Meal planning makes it easier to eat healthy

Two-Week Meal Plan: 42 Healthy Food Prep Ideas

By: Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES

Scientifically Reviewed By: Holli Ryan, RD, LD/N

Ever find yourself staring into the fridge wondering what to eat? Do you rush home after a long day of work, only to realize you have nothing prepared for a healthy dinner? That's where meal prep can save the day! When you're armed with prepped food for your week, you're not just fueling your body; you have more time on your hands, healthier meals, and even a few extra bucks in your pocket.

Let's talk about what meal prep is, different methods you can use, meal prep recipes, what to do if you like variety, and how long the food will last.

What is meal prepping?

Meal preparation, or meal prep for short, involves planning and preparing meals ahead of time. Often, the meals are fully cooked and in standardized portions.

Prepping healthy meals in advance can save time and money, and help you stick to your nutrition plan when it comes to portion sizing and weight loss goals, according to a 2021 study. Plus, studies show that meals prepared at home are more nutritious and are associated with greater intake of fruits and vegetables.

Having prepared meals in advance could also help keep you satisfied by helping you stick to a meal plan and reduce excess snacking. Listening to your body is important, though; there is a difference between hunger cues and snacking out of stress or boredom. Pro tip: saffron extract may make it easier by helping you resist the urge to graze after hours or snacking between meals.

Meal prepping can be as time-intensive or quick and easy as you like, and it can help keep you on track when life gets stressful. Here are some methods to consider:

Meal prep methods

  • Batch cooking—This is when you cook one recipe in bulk then portion it out so you'll have multiple meals
  • Tupperware style—Use your food storage containers strategically so you can quickly assemble meals from precooked staples like chicken, rice and pre-chopped veggies
  • Cook once, eat twice—As the name implies, double up your recipe and put half in a storage container for another day
  • Grab-and-go options—Always have foods on hand that are portable and can be tossed into a purse, tote bag or even your pocket
  • Convenience foods—Not all prepackaged meals are unhealthy; a can of chicken or tuna is a protein powerhouse, so maintain a fully stocked pantry
  • Pre-cooking foods—Tonight's chicken stir-fry can be tomorrow's chicken salad if you make enough in advance!

Do you eat the same thing every day when meal prepping?

Only if you want to. If you don't mind eating the same foods every day, go for it! However, if you're someone who gets bored easily, the idea of meal prepping may have turned you off in the past. That doesn't mean you shouldn't meal prep; it means you should choose a meal prep method that allows for more variety among meals.

For example, batch cooking might be a better fit for you so that you can save some for a later date, or incorporate food into several different meals throughout the week so there is more variety. Alternatively, you might be someone who can eat the same thing every day for one meal, like breakfast, but needs variety at your other meals. Batch cooking a couple proteins like chicken and steak to repurpose for the week could be helpful here.

How long does meal prepped food last?

Your meal plan recipes may vary in how long you can store them in the fridge. Most cooked foods will last three to four days in the fridge in an airtight container according to the USDA. For options that are freezer friendly, you can store foods for two to six months.

42 healthy meal prep ideas

Healthy meal prep might sound like just one more chore on your to-do list, but it doesn't have to be! (You can always meal prep with a friend to keep you company and provide an extra set of hands.) Consider these 42 meal prep ideas to spice up your week and prepare a big batch of nutritious foods ahead of time to set your week up for success.

What you'll need

  • Meal prep containers
  • Oven sheet pans
  • One large pot
  • One large pan
  • Spatulas
  • One chef's knife
  • A cutting board
  • Large spoon for serving

Breakfast

  1. Overnight oats: Whip up a jar of overnight oats by combining rolled oats, milk or yogurt, chia seeds, and a drizzle of honey. Toss in some berries and a dash of cinnamon, seal it, and let it sit in the fridge overnight. On busy mornings, this easy meal prep idea will be ready to grab-and-go.
  2. Gluten-free pancakes: Make gluten-free pancakes with almond flour, mashed bananas and eggs for a naturally sweet batter. Cook them until golden and top with fruit or peanut butter, and a drizzle of maple syrup for a balanced breakfast. These make an easy freezer-friendly breakfast for the whole family.
  3. Budget-friendly breakfast casserole: A flavor-packed, customizable breakfast casserole can be prepped in the oven or overnight in a slow cooker. Add potatoes, peppers, mushroom, and onions for a veggie-studded recipe that comes together in minutes.
  1. Nut-free banana muffins: Moist, fluffy, and safe for nut allergies, these breakfast muffins are a convenient snack or breakfast option. Enjoy the natural sweetness of ripe bananas. This healthy meal prep idea is perfect for a quick, nut-free breakfast treat on-the-go!
  2. Freezer friendly egg sandwiches: You can make these with scrambled or fried eggs, melted low-fat cheese, and optional breakfast meat of choice nestled between an English muffin. Prepare a batch, freeze them each individually, and reheat in the microwave or toaster oven for a hassle-free breakfast on busy mornings.
  3. Chocolate cherry chia seed pudding: Prepare this nutritious, no-cook breakfast in advance by mixing chia seeds, milk, chocolate chips, and frozen sweet cherries and letting it sit in the fridge. (This would also make a great dessert if you have leftovers!)
  4. Veggie-packed egg bites: Enjoy these fluffy, protein-rich bites filled with a mixture of colorful veggies. With a balance of eggs and veggies, these bites are a convenient and delicious way to start your day. Prep ahead, reheat, and enjoy a balanced bite-sized breakfast in a pinch!

