Low Carb High Protein Make Ahead Lasagna Jars

These little lasagna jars are not only healthy and tasty but also incredibly easy to prepare. They make a great meal prep option.  They can be stored for months in the freezer or kept in the fridge for 3 days.  I personally like to keep a few in my freezer as an option for those days where things do not go as planned and I need a quick meal. Just knowing they are in there keeps me from ordering take out or going to a drive through.

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Instead of noodles, this recipe uses zucchini.  I found slicing the zucchini thinly gave it the best texture. You can use a mandoline slicer or a shop knife.

Zucchini

While I used a jarred marinara (Amy’s brand) you could easily use homemade it you want.  Either way, make sure to pick a lower sodium and lower sugar option.

The most important aspect of this recipe is what you choose to store the lasagna in. If you plan to freeze these, make sure you use a freezable container. Also, it is helpful to use containers that are oven safe, that way they can go straight in the oven without dirtying another dish.   Wide mouth mason jars, Pyrex glass storage containers or Glasslock containers all work.  Just make sure you don’t put a frozen dish right in the hot oven, the abrupt temperature change can make the glass crack or shatter.

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Makes 6 pint sized mason jar servings.

  • 1 lb extra lean (99% lean) ground turkey
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves, minced
  • 1 jar Marinara Pasta Sauce (look for a lower sodium and lower sugar variety, I like Amy’s brand)
  • 3 Tb egg white
  • 1 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • ¾ cup part skim shredded mozzarella
  • chopped fresh basil

 

  1. Using a mandoline, thinly slice the zucchini. You can slice by hand, but the thinner the better.
  2. Spritz large skillet with cooking oil and sauté onion till translucent.
  3. Add ground turkey and brown.
  4. Add minced garlic, and cook for 1 min.
  5. Pour in marina sauce
  6. Meanwhile in a small bowl, combine cottage cheese and egg white.

Assembling jars

  1. Line up 6 containers. And layer half the zucchini slices in the bottom of the jars.
  2. Next add cottage cheese mixture to each jar.
  3. Then add meat and sauce.
  4. Repeat with remaining cottage cheese and then sauce mixture.
  5. Top with half the zucchini slices.
  6. If you plan to cook them immediately, top with cheese, about 2 Tb per jar, and bake at 350 for 15 mins. Or until the mixture is bubbly and the cheese is melted.Otherwise store in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 3 months.Top with cheese before cooking. (And I recommend defrosting before cooking if frozen.) You can bake for 20 minutes at 350. Or use the microwave (keep in mind the cheese won’t get all crispy and brown in microwave)
  7. Sprinkle with fresh basil and enjoy!

Nutrition for 1/6 the recipe:

Calories: 238 Fat: 8 grams Carbohydrates: 12 grams Protien:31 grams

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Overnight Chia Seed Pudding, plus 4 flavor variations

My overnight oats happen to be one of my most popular recipes.  However, we don’t always need that high amount of carbs in the morning. I set out to create something similar with a lower carb content.  I realized there are lots of savory lower carb breakfast dishes out there, but not as many sweet ones.

Vanilla Almond Blueberry Overnight Chia seed pudding with a dollop of cashew cream

Now do not get me wrong, carbs are not bad. I am not low carb, anti carb or anything of the like.  (I actually love carbs, but that is another article for another time) Sometimes, however, we do need some lower carb choices. (FYI these are not LOW CARB recipes, just LOWER carb)

Here is an example of a handful of times when I might encourage lower carb meals:

  • During carb cycling. Carb cycling is when someone consumes a higher amount of carbs 2-3 days a week and a lower amount of carbs on the remaining days. (I personally carb cycle, and need a lower carb option for my low carb days.)
  • When stacking carbs around workouts: For many people consuming their vast amount of carbs either before or after their workouts is helpful from both a performance and aesthetic perspective.
  • Ladies in menopause/perimenopause.  Sorry ladies, but as we enter menopause we can no longer tolerate the same amount of carbohydrates due to dropping estrogen and its effects on insulin.
  • Carb back loading, that is when someone saves the majority of their carbs for later in the day.The belief by consuming in the evening hours you are more likely to store the carbohydrates as glycogen instead of fat. (This premise also requires evening workouts)
  • When people who have a lower threshold for carbs. We all have our own individual amount of carbs that we do best with.  (The trick is figuring out your own threshold. You really need to find the highest amount you can eat, without gaining fat mass)

