How to meal prep: Healthy meal prep ideas
Run out of last-minute dinner ideas? Fed up throwing out gone off veg? Then meal prepping is for you!
This latest food trend can be seen all over social media and is a great way to make cooking easy and enjoyable. By preparing ingredients or whole meals in advance, you can save a lot of time, money and waste. Plus it makes staying healthy much easier.
Here we share how to meal prep and enjoy a balanced diet, as well as a bunch of ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner that all the family can enjoy.
How is meal prepping beneficial?
Meal prepping has so many benefits. It is a convenient and efficient method of planning what to eat each day without needing to make last minute dashes to the shop.
Most of us struggle to fit cooking, cleaning up and enjoying a delicious meal into a busy schedule. But by preparing dishes in advance, you can still eat home cooked meals every day without having to spend time at the stove.
Meal prepping is also a big cost saver. You can plan out meals that align with your weekly food budget and avoid the temptation to order takeaways or tuck into a ready meal.
This makes it easier to eat healthy too. Portion out bulk meals to control the amount you eat and purposefully choose recipes that meet your nutrition goals.
It’s also much better for the planet. Many of us have good intentions of eating well during the week and end up filling the fridge with fresh food. However much of this goes to waste. But by meal prepping, you only need to buy the ingredients you need for each dish.
Easy meal prep substitutes
|Swap this...||For this...|
|A bowl of chips||New potatoes with the skins on or homemade air fried sweet potato chips|
|Sugary cereal with full fat milk||Overnight oats made with milk (or almond milk) and topped with berries, seeds, honey or nut butter|
|A chocolate bar||Fruit and peanut butter or homemade energy balls made from nuts, dates and coconut|
|Green salad with dressing||Salad leaves topped with chopped peppers, tomatoes, beans, sweetcorn and seeds|
|Chinese takeaway||Noodles with chicken, broccoli and peppers, and a soy sauce dressing|
Tips for meal prepping
Cooking enough meals for a week at once might sound intimidating. But with careful planning, it can be easy, enjoyable and make the rest of your week stress-free!
Here are some simple steps to follow to help you get started with meal prepping:
- Start small. If you’ve never meal prepped before, it can feel daunting to plan a whole week in one go. Instead, plan a couple of bulk dishes in advance and add more as your new habit becomes sustainable.
- Choose which day you’ll do your meal planning. Pick a day where you’re less busy and have time to plan, shop and cook. Most people choose a Sunday to prepare for the week ahead.
- Don’t be too adventurous. Stick to recipes you know well and feel confident at cooking. You can then experiment by adding a new meal to your repertoire each week.
- Pick healthy formulas. Balance your protein, fats and carbohydrates in each dish where possible. And make sure you get your fruits and vegetables into your meals and snacks throughout the day.
- Make a grocery list. Write down the ingredients you need for each meal before you head to the supermarket or do an online order.
- Store meals safely. Cool meals before putting in the fridge and store them in airtight containers. Eat prepared meals within 3-4 days or label them and pop them in the freezer.
Foods that work well in meal prepping
Some foods reheat or taste better the next day than others. Add these ingredients to your meal-prep list:
- Cooked meat
- Roasted vegetables
- Cooked pasta or rice
- Cooked beans and grains
- Fresh vegetables and whole fruit
- Nuts and seeds
- Sauces, salad dressing and dips
Avoid fried or crunchy foods that might go soft, or cut fruit that goes brown when not eaten immediately such as apples or pears.
Healthy meal prep ideas
Plan, prep and portion your dishes in advance with these simple ideas for every meal…
Breakfast meal prep is super easy and a great way to fuel your body with energy before the day gets started. Simple recipe ideas include:
- Overnight oats with nut butter, seeds and your favourite toppings
- High-protein pancakes (top with berries or bananas after prep)
- Yoghurt parfait with berries or granola
- Fruit smoothies (prepare the ingredients in advance and blend when you’re ready)
- Egg and spinach muffins
- Granola bars packed with seeds, nuts and dried fruits
- Breakfast sandwiches with baked eggs, spinach and cheese
Here are plenty of grab and go lunch ideas you can prepare in advance:
- Vegetable or chicken soup
- Tuna protein pot with hardboiled eggs and salad
- Pasta pots and salads
- Bulgar wheat or quinoa bowls topped with avocado, beans, fish or corn
- One pot stew with tomato, bean and peppers
- Soy noodle salad
- Mini quiches
Make these dinner recipes in bulk and store in the fridge or freezer for a quick meal after a hectic day:
- Shepherd’s pie
- Slow cooker stew
- Spicy beef chilli
- Chicken and vegetable curry
- Cheesy gnocchi bake
- Mexican wrap fajita filling
- Fish cakes
- Turkey burgers
- Sausage skillet
- Chicken casserole
- Fish and vegetable traybake
There are tons of healthy snacks that you can prepare in advance:
- Whole grain crackers
- Apples with natural peanut butter
- Protein or energy balls
- Oat bars
- Homemade beef jerky
- Crudite boxes and dips
Meal prepping is an excellent way to stay healthy, and take the stress out of cooking. By planning out your breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, you can enjoy nutritious foods without wasting ingredients and being tempted by takeout.
Add healthy foods to your shopping list to include in your meal prep planning. You can also get more tips and advice at LloydsPharmacy including the benefits of a Mediterranean diet, how to lose weight on a vegan diet or find out more about the paleo diet.