What is Meal Prep?
Meal prep is more than a food trend: It’s a handy approach you can use to make delicious, homemade (a.k.a…healthier!) food you’ll want to eat every day—without the wait. And with the holidays heading right for us, it’s a great way to take control of healthy eating habits pre-turkey, pre-holiday cookies and pre-overloading those high-cal plates to our heart’s content. Basically, it’s almost like organizing leftovers for easier breakfast, lunches, or dinners. There’s no singular way to do it, but three common types include:
1. Batch Cooking
Make big recipes at once (like on the weekends) and freezing or saving for use later.
2. Individually Portioned Meals
Divvy up portions into containers ahead of time so you can grab and go.
3. Prepped Ingredients
Do a bunch of chopping, peeling, slicing, or roasting beforehand and use those prepared components in recipes later.
Why Meal Prep?
Meal prepping can save you time and money since you’re buying and preparing home-cooked food ahead of time. Many people meal prep by shopping and cooking on the weekends, which may work better with your schedule than cramming it in during a weekday. Meal prepping can also make it easier to eat healthier (and lose weight, if that’s your goal) since the menu gets set in advance. You’re less likely to choose a not-so-great option when you’ve already had a healthy dinner at home, ready to go.
Where to Start
Before you do anything, you’re going to want to stock up on reusable, airtight food storage containers that will make your prepared ingredients or meals stay fresh longer and taste better by locking bacteria and odors out.
Once you have your meal-prepping gear, you may want to download a meal planning app, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
All set? The next step is picking your recipes. Before you do, consider these three things:
- Choose a meal you’d like to prepare for—breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Keep it simple by starting with one you usually eat out or skip altogether.
- Pick a day to do your meal prepping. Sunday and Wednesday are two common choices.
- Determine how much you want to prep. Experiment with prepping for two or three days before attempting five. You may not like eating the same thing the whole week.
If you’re planning on creating your own recipes, nutrition experts recommend making veggies or fruit at least 50% of whatever you’re prepping. They don’t necessarily have to come from the actual produce section, though: Frozen or canned varieties will last almost forever and work in nearly every meal.
The best foods for meal prepping:
- Frozen vegetables: peas, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, green beans, veggie pastas, cauliflower pizza crust, riced veggies, veggie-based tater tots
- Starchy vegetables: parsnip, cassava, potato, yuca, taro, parsnip, sweet potato, canned pumpkin
- Stiff fresh vegetables: celery, carrots, bell peppers, cabbage, radish
- Sturdy greens: romaine, green leaf (dress just before serving)
- Whole grains: oats, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, sorghum
- Pulses: chickpeas, lentils, beans, peas
- Lean protein: frozen or canned seafood, eggs, unsweetened Greek yogurt, skyr, reduced-sodium cottage cheese, shredded cheese, tofu, lean cuts of chicken, turkey, beef, pork
- Whole fruits: apples, bananas, oranges, clementines, plums, peaches, pears
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, PURE Mila chia, flax
Need some meal-prep Inspo? We’ve got you covered.
Best meal-prep recipes for breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it’s a good one to pick when you’re choosing which meals to prep. You want to make sure your meal is light, but also has good carbs, fiber, and protein.
Best meal-prep recipes for lunch
Salads and soups are anything but boring when you take the time to customize them to your liking. Regardless of what you pick, focus on lean protein, healthy carbs, and veggies.
Best meal-prep recipes for dinner
Add lots of color to your plate by loading up on all sorts of vegetables, including broccoli, peppers, and tomatoes, but go lighter on the carbs and grains.
Snacks and Meal-replacement smoothies
Another great grab-and-go option are make-ahead smoothies. They can be easy and filling meals or just an energy-boosting snack.
PURE Super Green Smoothie
Raspberry Gogi Smoothie Bowl
Chocolate Superfruit Smoothie
How long will meal prepped food last?
Prepared foods can remain refrigerated for 2–5 days or frozen for 3–4 months, depending on the ingredients. To play it safe and avoid foodborne illness, keep food out of the “danger zone” — temperatures between 40° F and 140° F. Sealing food in airtight packaging or storage containers will not only keep bacteria out, but also protect the flavor and lock moisture in.