The basis for these recipes is chia seeds. If you are not familiar with chia seeds, do you remember chia pets? Yep those hair like sprouts were growing from chia seeds.  When chia seeds are mixed with a liquid they form a gel like substance, which is what gives these puddings their pudding like consistency.  Chia seeds are very high in fiber, contain a decent amount of calcium and magnesium and provide some omega-3 ALA.  Due to their very high fiber content, they can help to keep you feeling full and stratified for a long period time, which is part of what makes them great for breakfast.

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Chocolate Peanut butter Overnight Chia Seed Pudding

Since I needed different options for different people I came up with these sweet chia seed puddings.  These bad boys work much like my overnight oats. Put everything in a small mason jar, stir really good, and let it sit overnight (up to 5 days).  Save the toppings (especially the fruit) to throw on top right before you eat them.  I experimented with some cashew cream for the first time and it goes really (REALLY) well with some of the flavors, especially the vanilla-almond-blueberry.

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Blackberry Overnight Chia Seed Pudding

I made these puddings with Fairlife* milk to help keep the protein content up, but they still need a little more protein with them if they are to be consumed with breakfast.  You can add a side of egg whites, lean breakfast sausage, Canadian bacon, ½ a protein shake or whatever your little heart desires (just keep it lean).

*Fairlife milk is un ultra-filtered dairy milk.  It contains 6 grams carbs 13 grams protein, instead of the 12 grams carbs and 8 grams protein found in standard skim dairy milk.  You can replace this with any milk of your choice, just note it will change the macros.  I highly recommend choosing something high in protein, like a ½ scoop protein powder

It almost feels wrong eating these for breakfast, since they are so decadent. If you are not a sweets for breakfast kind of person these also make a great mid-day snack or before bed sweet (yes you can eat before bed, and many actually would benefit from eating before bed).

Go ahead and make these delicious treats and let me know what you think.

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Chocolate-Matcha Raspberry Overnight Chia seed Pudding

Chocolate-Matcha Raspberry

2 Tb Chia seeds

½ cup nonfat Fairlife milk

1 tsp maple syrup

1 Tb cacao or unsweetened dark cocoa powder

¼ tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp matcha

toppers:

raspberries

Place all ingredients, except for the toppers, in a mason jar and stir very well.  Making sure to incorporate all the chia seeds.  Place top on it, and store in fridge overnight and up to 5 days.  When planning to eat, give a good stir and add any desired toppers.

1 serving contains: 231 calories, 10 g fat, 26 g carbs, and 12 g protein

Blackberry

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Blackberry Overnight Chia Seed Pudding

2 Tb Chia seeds

½ cup nonfat Fairlife milk

1 tsp honey

¼ tsp vanilla extract

toppers:

1 Tb no sugar blackberry jam (like Simply Fruits)

blackberries

Place all ingredients, except for the toppers, in a mason jar and stir very well.  Making sure to incorporate all the chia seeds.  Place top on it, and store in fridge overnight and up to 5 days.  When planning to eat, give a good stir and add any desired toppers.

1 serving contains 240 calories, 8 g fat, 30 g carbs, 11 g protein

Vanilla-Almond-Blueberry

Vanilla Almond Blueberry Overnight Chia seed pudding with a dollop of cashew cream

2 Tb Chia seeds

½ cup nonfat Fairlife milk

1 tsp maple syrup

¼ tsp vanilla extract

toppers:

chopped almonds

dollop of cashew cream (see recipe below)

blueberries

Place all ingredients, except for the toppers, in a mason jar and stir very well.  Making sure to incorporate all the chia seeds.  Place top on it, and store in fridge overnight and up to 5 days.  When planning to eat, give a good stir and add any desired toppers.