Lunch

  1. High-protein chicken salad: This healthy lunch comes together in minutes if you buy canned chicken. Mix a can of chicken with chopped celery, grapes, apples, a little bit of Greek yogurt (or mayo if you like) with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. This pairs perfectly with whole wheat crackers or stuffed in avocado for a quick, balanced lunch to munch on all week.
  2. Adult bento boxes or "Lunchables" inspired kits: This is a great on-the-go option if you don't have a lot of time and enjoy a little variety with your lunches. Start with a protein option like deli turkey and string cheese, add some crackers for a whole grain option, and pair with colorful fruit and veggies for filling fiber.
  3. No-cook turkey lettuce wraps: Romaine lettuce works best here to create a crispy outer layer to this wrap lunch idea. Made with turkey, cheese, lettuce, and a condiment of your choosing, this is a great option that doesn't require cooking or reheating.
  4. Greek-style mason jar salads: Mason jars make this lunch easier to make ahead of time with a colorful layering of veggies and protein. Just make sure you put the dressing on the bottom to prevent the ingredients from getting soggy.

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Dinner

  1. Home-cooked turkey meatballs: These flavorful bites are made with ground turkey, breadcrumbs, egg, and seasonings. Oven-baked or pan-seared, these meatballs are versatile and perfect for pasta dishes, soups, and bowl-style recipes.
  2. One-pan teriyaki chicken stir fry: Include chopped chicken, colorful veggies, and a teriyaki sauce all together in one pan. Enjoy the convenience of minimal cleanup as you relish this stress-free meal that's perfect for busy evenings. This recipe is fool-proof and reheats well for days.
  3. Paleo-friendly salmon burgers: These pan-seared burgers offer a grain-free alternative. Serve between crisp lettuce leaves or your favorite paleo-friendly bun. Salmon patties are a great choice because salmon is high in heart healthy fats like omega-3s and low in saturated fat.
  4. Pre-cooked baked ziti: Whether you buy this one pre-made at the store or you make it at home so that it is ready-to-eat, this classic Italian-inspired meal offers the comfort of a homemade dinner without the fuss.
  5. Protein-packed Caesar salad: Crisp romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, and hard-boiled eggs come together to provide a high-protein meal. Topped with shaved parmesan cheese and a drizzle of creamy, protein-rich Caesar dressing, this salad is a combination of fresh, satiating flavors.
  1. Protein-rich fish tacos: A nutritious twist on a classic: grilled or baked fish with taco seasoning in warm tortillas creates a lean protein, low fat dinner option. Complement the tacos by topping them with pico de gallo, slaw, and a dollop of Greek yogurt or avocado lime crema.
  2. Low-carb spaghetti squash with meat sauce: Light on carbs without compromising on flavor, roasted spaghetti squash serves as the perfect base for a rich and hearty meat sauce. Made with ground meat, tomatoes, and Italian seasoning, this low-carb option provides a satisfying twist on a classic dish.
  3. Taco salad: Start with crisp lettuce as your base to build this savory salad with ground meat, shredded cheese, tomatoes, onions, and a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream on top. If you need a little crunch, consider crushed tortilla chips on top.
  4. One-pot chicken and broccoli: With the minimal clean-up of a one pot recipe, this chicken and broccoli dish can be whipped up to provide a delicious low carb meal. It also pairs perfectly with steamed rice.
  5. Tex-Mex quesadillas: Stuffed with shredded cheese, black beans, corn, and bell peppers, these quesadillas offer a satisfying burst of flavor in every bite. This healthy meal prep recipe reheats well, particularly in an air fryer or toaster oven.
  6. Salmon and brown rice bowls: Top these with veggies like broccoli, carrots, and avocado. To top it off, drizzle with a light soy or teriyaki sauce for a savory finish.
  1. Stuffed bell peppers: Ground beef or turkey, cooked rice, diced tomatoes, and seasonings to create a satisfying and hearty stuffing that is high in fiber-rich veggies.
  2. Instant pot butter chicken: Indian flavors come together to create this quick-pot dish. Buy a pre-made sauce to make this prep even easier. Serve it over rice or with warm naan for your meal.
  3. Freezer-friendly chicken and broccoli casserole: If you're looking for an effortless, creamy casserole that will feed multiple people for days, this is it! In addition to chicken breast, rice, and broccoli, you can add cream of chicken or mushroom soup to quickly make a sauce for this dish.
  4. Korean-inspired bibimbap bowls: This colorful Korean-inspired bowl starts with a base of rice and quickly turns colorful with sauteed carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts. Add a boiled egg and chicken or steak on top with a drizzle of gochujang or your favorite Korean condiment.
  5. Sheet-pan buffalo chicken and cauliflower bake: A healthier take on buffalo chicken, chop your chicken breast into cubes with cauliflower and toss in buffalo sauce. Serve with a sprinkle of blue cheese to pull the dish together.
  1. Lemon garlic shrimp noodles: Sautéed with garlic, lemon, spinach, and shrimp, this low calorie meal is easy to prep in minutes. Use a high-fiber pasta to make this meal more balanced and give it extra staying power.
  2. Sweet potato chili: Sweet potatoes are the secret ingredient in this sweet-and-savory combo of black beans, tomatoes, and chili spices. Top with Greek yogurt, cilantro, and cheese if you like.
  3. Slow cooker pot roast: Chuck roast is a surprisingly healthy option for a meal prep recipe as it is low in fat and creates multiple servings per recipe. Serve with potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery for a well-rounded meal.
  4. Marinated lemon herb chicken breast: An easy protein option to batch cook and then repurpose throughout the week, you could use marinated chicken breast on top of salad, shredded into soup, or paired with your favorite grain for a balanced meal.
  5. Mediterranean bowls: Drizzled with olive oil, Mediterranean bowls have chicken, rice, cucumbers and tomatoes, tzatziki, and warm pita bread. Low in saturated fats and loaded with heart healthy oil, we love this healthy meal prep idea.
  6. Cherry tomato and feta pasta bake: This healthy recipe was popularized on TikTok, and we love it for its simplicity. You can use high protein pastas made from chickpeas or lentils for a protein boost to give this meal more staying power.

