Simple Batch-Cooking Strategies for the Holidays

Take a pre-emptive strike against dietary meltdown with these batch-cooking strategies.

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It’s not easy to stick to a healthy program during the holidays, especially with the never-ending social commitments that detract from your food prep time and threaten your nutritional resolve. Batch cooking is your timesaving secret weapon to protect you from seasonal temptations and feed you all week long without waistline regret.

These recipes can be portioned out in and of themselves to be reused throughout the week, or you can use the Replay suggestions to breathe new life into leftovers.

Big Batch: Roasted Chicken and Quinoa

Roasted chicken and quinoa

Makes 6 servings

Hands-On Time: 20 Minutes | Cook Time: 60 to 90 Minutes

Yes, you could revert to supermarket rotisserie chicken for a quick hit of lean protein, but what’s the fun in that? Cooking a whole chicken is much easier than you think, and it gives you a bounty of juicy meat to use for several easy-breezy meals. While your bird is roasting in the oven, whip up a big pot of quinoa as a healthy side that offers plenty of protein and heart-healthy fiber.


  • 1 (4-6 lb) whole chicken
  • 1 whole garlic head
  • ½ lemon, quartered
  • 5 fresh thyme or rosemary sprigs
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • oil, for brushing


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove package of innards from chicken cavity (if present) and discard or set aside for gravy. Rinse chicken and pat dry, then brush oil over skin. Loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers gently between skin and meat. Season flesh under loosened skin with salt and pepper.
  2. Remove white papery covering from garlic and slice in half crosswise. Stuff garlic, lemons and herbs into chicken cavity. Transfer chicken to a heavy-duty baking sheet or cast-iron skillet, cross legs and tie with kitchen twine. Roast about 15 minutes per pound, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F when inserted in the thickest part of the thigh. (Avoid touching the bone.) Cover chicken with aluminum foil during cooking if your kitchen becomes smoky. Remove and let rest at least 10 minutes before carving.
  3. While chicken cooks, place quinoa and vegetable broth in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cover, simmering until quinoa is tender and liquid has absorbed, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Spread quinoa on a rimmed baking sheet to cool and dry.

Nutrition Facts (per serving, without skin): calories 435, fat 12 g, carbs 38 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 1 g, protein 40 g, sodium 386 mg

Replay: Chicken Quinoa Soup

Chicken quinoa soup

Makes 4 servings


  1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 chopped onion, 2 chopped carrots and ½ teaspoon salt, and cook until tender.
  2. Add 2 sliced celery stalks, 2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms and 2 minced garlic cloves; cook 3 minutes more. Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes and ¼ teaspoon black pepper; heat 30 seconds. Add 5 cups chicken broth and simmer 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in 2 cups sliced roasted chicken and 2 cups cooked quinoa and heat through.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 314, fat 8 g, carbs 31 g, fiber 5 g, sugar 5 g, protein 30 g, sodium 283 mg

Replay: Chicken Quinoa Shawarma Bowls

Makes 1 serving


  1. Place ¾ cup cooked quinoa in a large serving bowl. Top with 1 cup baby spinach, ½ cup sliced roasted chicken, ⅓ cup canned chickpeas, ½ cup chopped cucumbers, ½ cup halved cherry tomatoes and 1 sliced scallion.
  2. In another bowl, stir together ⅓ cup plain yogurt, 2 teaspoons tahini, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon paprika and pinch salt.
  3. Top chicken and quinoa with yogurt mixture and a couple of tablespoons fresh chopped parsley.

Nutrition Facts: calories 579, fat 17 g, carbs 60 g, fiber 11 g, sugar 9 g, protein 40 g, sodium 395 mg

Big Batch: Pumpkin Turkey Chili

Makes 8 servings

Hands-On Time: 30 Minutes | Cook Time: 35 Minutes

A big pot of chili is the perfect batch-cooking project because everything is prepared in one pot (less cleanup!) This version includes pumpkin puree for a touch of sweetness, beans for fiber and ground turkey for plenty of muscle-building protein.


  • 1 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 lb lean ground turkey
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14.5-oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (15-oz) can pure pumpkin puree
  • 2 chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 (14-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14-oz) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels


  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Saute onions and salt until softened, about 5 minutes. Add peppers, zucchini and garlic to pan and cook until vegetables are tender. Stir in turkey and cook until meat is browned.
  2. Place 1 can tomatoes, broth, pumpkin, chipotle chili peppers and spices in a blender container and blend until smooth. Add blended mixture to pan along with remaining can of tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in beans and corn and heat through.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 334, fat 4 g, carbs 40 g, fiber 10 g, sugar 8 g, protein 36 g, sodium 445 mg

Replay: Chili Tacos

Makes 1 serving


  1. In a blender, add ¼ avocado, ¼ cup sour cream, juice of ½ lime and pinch salt and blend until smooth.
  2. Heat 2 corn tortillas in the microwave. Top each tortilla with ⅓ cup reheated pumpkin turkey chili. Divide avocado cream between tacos, then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds and fresh cilantro (to taste).

Nutrition Facts: calories 502, fat 17 g, carbs 56 g, fiber 9 g, sugar 8 g, protein 32 g, sodium 425 mg

Replay: Loaded Sweet Potato

Makes 1 serving


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Prick medium sweet potato with a fork several times and bake until tender, about 40 minutes. Slice ¼ inch off top of sweet potato and scoop flesh into a bowl.
  2. Mix flesh with 1 cup reheated pumpkin turkey chili. Spoon mixture back into potato shell and top with ¼ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream and some chopped chives.