1 serving contains 286 calories, 15 g fat 25 g carb and 14 g protein

Chocolate Peanut Butter

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Chocolate Peanut butter Overnight Chia Seed Pudding

2 Tb Chia seeds

½ cup nonfat Fairlife milk

1 tsp maple syrup

1 Tb cacao or unsweetened dark cocoa powder

¼ tsp vanilla extract

toppers

2 tb PB2 (or another defatted powdered peanut protein) mixed with 1 tb water

cacao nibs

Place all ingredients, except for the toppers, in a mason jar and stir very well.  Making sure to incorporate all the chia seeds.  Place top on it, and store in fridge overnight and up to 5 days.  When planning to eat, give a good stir and add any desired toppers.

1 serving contains 264 calories, 24 g of carbs, 12 g fat, and 16 g protein

Cashew cream

1 cup raw unsalted cashews

½ cup water

1 tb maple syrup (or honey)

vanilla

Cover cashews in boiling water for 15 minutes.  Drain and rinse.  Place in blender with remaining ingredients and blend till smooth and creamy.  Store in fridge for up to 1 week.

1 serving is 1 Tablespoon and contains 53 calories, 4 g fat, 4 g carbs and 2 g protein

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Lunch Hack

Almost every day I eat the exact same thing for lunch.  Bagged Salad.  They are so versatile and easy! They can be thrown together in under 5 mins and can easily be made ahead of time. I sometime make up 3 or 4 salads in mason jars to get me through the week.   I don’t always have time to prep some exotic exciting and nutritious lunch so I rely heavily on these salads.

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The chopped variety are hands down my favorites.  I find they tend to hold up well when prepped ahead of time then the more delicate salad greens, and they offer different veggie combinations, instead of the standard romaine lettuce.  The sweet kale and Brussels sprouts variety is my absolute favorite.  It comes with chopped (actually it mostly shredded) kale, Brussels sprouts and cabbage with a poppy dressing and dried cranberry and pumpkin seed topping.  The cruciferous veggies (kale, Brussels sprouts and cabbage) supply a healthy amount of vitamin a, c, k and folate.  Also, when eaten raw like in this salad, they are high in sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is a potent phytochemical that research has shown to have a positive effect on cancer and certain neurodegenerative diseases.

I’ve been able to find these salads at my local grocery store, Target and Costco.  All different brands, but comparable in taste and nutritional breakdown. Obviously the Costco sized one is the largest, but I’ve never had a problem finishing it before it has gone bad.

I just add in my own protein and croutons (because a salad MUST have crunch). Most nights, when making dinner, I cook an extra serving of protein (chicken breast or thighs, pork chops, steaks, etc.) and then I use the left over protein for the next day’s salad.   When assembling the salads, I tend to use a higher veggie to dressing/topping ratio then the bag recommends. Helping keep the fat and sugar content lower.  So if the bag says it contains 4 servings, for me that is usually 2-3 servings of veggies, and I just save the dressing and toppings for another salad.

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Mason jar salad for meal prep using bagged salad.

For meal prepping, layer these salads in a mason jar.  (Like I talked about here) First put the dressing in, then the salad mix (if using the hardier Brussel sprout and kale mix. If using more delicate greens, layer them last), next put in your protein, then top with the cranberries and seeds. Last but not least, put in whatever you need for crunch (I always add in 10 croutons).  Lunch is made! In under 5 minutes and if you meal prepped, it’s done for the week.

 

 

 

Make Ahead Mason Jar Lunches

Healthy lunches are hard when you are busy or not at home during the day.  It’s just too easy to run to the café or a nearby restaurant to grab something quick. So this week I have been I I would experimenting with some healthy lunches that you can make ahead of time.

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Mason Jar Cobb Salad

Food prep in mason jars has been all the rage lately.  My breakfast overnight oats in mason jars is one of my most popular recipes.  So I thought I would test some of these mason jar salads out and see if they held up to the hype.  Overall I was fairly impressed.   You can make a bunch on one day, vary the ingredients so you don’t get bored and they keep for a couple days in the fridge.

