10 Best Meal-Prep Foods
You’ll be SO grateful you did this.
By Stephanie Eckelkamp For Rodale’s Organic Life
March 31, 2017
Who has time to make lunch every morning before work, or a balanced wholesome dinner from scratch every night—especially when all you want to do is curl up on the couch and watch Netflix? For many of us, the struggle is real, and we end up resorting to less healthy fare as a result of our busy lives, or spending a ton of time in the kitchen when we should really be hanging with the fam.
The solution: Carving out a couple hours on Sunday to meal prep. Sure, it can seem intimidating, but when you know what key foods to focus on (i.e. the versatile multi-taskers), how to prep them (they don’t all need to be cooked!), and what to pair them with to create a meal, then the whole process is a lot more manageable. Plus, it’s a perfect opportunity to jam out to your favorite Spotify playlist. (Kick-start your healthy new routine with Women’s Health’s 12-Week Total-Body Transformation!)
Ready to get started? Here, the 10 best foods to meal prep on Sunday to make your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners a breeze.
Oatmeal makes one heck of a healthy breakfast. But instead of making a giant pot on the weekend to re-heat throughout the week (which can get kind of pasty), we have a better idea—meal prep some overnight oats. No cooking required!
To prep: Divide 2½ cups of rolled oats among five mason jars (1/2 cup oats per mason jar), and add toppings of your choice such as chopped nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, and even a little nut butter. Then, at night, add some milk to the oats you plan on eating the next day, and you’ll have a fresh grab-and-go breakfast by morning.
With its deliciously nutty taste and high fiber and protein content, quinoa is an ideal grain to cook in one big batch and use as a base for your lunches throughout the week. Just add some veggies and a protein, and you’re good to go!
To prep: Rinse 1 cup of quinoa; then add it to a saucepan with 2 cups of water or broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until liquid evaporates and quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Wait 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Makes 6 ½-cup servings. Store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 4 days.
Pasta is another one of those blank slate lunch bases that you can pair with just about anything. Make it a whole-wheat or gluten-free chickpea pasta (like this amazing one from Banza) for extra protein and fiber.
To prep: Cook up about 10 ounces of pasta, which yields about 5 1-cup servings. Different varieties and shapes of pasta have different cooking times, so follow package instructions. After straining your pasta, drizzle it with olive oil, toss, and store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 5 days.
For more fun pasta ideas, why not zoodles?
These little protein bombs make the ideal grab-and-go breakfast (especially when paired with a piece of fruit), salad topper, or a quick snack to battle that 3 p.m. energy slump.
To prep: Place 5-10 eggs in a large saucepan and add cold water to cover the eggs. Heat over high heat until just boiling. Remove the pan from the heat immediately, then cover and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Cool eggs under cold running water and store in the fridge for up to a week. (Here’s the best way to peel a hardboiled egg.)
Roasting an entire chicken is probably one of the most economical ways to eat organic meat, delivering the most meals for your buck. Pick away at it for dinner throughout the week, or add some to a snap-lid glass container with some quinoa and roasted veggies for a handy work lunch. Bonus: You can make a chicken stock with the carcass.
To prep: Follow this recipe to roast a whole chicken and tweak the spices to suit your personal taste. Store it in the fridge up to 4 days. Need some additional inspo on what to do with it when you’re done? Try these 4 quick meals you can make from a roast chicken.
Making a big batch of lentils (or beans) is smart, especially if you don’t consume animal protein, since they’re easier to cook than dried beans and super economical. For lunch or dinner, consider combining them with quinoa and roasted or sautéed veggies for a for a trendy (and delicious) grain bowl. Lentils are also great for bulking up pasta sauce as an alternative to a meat sauce.
To prep: Add 1 cup of dried lentils to 3 cups of water or broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Store lentils in an airtight container in the fridge up to 5 days.
Grass-fed ground beef and organic turkey make a great addition to the tomato sauce that you’ll add to your prepped pasta. You can also add cooked and seasoned ground meat to a tortilla along with some sautéed peppers and onions and a sprinkling of cheese for a quick fajita.
To prep: Simply sauté a pound or so of ground meat in a cast iron skillet with a little oil and spices of your choice until evenly browned, or form it into meatballs. Store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 4 days.
One of the main reasons we gravitate toward less snacks like chips and granola bars is that they’re insanely convenient—and often, addictively crunchy. Vegetables, on the other hand, aren’t as convenient. When you’re ravenous, are you really going to take the time to wash, peel, and cut a carrot? That’s why carving out that time on Sunday to chop up a variety of veggies that you enjoy can go a long way in warding off a junk binge.
To prep: Simply slice up a bunch of different crunchy vegetables (carrots, bell peppers, radishes, celery, green beans, snap peas, etc). Consider dividing them into individual containers or reusable baggies for easy transport to the office.
Cauliflower is one of the most versatile veggies out there, making it an ideal meal prep food. You can toss it in oil and roast it, morph it into cauliflower rice, turn it into pizza crust, or even turn it into a “pot roast.”
To prep: Since there are so many ways to cook cauliflower, keep your prep simple. Remove the cauliflower leaves and stem, chop into florets, rinse well, pat dry, and store in a zip top bag with a paper towel in your produce drawer. That way, when you’re ready to use it—for whatever—it’s ready to go!
It’s pretty much a fact, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts are the most delicious vegetables to roast. Along with things like beets, cauliflower, carrots, and shallots. But sometimes, when you get home from work, you have zero energy for chopping.
To prep: Chop up 5 cups (or more!) of veggies like the ones mentioned above, then either 1) store them in an airtight container in the fridge and roast up just what you need for dinner each night, or 2) roast up a big batch on Sunday to divvy up for your lunches throughout the week. For most veggies, you can toss them in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast at 400 F for about 35 minutes. For root vegetables, this is our favorite method.
The article 10 Best Foods To Prep On Sunday So Your Meals Are A Breeze All Week originally appeared on Rodale’s Organic Life.
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