Meal prepping is a great way to save time in the kitchen and have healthy foods on hand ready to go. If you’re new to the world of meal prep, I’ve got you covered with these easy meal prep basics for healthy & versatile meals.
Meal prepping is a pretty popular thing to do, and for good reason! It ensures we have plenty of ready-made foods in our fridge to enjoy as snacks or to throw into recipes, and it saves us a ton of time in the kitchen (especially when we’re really busy throughout the week).
The key with meal prepping though is to not overcomplicate things. I used to feel really overwhelmed by it because I felt like I needed to dedicate hours to cooking up all kinds of things, but it definitely does not need to be like that!
Meal prepping is just about having a handful of foods pre-chopped or pre-cooked. Simple as that! My favourite way to meal prep is to prepare a few select ingredients that are highly versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. That way everything is fresher and I’m not eating the same thing for a week. (Well, I might be, but in different combinations!)
There are a few meal prep basics you’ll want to know if you haven’t done it before, so let’s go over them.
Go-To Ingredients for Healthy Meal Prep
It’s a good idea to select foods from main categories such as protein, starch/grain, vegetables, and fruit to be able to create well-rounded meals and easy snacks. Here are some examples:
- Protein: roasted chicken, homemade turkey sausages or burgers, salmon, roast beef or pork
- Starch/Grain: potatoes (sweet or white), squash, rice, quinoa, lentils or legumes
- Vegetables: I like steaming mixed veggies because they’re easier on my digestion, but you can also roast them for extra flavour. I love green beans, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, bell pepper, etc.
- Leafy Greens: having a container or spring mix in my fridge is always a staple, but I also regularly buy bunches of kale or collard greens, and they’re so much easier to use when they’ve been prepped.
- Fruit: Having pre-chopped fruit such as strawberries, pineapple or melon makes it super easy for snacking. We’re much more likely to eat fresh foods that we’ve already washed and cut up.
- Nuts/Seeds: I always have a variety of nuts and seeds on hand. Pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds are some of my favourites for making things like trail mix, basil pesto, homemade nut milks, and even thickening salad dressings or smoothies.
Easy Meal Prep for Healthy & Versatile Meals
You can watch my video below to see how I prep everything, but I wanted to provide a step-by-step breakdown of each of the things I prepped in the video. Watch the video:
It’s best to meal prep ingredients that take the longest first, so that while other items are cooking, you can prep the other things.
One of my favourite ways to cook chicken is by roasting it with some lemon and herbs. Here’s how I do it (double or triple recipe as needed):
- 2-3 chicken breasts
- juice from 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp each parsley, basil, oregano or rosemary. Get creative with your favourite herbs!
- pinch of sea salt and pepper
Lay chicken breasts on lined pan or in roasting dish. Squeeze lemon juice on top and sprinkle remaining ingredients. Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing or storing in containers.
I love using roasted chicken in salads, stir-fries, or as a simple meal with veggies and squash or potatoes.
Starch (Acorn Squash and Potatoes)
Squash makes an excellent starchy food to have on hand for throwing into salads or eating as a side dish. You can roast acorn squash by slicing in half, removing seeds, and slicing again into wedges. Alternately, you can just roast in cut in half. I keep the skins on because it’s a hassle to peel and they’re edible anyway!
Lay slices of squash on parchment lined pan and bake at 375 for about 40 minutes, flipping once in between. The squash is done when it’s lightly browned and softened.
Potatoes are another great starch to cook up and I love a simple baked potato! Piece your potatoes with a fork, wrap in foil, and toss into the oven at the same time as the squash and chicken for about 40-45 minutes.
I like steaming my veggies as they’re easier on my digestion than roasting in oil, but you can definitely roast them in the oven with some herbs for more flavour! Choose your favourite veggies and add to a double boiler for 10-15 minutes. Keep in mind that some vegetables will cook slower or quicker: hard vegetables like carrots take a little longer, whereas zucchini takes less time. Keep an eye that they don’t become mush!
There’s nothing better than having pre-washed and sliced fruits in the fridge! I love prepping strawberries by cutting of their tops and slicing into halves. Store in airtight container for 4-5 days.
Pineapple is another great fruit to prep and store in your fridge or freezer. Simply cut off the bushy head, slice off the outer rind, and cut into round slices.
TIP: Be sure to keep the inner core of your pineapple as it’s a great source of a wonderful anti-inflammatory enzyme called bromelain.
Kale and other hardy leafy greens are so versatile. I love adding it to smoothies, making kale chips, throwing into stir fries, soups and stews, and sautéing on its own with a little sea salt or balsamic vinegar. It pairs really well with eggs for breakfast!
I prep my kale by simply pulling the leaves off the stems. Store in a container in the refrigerator for at least a week.
I always have a homemade salad dressing on hand, and if I don’t have one pre-made, it takes less than 60 seconds to whisk together, so no big deal! Here’s one of my go-to salad dressing recipes:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp dried basil
- cracked black pepper
Whisk in bowl or shake together in jar. Will keep for 2-3 months, longer if kept in refrigerator (olive oil will harden).
It’s always handy having some kind of dip on hand, whether that’s hummus, olive tapenade, guacamole or salsa. Another one that I love more than anything is basil pesto: it’s so fresh, so flavourful, and incredibly versatile. It pairs really well with baked salmon or chicken, and makes a really quick and easy pasta dish.
Get the recipe here.
There’s really no right or wrong way to make trail mix, that’s what I love about it! Pick your favourite nuts and seeds and toss ’em in a jar with a couple extra goodies if you’re feeling sassy. Here’s a favourite combination of mine:
- pumpkin seeds
- sunflower seeds
- dark chocolate (I like this brand)
Don’t worry about exact measurements, just mix everything together in the amounts that you’d like (generally more nuts/seeds, less raisins/chocolate, but who am I to judge?)
I highly recommend using glass containers. Glass is easily re-heatable, and is much better than plastic for storing food as harmful compounds can leach out of plastic. Some of my favourite containers include:
Lock & Lock Glass Food Storage Containers: These containers are completely airtight, and available in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
Lids: I also really like these white lids as I find them less messy, longer-lasting, and easier to use than the metal ones.
Do you like to meal prep? What tips do you have for healthy, happy meal prepping? Share below, and don’t forget to check out the full meal prep how-to video here.