When you’re at the top of your game, you might spend your Sunday afternoon meal prepping. Is there anything more satisfying than opening your fridge on Monday morning to rows of neatly stacked containers full of ready-to-eat lunches and dinners? But sometimes meal prep backfires. The best meal prep foods are those that last a long time (or at least a week).
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.
2. sweet potatoes
Cording is a big fan of sweet potatoes, 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.
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.
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.
Are eggs healthy? A dietitian explains:
As for greens, Cording says kale is the hardiest. “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.
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.
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.
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.
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