When it comes to healthy eating, we know you're no stranger to the "preparation is key to success" mindset. However, anyone who has given this best practice a shot knows that meal prep is a labor of love. To make your weekly preparation less overwhelming and more routine, we encourage you to get in the habit of including these nine foods. This list is stacked with nutritious ingredients that are easy to prep and can be utilized in a variety of meals.
1. Skewered meat
Throwing chopped lean protein on a skewer is one of the best ways to stay in control of your portions. Four ounces of lean chicken breast has approximately 31 grams of protein, which is a great option for those midday hunger pangs. If you need a little something on the side for flavor, dip in a light balsamic vinaigrette, one tablespoon of hummus or a Laughing Cow cheese wedge.
2. Turkey and veggie omelette rolls
This make-ahead breakfast is what dreams are made of. Up to 50 grams of solid protein (depending on the ingredients you choose) makes one powerhouse breakfast to start your day off on the right track. You can prep two to three at a time so they're ready to go for your busiest days. Head over to Fit Men Cook for a killer recipe.
3. Spiralized zucchini
Zoodles may be one of the greatest healthy swaps of all time. When you can enjoy a pasta meal without the impact (and guilt) of heavy carbs, we call that a win. Zoodles keep for up to five days in the refrigerator, so this is a great ingredient to prep on the weekend and enjoy throughout the week.
Since this is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat (contains all nine essential amino acids), quinoa should have a regular appearance in your meals. Prep the high-fiber superfood on the weekend and keep on hand for breakfast, salads, side dishes and more.
5. Oatmeal jars
Oatmeal jars take make-ahead convenience to another level. Start your morning with a nutrient-dense breakfast that will keep you full until lunchtime. All you need is a half-cup of old fashioned oats and healthy toppings of your choice. Here are some great options from Clean Food Crush.
6. Slow cooker protein
Using a slow cooker to prep lean ground beef or shredded chicken is one of the greatest time-saving hacks ever. Keep your protein healthy by choosing 90/10, 93/7 or 99/1 (best option) lean protein to fat ratio.
While smoothies are already a great meal option when you're short on time, take it a step farther and make ahead and freeze for days you just can't deal with another step. You can freeze smoothies for up to two days after preparation. To thaw, refrigerate 30-60 minutes before drinking.
8. Beans and legumes
Beans packs a powerful punch for your nutritional count. Paul Saulter, MS, RD, LD, CSCS and Nutrition Editor at Bodybuilding.com couldn't agree more. Beans are "an excellent source of fiber—14 grams per 1/2 cup serving—and also rich in magnesium and iron, and a great source of B-vitamins (those that help your body convert food into energy) and calcium." Prep for the week and enjoy in salads, soups, mixed with veggies, or on the side of your lean protein.
9. Post-workout sweet potato brownies
Since your post-workout meal is one of the most important of the day, be sure you have a nutrient-dense option ready to go! We're loving these sweet potato brownies from Fit Men Cook. They're low calorie, full of good-for-you carbs, and pack in 5 grams of hearty protein. "Consuming carbohydrates after workouts helps to replenish glycogen stores – aka muscle energy – that have been emptied due to your workout. When you replenish, you feed your muscles so they can recover and grow." (Fit Men Cook)