How To Plan And Create Balanced Meals, All Week Long

To stay healthy, svelte, and full of energy, our friends at ChefSteps rely on fitness experts just like everyone else. And not just in the gym, but in the kitchen, too.

Enter Jef Nelson. The owner of Shogun Fitness in Seattle, Jef has a simple formula for balanced meals — a healthy mix of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, fibrous veggies, and a little bit of fat. To help clients stick to the plan, he recommends batch cooking a week's worth of these balanced meals at once. And of course, ChefSteps' Joule makes it easy to batch cook proteins like chicken, fish, and pork with juicy, delicious results you'll savor all week long. Plus, you'll have plenty of hands-free time to tackle the sides while Joule heats the meats.

Here you'll find a formula for creating these perfectly crafted, balanced meals — along with three recently added recipes to get you started. Follow Jef's plan and in one hour, you'll have cooked up a week's worth of nutritious lunches and no-stress dinners, packed and ready to go. A healthier, more energetic you is just a Joule cook away. 

Balanced meals are made up of four key components: protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, and fat. To build a satiating meal, divide your dish into equal parts lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and fibrous veggies. Then, top it off with a wee bit of fat — like a slice of avocado, a sprinkle of nuts, or a drizzle of olive oil. Jef's built out three killer, batch-cooked recipes specifically for Joule — all with enough power to get you through the day and enough variety to keep your week interesting. You can try them right now in the Joule app.

Editor's note: ChefSteps cooks sous vide with the Joule, a tool created by its in-house team of chefs, designers, and engineers. Joule is a Wi-Fi-connected device that you control with your smartphone. For more, check out Food Republic's independent review of the device.


You can cook your protein any way you like, but nothing makes preparing meat easier — or tastier — than Joule. Pop a week's worth of food in at once, and you know it's going to stay juicy and flawlessly cooked, even when you reheat it at the office.

If you have just one Joule and want to prep steak, pork chops, and chicken breasts at the same time, set Joule to 140°F for one hour. All three proteins will cook together and leave you free to tackle the rest of your meal prep — or whatever else you have on the agenda.

And of course, if you prefer a different level of doneness, you can use another temperature or cook your protein separately. Check out all of our favorite times and temps in the Joule app. Once the protein is done cooking, simply finish it for 30 seconds per side in a rippin' hot pan to get a nice crust. You can use a little oil or, to reduce excess fat, a nonstick spray.

Complex carbs

When building out meals, choosing complex carbohydrates like starchy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes will make you feel more full for longer. These foods don't just provide energy in the form of sugar but also nutritional bonuses like fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.

You can cook your carbs however you like. Try sous-vide potatoes and lentils or boiled yams. The world is your carb-filled oyster!

Fibrous veggies

Fiber is so darn good for you. Seriously. Beyond the well-known benefit of keeping everything...ahem...regular, fiber also slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed in the bloodstream, keeps you full, helps clean out intestinal bacteria, and has even been linked to decreased cancer risk.

For these perfectly portioned, batch-cooked meals, use fibrous veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and green beans. The key is cutting them into small, uniform chunks to ensure even cooking. Then, just pack them raw in your Tupperware. When you reheat your meal later, the veggies will steam in the microwave, removing the need for cooking fat and keeping your veggies nice and fresh.

Healthy fats

Good fat is good for you. Jef likes to throw in ground nuts, oil, avocado, or egg to amp up the flavor and provide just the right amount of healthy fat.

Put it all together

Now that you've got all your ingredients ready, it's time to pack up your portioned spread. Grab your trusty Tupperware and start with a palm-sized portion of protein. Next, add a fist-sized portion of carbs and a fist-sized portion of veggies. Top it off with a thumbnail-sized portion of fat. And there ya have it! You're set for the week. Simply throw these pre-portioned pretties in your bag and microwave when you're ready to munch.

ChefSteps comprises a team of award-winning chefs, filmmakers, scientists, designers, and engineers focused on revolutionizing the way people cook by inspiring creativity and encouraging expertise in the kitchen. You can also get access to all of ChefSteps' Premium content — including paid classes and dozens of recipes available only to Premium members for a one-time fee of $39. Classes include Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics, Fluid Gels, French Macarons, and more!