Vegetarian-friendly options

  1. Quinoa, sweet potato, and black bean chili: Simmer protein-packed quinoa, heart-healthy black beans, and vitamin A-rich sweet potatoes in a flavorful chili base of seasonings. This vegetarian chili offers a satisfying twist on an American classic.
  2. Chickpea curry: Simmered garbanzo beans in a rich and creamy coconut milk sauce, this curry is a hearty, plant-based option.
  3. Black bean soup: Great as leftovers and easy to freeze, this hearty soup is high in fiber and protein, making it a winner for keeping you full for hours.
  4. Vegetarian stir-fry: Add tofu or tempeh to this dish for a vegetarian-friendly protein boost, and you've got yourself a balanced meal that is bursting with plants. Pack this stir fry with peppers, onions, and snow peas all simmered in olive oil for a heart healthy dinner low in saturated fat that makes great leftovers tomorrow.
  5. Cold peanut noodle salad: This healthy meal prep recipe idea is a chilled delight featuring cooked soba or buckwheat noodles tossed with veggies like shredded carrots and cucumber and then drizzled with a peanut dressing.
  6. Plant-based burrito bowls: Bursting with a colorful medley of black beans, corn, sautéed fajita-style veggies, and fresh salsa over brown rice, this burrito bowl is vegetarian friendly without compromising on staying power.
  7. Quinoa salad with roasted vegetables: This plant-forward meal can be whipped up in no time with a sheet pan of roasted veggies, a can of chickpeas, and cooked quinoa.
  8. Lentil soup: With a whopping 9 or more grams of fiber per cup, you can meet nearly half of your fiber goals per day with a bowl of this soup. Add carrots, onion, celery, and seasonings for a savory, filling soup that makes great leftovers.
  9. Tempeh Buddha bowl: Adding tempeh to this colorful vegetarian dish offers a source of quality protein. Finish it off with a drizzle of teriyaki sauce, avocado sliced on top and sesame seeds.

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About the Author: With over 10 years of experience in nutrition, Caroline is a media dietitian in the greater Washington, DC area. As a dietitian, she is the best at breaking down science-based information in an easy-to-digest way for consumers and healthcare professionals alike. In her private practice, she works with women who want to stop dieting and find confidence with food.

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