Nutrition Facts: calories 460, fat 5 g, carbs 40 g, fiber 8 g, sugar 10 g, protein 25 g, sodium 290 mg

Big Batch: Broccoli Frittata

Broccoli frittata

Makes 6 servings

Hands-On Time: 25 Minutes | Cook Time: 20 Minutes

As long as you have some eggs and some staple veggies in your fridge, you can turn out a healthy dish in less time than it takes you to scroll through your Instagram feed. This frittata holds up well for several days when refrigerated, and a wedge will work wonders for any meal. Eat leftovers at room temperature or nuke slices at low heat (covered, around power level 5) for roughly a minute, or cover a wedge in foil and heat in the oven at 300°F until warmed through, about 15 minutes.


  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
  • 3 cups broccoli florets, chopped
  • ½ cup broccoli stalks, thinly sliced, tough outer skin removed
  • 2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Stir in cheese, thyme, salt and black pepper.
  2. Heat oil in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add broccoli florets, broccoli stems and mushrooms; cook 5 minutes. Carefully pour in egg mixture and cook 3 minutes without stirring.
  3. Transfer skillet to oven and bake 12 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center leaves a clean cut and liquid does not fill the cut. Use a thin spatula to loosen frittata from skillet and let cool on a wire rack. Slice into wedges or cubes.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 211, fat 14 g, carbs 8 g, fiber 1 g, sugar 3 g, protein 16 g, sodium 222 mg

Replay: Frittata Sandwich

Makes 1 serving


  1. Place ½ cup Greek yogurt or sour cream, ¾ cup jarred roasted red peppers, ⅓ cup marinated sun-dried tomatoes and juice of ½ lemon in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. To assemble sandwich, add 2 tablespoons of this spread (save the rest in the fridge for later) to two slices of toasted whole-grain bread. Sandwich one frittata wedge between bread slices and cut in half.

Nutrition Facts: calories 457, fat 19 g, carbs 46 g, fiber 8 g, sugar 7 g, protein 28 g, sodium 673 mg

Replay: Frittata Salad

Makes 1 serving


  1. Place 1 cup farro and 3 cups water in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 30 minutes, or until grains are tender. Drain well.
  2. Place 2 cups baby spinach, ½ cup cooked farro (save the rest for future meals), ½ cup halved grape tomatoes and ½ cup sliced yellow or orange bell peppers on a serving plate. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar. Top with five 2-inch-square chunks of frittata.

Nutrition Facts: calories 414, fat 22 g, carbs 36 g, fiber 8 g, sugar 7 g, protein 18 g, sodium 320 mg

Big Batch: Pasta + Steak

Steak on cast-iron griddle

Hands-On Time: 15 Minutes | Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Once you’ve prepared these two items, you are only moments away from a ready-to-go meal. Not a fan of steak? Replace it with an equal weight of pork tenderloin: Slice pork into ½-inch rounds and cook in an oiled skillet over medium-high heat until browned on the outside and only slightly pink on the inside, about 5 minutes.


  • 1 lb whole-grain penne or rotini pasta
  • 2 lb sirloin steak
  • 1 tbsp canola or grapeseed oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until just al dente. Drain well and cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  2. Rub steak with salt and black pepper. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place steak in pan and cook about 8 minutes (for medium-rare), flipping steak every minute or so during cooking. Remove and let rest 10 minutes, then thinly slice. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Replay: Pasta Steak Salad

Makes 1 serving


  1. Place 2 cups baby kale on a serving plate. Top with 1 cup cooked pasta, 1 cup sliced steak, ¼ cup sliced red onions and ½ cup halved cherry tomatoes.
  2. Whisk together 1 tablespoon pesto, 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar. Drizzle dressing over salad and scatter with 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts.

Nutrition Facts: calories 596, fat 27 g, carbs 55 g, fiber 11 g, sugar 3 g, protein 39 g, sodium 200 mg

Replay: Pasta Steak Fajita

Makes 4 servings


  1. Heat 2 teaspoons canola or grapeseed oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 small sliced red onion, 1 sliced red bell pepper, 1 sliced orange bell pepper and 1 medium zucchini (cut into matchsticks) to pan and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon fajita seasoning and cook 30 seconds. Add 2 cups sliced cooked steak, 2 cups cooked pasta and 1 cup jarred salsa to pan and heat 2 minutes.
  2. Serve topped with cubed avocado and cilantro.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): calories 350, fat 16 g, carbs 34 g, fiber 10 g, sugar 7 g, protein 23 g, sodium 334 mg

Bonus Batch: Sweet Potato-Pecan Energy Balls

Makes 8 servings (1 serving = 2 balls)

Hands-On Time: 20 Minutes | Cook Time: 10 Minutes

The holidays are saturated with edible hazards; take the edge off your hunger with this waistline-wise treat. These energy balls are easily portable and could be the answer to surviving the season minus the weight creep. Want a bit more protein? Blend in a couple of scoops of plain or vanilla protein powder.


  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup pecans
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup pitted dates
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • ¼ cup honey
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup dried shredded coconut
  • several pinches salt


  1. Add sweet potatoes to a steamer basket and then place in a pot with 1 inch of water. Bring water to a boil and steam until sweet potatoes are fork-tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from basket and set aside to cool.
  2. Place pecans and oats in a food processor container and process until finely chopped. Add sweet potatoes, dates, flaxseed, honey, orange zest, cinnamon and couple of pinches salt and blend until mixture clumps together.
  3. Using damp hands, form mixture into 1-inch balls (makes about 16 balls). Spread coconut on a plate. Roll balls in coconut and chill in the refrigerator until firm. Keep chilled for up to 1 week.

Nutrition Facts (per serving = 2 balls): calories 220, fat 13 g, carbs 27 g, fiber 4 g, sugar 16 g, protein 3 g, sodium 48 mg  

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