your meals.
- Crushed red pepper
5 Earthy Spices
Add some warmth and deep flavor with more earthy tasting seasonings. These tend to pair well with proteins and more savory dishes - think stews, crackpot dishes, and chili.
- Bay leaves
- Dried Mustard
- Nutritional Yeast
3 Smokey Seasonings
Smokey spices are an easy way to add spice without all the heat. Plus their unique flavor profile can really transform the dish. Use this with grilled proteins, roasted veggies, and tomato based stews and chili.
- Chipotle Pepper
- Smoked Paprika
4 Sweet Seasonings
While these are not "sweet" like sugar, they can add a slight touch of sweetness and spice to your dish. Try some of these seasonings with baked goods, grain bowls, and chicken dishes.
- Fennel seed
2 Zesty Spices
Add some zing and a hint of citrus using either of these spices. Ginger can be used in everything from baked goods and smoothies to a curry, and sumac adds a beautiful lemony flavor to Mediterranean food, potatoes, or rice.
4 Exotic Spices
Get creative and out of your comfort zone with more hard-to-find seasonings like these. Used in many staple dishes around the world, trying some more international flavors can add a hint of Indian, Asian, or Latin to your meals.
- Achiote (Annatto)
10 Seasoning Blends
Seasoning blends pack the most flavor. Pair the following with a hint of salt and you're good to go! Try these different blends on various proteins and meals to see what suits your fancy.
- Chili Powder
- Garam Masala
- Everything Bagel Seasoning (already salty and does not need more salt)
- Schichimi togarashi
- Taco Seasoning
Fresh Herbs List
Fresh herbs and micro greens not only add beautiful color, but can also make a pre-cooked dish taste vibrant and refreshed. Plus, they are plant-based veggies, meaning they typically add a small punch of nutrition as well.
Wash, chop, and toss on top of any ready-to-eat meal to add freshness with small hints of bitterness that round up the orchestra of flavors in your meals.
You can also find dried versions of these for a similar flavor profile, minus the freshness.
Keep your fresh herbs packaged separate from you meal prep dishes to keep them from wilting and turning too bitter. You'll want to add them only when you're ready to sit down and dig in!
Citrus Zest and Juice List
Citrus juice and zest add a kick of finishing flavor, helping to brighten up everything. And its not just all about a lemon garnish over seafood, feel free to get innovative and try different citrus and food pairings to see what works.
Low Calorie Sauces and Dressing List
Think of sauces as the identity to your recipe. In culinary school, one of my chef instructors told our Soups & Sauces lab that, "the flavor of the dish is defined by how good a sauce is." Sauces add moisture, depth of flavor, and a specific identity to your meal - dullness be gone!
With this in mind, I highly encourage you to prepare or pick 3 to 4 sauces to add extra oomph to your meal prep, and dress your dishes with them. You can make your own or buy them at the store. Here are some easy to find, low calorie store bought condiments to try.
- Avocado Based Dressings
- Coconut Aminos
- Hot Sauce
- Light Mayonnaise
- Greek Yogurt Based Dressings
- Soy Sauce
- Sugar Free BBQ Sauce
- Low Sugar Teriyaki Sauce
Calories from certain sauces can add up quick, so be sure to use portion control and track anything additional. To help cut out too many added calories, watch out for sauces high in fat and added sugar by checking the nutrition facts labels.
Aim for less than 50 calories per serving to help keep your macros on point!
Cooked and Pickled Veggies List
Pickled vegetables have to be the most useful addition to any dish. Aside from the possibility of adding some bright colors, pickled veggies add an acidic component to your dishes, brightening the flavors of your overall food!
Aside from flavor, some research suggests fermented foods may provide many health benefits such as anti-microbial, heart health benefits, and positive health benefits for diabetics (2). Not to mention, these roasted and pickled veggies are fairly shelf stable - helping you get more mileage out of your produce.
- Pickled Cucumbers (aka pickles)
- Pickled Ginger
- Pickled Onion
- Pickled Radish
- Pickled Sweet Peppers
- Jalapeno Peppers
- Roasted Red Peppers
- Roasted Garlic
Learn how to pickle your own veggies with this easy pickling recipe!
How to Season Your Meal Prep
Individually, seasonings can add character to your food, but learning how to combine them is a culinary art! Good flavor is the balance of salt, fat, acid, and heat.
You can begin to master this by learning how to use flavor profiles - a combination of standard spices, seasonings, and aromatics that create a building block for cuisine types. Examples include Thai, Mexican, and Italian, all of which have distinct flavor notes we all recognize.
Here are a few flavor profiles to get you started.
Go the basic route and add lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper to any chicken or fish dish in the cooking process. Then take things up a notch with a garnish of lemon juice, fresh herbs (like parsley and oregano) to add some extra freshness.
Want to add a little heat? Swap the black pepper for chili flakes! Or opt for paprika or smoked paprika.
Try this with grapefruit and fresh mint on any whitefish!
Asian dishes use a combination of vinegar (acid), soy sauce (salt), and typically something spicy or sweet, or both!
Prepare your dish with garlic, coriander, and ginger and then toss in a splash of soy sauce, a splash of vinegar, and a bit of sugar (try honey, agave, stevia) to create a basic Asian inspired sauce.
Turn up the heat with chili flakes, sriracha, or gochugaru and garnish with fresh scallion!
- Hunan chicken bowl
- Sriracha honey sesame chicken
- Korean beef bowl with kimchi
- Tempeh garlic ginger soy bowl
Use a basic blend of paprika, cumin, garlic, onion, and chili powder to season while cooking. Then garnish with some fresh cilantro, sea salt, and a squeeze of lime.
You can also add a dollop of Greek yogurt to balance out the heat and add a smidge of protein.
Get creative and swap out the chili powder and paprika for more unique pepper flavors like chipotle peppers, smoked paprika, or achiote.
Indian style cuisine can feel intimidating, but once you grasp the basic seasoning blend, it's incredibly easy to make your own Indian inspired dishes. Not to mention, many store bought curries and curry seasoning blends can do a lot of the hard work for you.
Combine a curry seasoning blend with some chili flakes or cayenne pepper (adjusting the heat as you desire) and you're good to go! Garnish with cilantro and parsely.
You can make this flavor even more complex with a sprinkle of garam masala and some fresh ginger and garlic in the cooking process.
- Curried cauliflower and quinoa salad
- Paleo curried chicken salad
- Coconut curry chicken bowl
- Vegan veggie curry
Become a pro at deep, warm, earthy flavor combos by cooking with a basic blend of garlic, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cumin. Then add some heat with cayenne pepper or chili flakes and garnish with some fresh chopped cilantro.
You can also toss in some dried fruit for a little more sweetness and complexity.
This flavor profile works great with grain bowls, stews, and mixed dishes using hearty veggies.
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