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Nutrition Coach Trace Shares His Go-To Meal-Prep Lunches

These bowl-based dishes are so easy to make, you’ll never skip a mid-day meal again.

image of a man cutting up bell peppers while smiling in the kitchen demonstrating easy meal prep lunches

When Tonal Coach Trace Gotsis first went plant-based four years ago, he was juggling teaching fitness classes as early as 5 a.m. with a full-time nine-to-five job. “Meal-prepping was super advantageous just in terms of keeping my sanity and not having to figure out what to make for every single meal,” he explains. (FYI: People who meal prep were shown to have a healthier diet with more variety and were less overweight and obese in a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.)

Lunch is an especially easy meal to skip, especially when you’re on constant Zoom calls or glued to your computer throughout the workday. Even when working from home (when a fully-stocked refrigerator is right! there!), three in 10 employees admitted to not taking a lunch break, according to a September 2021 survey. And more than half of Americans don’t think about what they’re going to eat for lunch until they realize they’re hungry, according to a 2019 survey; worse, only 27 percent of people then choose to eat foods that give them energy to power through the day.

But when you don’t eat lunch, your productivity takes a nosedive (picture that 3 p.m. crash), your blood sugar goes haywire (which can mess with your mood), you’ll likely miss out on key nutrients, and you’re more likely to overindulge later. Not to mention, skipping any kind of meal can slow down your metabolism, which can throw your goals off track.

That’s why Coach Trace wants to help you learn how to meal-prep his favorite lunches as part of the Four Week Fast-Track Challenge in January. That way, you don’t skip a beat when it comes to maintaining healthy eating habits this month and beyond.

a man spooning tofu and colorful veggies from a large bowl into a smaller bowl for lunch

Even though his schedule looks different now, Coach Trace still sets himself up for success every day by cooking at least part of his mid-day meals at the start of the week. “I like to prepare around three components: a grain base like quinoa; a starchy carb like sweet potatoes; and a plant-based protein source like tofu,” says Coach Trace.

He’ll cook enough for four to five days, and add in different produce and sauces to change the flavors up throughout the week. “That really helps me look forward to meals because it’s not like, ugh, I gotta eat the same thing again,” he explains. Plus, making those essential macronutrients ahead of time cuts prep down significantly when your stomach actually starts to rumble.

When it comes to lunch, Coach Trace loves a bowl—​​grain bowls, harvest bowls, power bowls, smoothie bowls, whatever. Not only are they easy to take on the go with you, he says, but they’re endlessly customizable. “I’m Greek, so I love the Mediterranean taste of this bowl recipe with chickpeas,” he says. And, while the coconut [dal] isn’t technically a bowl, “it’s almost like a soup—with the lentils providing a great source of protein—which I’m really enjoying as the colder weather rolls into southern California,” he adds.

Even if you aren’t plant-based like Coach Trace, these three-layered lunch recipes ensure that you’ll get enough variety in your mid-day meal to keep your brain firing on all cylinders, your energy up, your mood stable, and your cravings in check. Plus, there’s plenty of (plant-based!) protein in them to fuel your p.m. workouts or you can simply swap the plant-based protein option with your favorite lean alternative. Go ahead, ditch your plates and grab a spoon—you’re going to be bowled over by how good these dishes taste.