Not all recipes were made to be meal prepped. Learning how to choose a healthy, balanced recipe that tastes great and works for meal prep is essential to turning this into a habit.
Recipe hunting is a mouthwatering task. #Foodporn and delicious-looking pictures make you instantly hungry for just about everything. But before you bookmark a recipe that has an ingredients list longer than your usual shopping list, there are a few things to think about: How long will it take to prep and/or cook? How long will the meal last in the fridge? Will it taste good reheated? Does it have a healthy balance of macros? These are just some of the questions that Alyssa Gagarin, healthy chef, meal-prep pro, and the brain behind our 30-Day Meal-Prep Challenge, says you need to ask yourself when meal planning for the week.
We're breaking down what it takes to make a truly great meal-prep recipe, so you can use your time wisely and never waste perfectly good food again.
Photo: Michael Marquand
Balanced Plate of Macros: Protein, Carbs, Healthy Fats
This is actually true of any meal or snack you have. While, naturally, you can't create a perfect ratio on every plate, you should aim for a balanced mix of macronutrients: lean protein, satisfying carbs, and healthy fat. This will give you the most nutrition bang for your buck with each bite. Plus, you'll feel full and thwart hanger and sugar crashes.
Ingredients That Can Be Mixed and Matched
Depending on how many meals you're prepping for, your shopping list should be able to create, say, four different meals, with ingredients that make an appearance in more than one. This means less shopping and more flavor variations, so it's a win-win. For example: Maybe you pick Mediterranean-themed recipes and do Greek meatballs, grilled chicken, hummus, tzatziki, roasted veggies like peppers and broccoli, dill farro, and a cucumber tomato salad. All of these foods can easily be mixed and matched to create a new, yet balanced meal.
Items That Can Be Cooked In Bulk
Any meal-prep beginner will soon find out that it's a colossal waste of time to make a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Sure, you can use toppings and dressing in small portions to change up the flavor profile of a dish, but you'll be best served by doubling your batch of the foundation, such as the protein and grains. Foods that are great for large-batch cooking: chili, quinoa, oatmeal, ground turkey, grilled chicken, and roasted sweet potatoes.
Food You Already Have In Your Kitchen
Obviously, food shopping is going to be involved in meal prep, but that doesn't mean you have to walk away spending double what you normally would on foods you barely even knew existed before this challenge. Nope. Instead, go rummaging around in your fridge and pantry and make note of what you already have that could almost make a meal. You'll save cash and effort, and it will train you to be resourceful. (Although, you should have these 15 healthy foods in your kitchen at all times.)
For more meal-prep tips, tricks, hacks, recipes, and more, join the 30-Day Meal-Prep Challenge. It's perfect for beginners or anyone who wants to recharge their healthy eating habits.