Meal prepping is a practical approach to maintaining a healthy diet in our fast-paced world. It involves planning and preparing meals ahead of time, ensuring that you have nutritious and delicious food ready when you need it. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of meal prepping, provide tips on how to get started, and share various recipes that cater to different dietary needs and preferences.
Meal Prepping for the Week
Meal Prep Breakfast:
- Recipe: Overnight Oats are a simple and healthy breakfast option and great for prep meal. Mix 1/2 cup of rolled oats with 1/2 cup of milk and a spoonful of yogurt in a jar or container. Sweeten with honey. Add in your favorite toppings, such as fresh or dried fruits, nuts, seeds, or a sprinkle of cinnamon. Seal the container. Refrigerate overnight, and enjoy in the morning!
- Storage: refrigerate for up to 5 days
Banana Pancake Bites
- Recipe: Start by mashing a ripe banana and mixing it with 2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of milk, an egg, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. For extra flavor, feel free to add mini chocolate chips or blueberries. Fill a greased mini muffin pan with the batter and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 12-15 minutes.
- Storage: refrigerate for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.
Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits
- Recipe: Make Fruit and Yogurt Parfaits by layering yogurt, mixed fresh fruits, and granola or nuts in a glass jar. You can add honey or maple syrup and garnish with chia seeds or coconut flakes.
- Storage: store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. For longer storage, you can use dried fruit instead of fresh fruit.
- Recipe: Chia Pudding is a simple and nutritious dish that’s easy to prepare. To make chia pudding, mix 1/4 cup of chia seeds with 1 cup of milk and a sweetener of your choice. Add vanilla extract for flavor and let it sit overnight. Top with fruits, nuts, or granola.
- Storage: refrigerate for up to 5 days
- Recipe: Granola is a versatile and easy-to-make snack. To make granola, preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C). Mix oats, nuts, and seeds of your choice in a bowl, honey or maple syrup, vanilla extract, salt, and cinnamon. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 30-40 minutes. Let it cool, and add dried fruits like raisins or cranberries. Store in an airtight container and enjoy it as a breakfast topping or a crunchy snack.
- Storage: several weeks
Meal Prep Lunch
- Recipe: Quinoa Salad is a healthy and versatile dish, perfect for a nutritious meal prep. Cook 1 cup quinoa according to package instructions and let it cool. Mix with chopped veggies like cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and bell peppers. Add desired protein, like grilled chicken, chickpeas, or feta cheese. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Add herbs like parsley or mint.
- Storage: store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days
Chicken and Vegetable Bowls
- Recipe: Chicken and Vegetable Bowls are a wholesome and satisfying meal prep option. Grill or bake seasoned chicken breasts and roast vegetables like broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, and zucchini with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook brown rice or quinoa and divide it among bowls. Add sliced chicken, roasted vegetables, and a sauce like teriyaki, tahini, or vinaigrette.
- Storage: refrigerate for up to 4 days
- Recipe: Begin by sauteing chopped onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Add rinsed lentils, diced tomatoes, and broth. Season with spices and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30-40 minutes until lentils are tender. Add a splash of lemon juice or parsley for extra flavor.
- Storage: Lentil soup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Recipe: A Turkey Wrap is a quick, healthy meal perfect for a lunch on-the-go.Spread cream cheese or hummus over a tortilla. Add sliced turkey, fresh veggies, and shredded cheese. Season with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of mustard or vinaigrette. Roll tightly and cut in half.
- Storage: store in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.
Caprese Pasta Salad (VEGAN PASTA SALAD)
- Recipe: Caprese Pasta Salad is a fresh and flavorful dish, perfect for a light meal or side dish. Cook 2 cups of pasta (like penne or fusilli) according to instructions. Combine the cooled pasta with cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, olives, red onion mozzarella balls, and fresh basil leaves. Whisk olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Pour dressing over the salad and toss.
- Storage: This salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
Soba Noodle Bowl
- Recipe: Cook soba noodles according to package instructions. Mix soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, garlic, and ginger in a bowl. Toss the cooked noodles with the sauce and sliced vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, and green onions. Add cooked tofu, chicken, or shrimp for protein. Garnish with sesame seeds, cilantro, or basil.
- Storage: This food can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days
Couscous with Roasted Vegetables
- Recipe: Couscous with Roasted Vegetables is a simple yet flavorful dish that’s perfect for a light meal. Start by roasting a variety of vegetables such as zucchini, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and red onions. Meanwhile, prepare the couscous according to package instructions . Mix cooked couscous with the roasted vegetables. Enhance the flavors with fresh herbs like parsley or mint, a squeeze of lemon juice, and an optional sprinkle of feta cheese.
- Storage: refrigerate for up to 5 days.
Meal Prep Dinner
- Recipe: Chicken Soup is a classic, comforting dish, and It is a good idea for meal prep. Begin by sautéing chopped onions, carrots, and celery. Add garlic and chicken broth. Simmer with chicken until cooked (usually about 30-40 minutes). Remove the chicken, shred it, return it to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Add noodles or rice for a heartier meal. Garnish with parsley and serve hot.