They last about 3-5 days in the fridge (to be honest, I feel 5 days is kind of stretching it. I would stick closer to 3.) The trick in making them is how you layer them. The order of ingredients is very important to keep everything delicious and not soggy.

Below are the basic instructions to making your own jars. By following these basic instructions, you can easily come up with your own versions. These are incredibly customizable and just like the overnight oats you can easily adjust for your own tastes.  I have also included a couple recipes I tested out below, a Cobb salad and a basic salad with quinoa.  (I am also testing out a zucchini noodle and quinoa salad.  If it is a success look for that recipe in a few days!)

You need wide mouth quart size mason jars. The pint size it just too small. The regular mouth could work, but it is just easier and less messy with the wide mouth.

  1. Dressing goes on the bottom. This helps keep the more delicate or absorbable ingredients from getting soggy.  Generally, I use 1-2 tablespoons.  But if you are dressing fanatic you can add more. Can adjust to your personal taste preferences.
  2. Layer the ingredients. After the dressing add the heaviest NON ABSORBANT ingredients, like carrots or cucumbers. Next add in any grains, beans or pasta. Then add in any cheese or protein. Next add in any soft veggies or fruit, like cut strawberries or avocado (if you are making these more than 24 hrs. ahead of time I would wait and add these the day of.) On top of these place any nuts, seeds or light grains (like quinoa! I layered the quinoa above the dressing in my recipe below and it ended up soaking up most of the dressing, so make sure you layer it up higher.) Last but not least, add the salad greens. When adding your greens, gently push everything down.  You want it fairly compacted to keep the layers mixing.
  3. Add perishables the day off. Things like avocado or fruit (or maybe hard boiled eggs) need to be added the day of (or at most the day before) I found in my experiments that anything more than 24 hrs. the avocado started to brown and the fruit started to break down.
  4. When it is time to eat: shake, shake, shake, shake it off. (sorry couldn’t help myself there). But seriously you need to really shake it up good.  Then pour onto a large plate or bowl and enjoy.  Technically you could eat it straight from the jar, but every time I did that I ended up making a huge mess. That might be my problem though.

 

After constructing the salads, tightly cap and store in the fridge.  When transporting them, try to keep them as up right as possible.  That will keep the dressing from mixing with the other ingredients.

 

Mason Jar Cobb Salad

Makes 2 quart jars

  • 2 Tb your favorite Ranch (I used Bolthouse)
  • 2 strips bacon
  • 10 grape tomatoes
  • ¼ cup grated carrots
  • ¼ cup sliced cucumber
  • 2 ounces avocado, diced
  • 2 large hard-boiled eggs, diced
  • 4 ounces cooked or grilled chicken breast, diced
  • 1/2 ounce blue cheese
  • 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce

Layer everything in the mason jar in the order listed above.  Pack it tightly and secure lid.  Will last 24 hrs. as is, if making ahead of time add the avocado and egg in no more than 24 hrs. in advance.  When it’s time to eat, shake it up really well and pour on to large plate.

nutrition:

calories: 357 fat:18 carbs:18 Protein: 30

 

Quinoa salad Jar

  • 1 Tb Vinaigrette*
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup garbanzo beans
  • 1.5 oz. grilled chicken breast
  • ¼ cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
  • 1 oz. avocado
  • 2 cups salad greens

Layer everything in the mason jar in the order listed above.  Pack it tightly and secure lid.  Will last 24 hrs. as is, if making ahead of time add the avocado and egg in no more than 24 hrs. in advance.  When it’s time to eat, shake it up really well and pour on to large plate.

(In the pictures, you’ll notice I layered the quinoa right above the dressing.  I don’t recommend doing this.  The quinoa absorbed a lot of the dressing and got soggy.  By layering it up higher, it will stay dry and fluffy) *I used a basic homemade vinaigrette.

Nutrition:

Calories: 380 Fat: 11 carbs:39 Protein: 32