If you make a week's worth of salads for lunch on Sunday, chances are the lettuce will be soggy and limp by Thursday. And it doesn't make much sense to slice open an avocado or banana until you're literally about to eat it unless you think you'll be hungry for a plant a brown mush. The key to efficient, healthy meal prep is to know which foods really go the distance.
The best meal prep foods that last a long time
"Chickpeas, black beans, and cannelloni beans are some of my personal meal prep favorites and they’re easy to make in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot," says registered dietitian Jessica Cording, RD, author of The Little Book of Game Changers. Cording loves a plant-based protein full of fiber, complex carbs, and other important minerals. They can be incorporated in so many ways, too, from stews and soups to burritos and salads.
Recipe to try: Veggiekins' Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies, which adds fiber and plant protein your dessert
2. sweet potatoes
Cording always puts sweet potatoes on her meal prep grocery list, which typically hold up in the fridge well for a full week. And they're a good sources of antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. Simple Healthy Delish blogger Leanne Miyasaki says sweet potatoes are one of her favorites, too. "I utilize the steam basket on top of the rice cooker to perfectly steam sweet potatoes," she says. Then, they're ready to go for breakfast, topped with ghee and cinnamon, or a side for lunch or dinner.
Recipe to try: The Simple Veganista's Chili Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, which piles fresh-out-of-the-oven potatoes with leftover chili and avocados
Miyasaki always makes a big batch of rice to use throughout the week. "It definitely never gets soggy!" she says. But Miyaski says rice does dry out. To combat this, she recommends placing a damp paper towel over the rice when reheating it to restore a fluffy texture. Make a big batch in a rice cooker and you have the healthy grain on hand to use in bowls, stir-fries, or to eat as a side dish throughout the week.
Recipe to try: Well Plated by Erin's Broccoli Rice Casserole, which combines brown rice, broccoli, carrots, and other wholesome ingredients for a comforting meal
4. boiled eggs
Healthy food experts love eggs because they're full of healthy fats, protein, and other nutrients. Miyaski says they hold up well when they're hard boiled, too. "I recommend leaving the shell on when storing as peeled eggs have tendency to absorb other odors found in the fridge," she says.
Recipe to try: Feasting at Home's Hard Boiled Eggs with Fresh Herbs and Pickled Shallots, which adds a blast of flavor to the protein-packed food
As for greens, Cording says kale is the hardiest. (No meal prep grocery list is complete without greens!) "Even if you cook it or massage it into a salad, it tends to hold up well," she says. You can use it in salads, stews, soups, sandwiches, and wraps.
Recipe to try: Minimalist Baker's Kale Chickpea Caesar Salad, which features kale, crispy baked chickpeas, and a cashew-based dressing
If you want to meal prep your breakfasts as well as your lunches and dinners, registered dietitian Jenna Gorham, RD, recommends making a batch of oats. "Oats are perfect for easy, healthy breakfasts in the morning," she says. "Store individual servings in mason jars and top them with your favorite toppings." Try adding diced apples, raisins, and cinnamon for something delicious.
Recipe to try: Eating Bird Food's Healthy Oatmeal Cookies, which use fiber-packed oats, applesauce, and coconut sugar for a healthy and delicious dessert
7. Pulled chicken
If you eat meat, Gorham says meal-prepping chicken is a healthy, versatile protein that won't go bad too quickly. "You can easily prep chicken over the stove or in the Crockpot," she says. She incorporates chicken in a wide range of meals including salads, wraps, tacos, and pizza.
Recipe to try: Veronika's Kitchen's Healthy Chicken Avocado Wraps, which contain shredded chicken, lettuce, tomato, and avocado
8. roasted veggies
"I like to roast sweet potatoes and carrots or brussels sprouts and broccoli and keep them on hand to add to lunches or dinners," says Gorham. You can eat them cold, but you can also quickly reheat them and have as a side for dinner or add them to soups and stews.
Recipe to try: JoyFoodSunshine's Baked Crispy Tofu & Peanut Sauce Stir-Fry, which is loaded with flavor thanks to the creamy peanut sauce
9. Canned tomatoes
There are so many different ways to use canned tomatoes. "They're convenient to have on hand and make an easy addition to pasta, burritos, and soup," says Erica Ingraham, RDN. They're also loaded with lycopene, which is a potent antioxidant.
Recipe to try: Gimme Delicious' Veggie Burrito Bowls with Chipotle Sauce, which calls for diced tomatoes, black beans, rice, and plenty of spices
10. Hearts of palm
If you've yet to try hearts of palms, now's the time. "I love these for my crabless crab cakes," says Casey Means, MD, a practicing physician specializing in nutrition and disease prevention. "I make them completely plant-based by using vegan mayo, and make them grain-free by using almond flour instead of gluten-free bread crumbs.”
Recipe to try: Vegan Huggs' Vegan Crab Cakes, which uses hearts of palm, chickpeas, kelp granules, and other ingredients to make them taste like the traditional Maryland version
11. Canned corn
There's a simple reason why Ingraham loves canned corn. Because of its neutral flavor, it can be used in a wide range of recipes. "It can freshen up a salad or make a nice addition for tacos," she says.
Recipe to try: Running on Real Food's Black Bean Corn Salad, which can either be eaten as-is or enjoyed as a taco topping
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