How many times have you said: You want to eat well, but you just don’t have time. The workweek hustle is real! But if you plan ahead, healthy eating doesn’t have to be so hard. That’s why meal prep has become so popular lately. By spending a little time prepping on Sunday or Monday and learning how to mix things up, you set yourself up to eat well all week without eating the exact same thing every single day. Your body gets the nutrients it needs and your taste buds never get bored—score! Ready to stumble home from work or the gym and find a delicious dinner waiting for you to heat and eat? Here’s how to meal prep the healthy way.
Pick a protein (or two). Grilling salmon? Throw on a few extra fillets. Slow cooking chicken thighs? Double up. The goal is to cook once and get enough protein to stretch across two or three meals. But don’t eat meat every day. Vary protein sources with beans, eggs, tuna, and shrimp.
Make a big pot of grains. Whole grains can take a little longer to cook, but the fiber and benefits are worth the wait. Over the weekend, put a big pot on the back of the stove to simmer. Brown rice, barley, or farro are all easy to make ahead and store in the refrigerator for later.
Prep your veggies. When you’re tired and hungry, are veggies the last thing you want to think about? Cut the excuses! Wash, trim, and prep in advance, so they’re ready to grab and go. You can slide a sheet pan in the oven to roast enough starchy veggies for several meals. (Store in a tightly covered container in the fridge for up to five days.) Leave prepped, quick-cooking green veggies raw—they only take a couple of minutes to steam or sauté, anyway.
Portion it out. You can leave protein, grains, and veggies in big batches. But if you’re counting calories, it’s super helpful to transfer the correct portions to individual containers—1 cup of brown rice, 4 ounces of chicken, lots of veggies, check! Plus, if you clearly label, you might be able to prevent that one family member from eating all of tomorrow’s chicken tonight. (There’s one in every household, right?)
Remix and refresh. Cooking is done, now comes the fun. Once you have your protein, grains, and veggies prepped, there are so many delicious combos to toss together. Try salads, wraps, grain bowls, zoodles, tacos, and more.
Season it up. Keep a variety of herbs and spices on hand to give each dinner a new twist. Or add a dollop or drizzle of low-sugar sauces or spreads for more zest. Try fresh-pack pesto, creamy hummus, or salsa fresca, and teriyaki, spicy peanut, or sweet chili sauce.
Keep it real. Meal prep does not mean you have to take Pinterest-perfect photos of containers. It’s really all about helping you get ahead this week, so you can enjoy homemade meals and make healthier choices. That could mean doing all of your cooking in one afternoon, or it could mean prepping one or two things a day ahead. Chop, drop, and lock it the way that works for you and your lifestyle.
Ready to try it? Here’s a healthy meal plan you can totally prep ahead, featuring wild salmon fillet, a pot of quinoa, and a whole lot of superfood veggies.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.