- Storage: Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
meal prep protein salad
- Recipe: A Protein Salad is a nutrient-packed meal perfect for meal prep. Start with a base of mixed greens like spinach, kale, or romaine. Add a variety of protein sources, such as grilled chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, and chickpeas. For additional texture and nutrients, include a mix of chopped vegetables like bell peppers, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. Add sliced avocado or a handful of nuts like almonds or walnuts for healthy fats. Toss the salad with a simple olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper dressing. Optionally, sprinkle in some cheese like feta or goat cheese for extra flavor.
- Storage: refrigerate in separate containers (with dressing on the side) for up to 4 days.
- Recipe: Turkey Chili is a hearty and flavorful dish, ideal for a comforting prep meal. Brown 1 lb ground turkey, add onions and garlic. Add 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 can of drained and rinsed kidney beans, and one can of drained and rinsed black beans. Season with chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, and cayenne pepper. Pour in enough broth to cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. Add tomato sauce or paste for a richer taste. Serve hot with toppings.
- Storage: 4 days in the fridge, 2 months in the freezer.
Beef and Broccoli
- Recipe: Thinly slice beef (such as flank or sirloin steak) and marinate in a mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic for at least 30 minutes, brown sugar, garlic, and ginger. Blanch broccoli and stir-fry with beef. Add cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce. Serve hot with steamed rice for a meal prep-friendly Beef and Broccoli dish.
- Storage: Keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Recipe: Vegetable Curry is a rich and flavorful dish, perfect for a comforting meal. Heat oil in a pot and sauté onions, garlic, and ginger. Add a mix of your favorite vegetables, such as diced carrots, bell peppers, cauliflower florets, green peas, and spices (curry powder, cumin, and turmeric), and pour coconut milk and diced tomatoes. Let simmer until veggies are tender. Season and garnish with cilantro. Enjoy with rice or naan bread.
- Storage: Refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 2 months.
Spaghetti Squash with Meatballs
- Recipe: Spaghetti with Meatballs is a classic and satisfying meal. Make meatballs by mixing ground beef or a combination of beef and pork with breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Form this mixture into small balls. Brown the meatballs in oil and set aside. Cook a simple tomato sauce with garlic, onion, crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper, then add the meatballs back in to cook through. Serve with spaghetti topped with meatballs and sauce. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
- Storage: refrigerate for up to 3-4 days, or frozen for longer storage.
Meal Prep Tips
Meal prepping is a fantastic way to save time, reduce stress, eat healthily, and stick to your dietary goals. Here are some essential meal prep tips to help you make the most out of your meal prepping routine:
- Plan Your Menu Ahead of Time: Spend some time each week planning your meals. Consider your schedule to determine how many meals you need and what preparation will work best.
- Schedule a Prep Day: Dedicate a few hours one day a week (like Sunday) for meal prepping. This helps establish a routine and makes it less overwhelming.
- Batch Cook and Use Similar Ingredients: Cook large batches of versatile ingredients (like rice, quinoa, or chicken) that can be used in multiple dishes. This saves time and simplifies the cooking process.
- Make a Shopping List: Create a detailed shopping list based on your menu. This helps avoid impulse buys and ensures you have all the necessary ingredients.
- Invest in Quality Containers: Good storage containers are crucial for meal prepping. Opt for BPA-free, microwave-safe, and dishwasher-friendly containers. Having a variety of sizes for different meals and snacks is also helpful.
- Label Your Meals: Labeling meals with the date of preparation can help keep track of freshness and ensure you’re eating older meals first.
- Allow hot food to cool to room temperature before refrigerating to prevent moisture buildup.
What foods are not recommended for meal prepping?
When meal prepping, it’s crucial to consider how well foods will keep over several days. Some foods don’t fare well either in terms of texture, flavor, or safety when stored for extended periods. Here are foods that are generally not recommended for meal prepping:
- Leafy Greens and Certain Salads: Leafy greens like lettuce can wilt and become soggy when dressed in advance. If you’re prepping salads, store the dressing separately and only add it when you’re ready to eat.
- Avocado: Avocado tends to brown and lose its fresh texture relatively quickly.
- Cucumbers and radishes can become waterlogged and lose their crispness.
- Sliced apples, bananas, and avocados can brown and soften quickly.
- Fried Foods: Fried items like fish or French fries become soggy and lose their crisp texture when reheated.
- Seafood, especially shellfish, can spoil quickly and never reheat well. It’s often best to cook seafood fresh.
- Cream-Based Sauces and Soups: These can separate and lose their smooth texture when frozen and reheated.
- Dishes with High Moisture Content: Meals like zucchini noodles or dishes with many tomatoes can become watery upon reheating.
- Egg-Based Dishes: Dishes like scrambled eggs or omelets can become rubbery and lose flavor when reheated.
- Fresh Berries: They can become mushy and spoil quickly. It’s best to add them fresh or consider using dried or frozen berries for a longer shelf life.
- Mayonnaise-Based Salads: Salads with a mayonnaise base, like potato salad or coleslaw, can become watery after a few days.
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