Let’s be real. Sometimes a hot meal is just out of the question, especially when road trips, late-night work shifts, and nasty office microwaves get in the way.
But hey, that’s not so bad. You can still enjoy plenty of good food, and we aren’t talking about settling for cheeseburgers and curly fries on your next lunch break. These healthy, portable foods are ones you can prep ahead of time so you can easily toss them in your bag before rushing out the door. Stocking your kitchen with them is one of the easiest ways to stick to your healthy-ish eating plan (that one you promised yourself on Sunday morning). Enjoy them all week... no zapping necessary.
Meal-Prep: Hard-boil 10 eggs on Sunday, purchase a couple of avocados, and your breakfast is ready all week long. Not a fan of boiled eggs? Put a tiny bit more effort into your prep and make these super-easy tomato egg cups or bacon egg muffins instead.
Bonus Tip: They (boiled eggs and egg muffins) last in the fridge Monday through Friday and are just as good cold or at room temp as they are warm.
Meal-Prep: All sausage types can work here, but our favorite is chicken sausage. There are so many varieties (apple! spinach feta! spicy pepper!) that our taste buds never get bored. They typically come precooked, so all it takes is a quick sauté in a pan (about 8 minutes) to get them a little crispy.
Bonus Tip: With just a few veggies, you can create one-pan sausage meal-prep recipes or stir-fries that make for quick, healthy breakfasts all week. Change it up each day by enjoying one as a full link, slicing another into circles and adding to your egg scramble, and chopping up one into bite-size pieces and sprinkle over oatmeal for a savory touch (don't knock it 'til you try it).
Meal-Prep: There's so much to love about oats. Not only can you purchase a massive bag of them for under $5, but they're loaded with fiber and are one of those foods that will last you all week. From overnight oats in a jar to baked oatmeal recipes, you're ready for a run-out-the-door breakfast that doesn't need to be reheated.
Bonus Tip: These meal-prep overnight oats might be our favorite breakfast ever. See ya, microwaved oats that always explode in the nuker.
Meal-Prep: There's *always* room for bacon. Instead of creating a hot mess on the stovetop, cook the strips in the microwave with paper towels covering each layer. This is the only nuking you'll do all week because they last in the fridge for five days.
Bonus Tip: Our favorite thing to do with bacon is make a BLAT: bacon, lettuce, avocado, and tomato. It takes two minutes to throw together. Just be sure it's cool to use your coworker's mayo. And don't forget that you can add bacon to your egg muffins or crumble it up over the top of a salad.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Meal-Prep: When it comes to vegetables, some last longer than others. Kale? Not so much. Leftovers are usually wilty by morning. But sweet potatoes? Man, we could eat those babies all week... at any temperature. Meal-prep sweet potatoes by starting with three on Sunday: In a 425-degree oven, bake one whole and cut another into cubes.
Bonus Tip: You'll be able to eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner... and dessert (I mean, how good are sweet potatoes?!). Want a new sweet potato recipe that you've probably never tried? Make these breakfast baked sweet potatoes stuffed with peanut butter and banana (!!!).
Meal-Prep: Just like oats, quinoa can be batch-prepped for an easy breakfast, lunch, or dinner throughout the week. These hearty seeds can be used a million different ways, but our favorite trick? Just make a ton on Sunday and you can enjoy it for breakfast (just like oatmeal) with a dash of almond milk and your favorite toppings, or add spinach, veggies, and goat cheese for a way to round out your meal.
Bonus Tip: TBH, we like quinoa best at room temp or right out of the fridge anyway. If it's clumping together, just add a splash of water or milk and fluff with a fork.
Meal-Prep: Who doesn’t love a big, hearty bowl of pasta? And it doesn't always have to be a warm Italian meal. Pasta is one of the best foods to eat cold too. It lasts 3-5 days in the fridge, and your mix-in options are limitless. From summer pasta salads to vegan lasagnas, we think cold pasta is just as good as cold pizza.
Bonus Tip: Need more inspo than just spaghetti and red sauce? Check out this visual guide to the most common pasta types and how to cook them. Every single one is delicious right out of the fridge.
Meal-Prep: We know what you're thinking.... But I have to heat lentil soup! It's soup! We agree, but soup isn't the only thing lentils are good for. If you cook a few large servings of lentils on Sunday, they will last you all week long. To cook, bring 1 cup lentils in 3 cups water to a boil, cover, and reduce to simmer until water is evaporated, about 15-20 minutes.
Bonus Tip: Not sure what to do with all of those beans if they're not going into a soup? Create a filling hummus to use on eggs in the morning or with your chicken at dinner.
Meal-Prep: Chickpeas (some call them garbanzo beans) are underrated. While you might only think of draining them from a can and adding to a salad for that soft texture, we say give them a roast on Sunday. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, add chickpeas to a roasting pan, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake for 10 minutes. When a salty-snack craving hits, eat them right from a baggie or add to salads for a crunch.
Bonus Tip: If you don't feel like cooking the chickpeas, they're just as good right out of the can. Even better? Use them as a base in brownies... because we could all use a little more chocolate in our lives.
Meal-Prep Tip: The beauty of tofu is it picks up the flavors you cook it with. So no, you don't have to cook it, but it's a hell of a lot tastier when you add some sauces and spices. We think it's best tossed in a wok with bell peppers and onions, and a splash of soy sauce and olive oil.
Bonus Tip: If you're totally fine with eating tofu right out of the package, just be sure to store it in water in the fridge to prevent it from drying out. If you think tofu is boring and can't imagine not adding more flavor to it, this banh mi sticky tofu bowl will change your mind.
Meal-Prep: Whoever created canned tuna must have been a meal-prep master. Canned tuna is one of those ingredients you can bring everywhere, and you don't even need a fridge (as long as it's still in the can). You can toss a can in your gym bag for a portable protein source, but if you like to be a little more prepared, meal-prep it in advance by making a tuna salad with a touch of mayo, peppers, walnuts, and grapes.
Bonus Tip: Don't think canned tuna can make a good meal? Here are nine ways you can turn the chicken of the sea into a delicious meal. Warning: If you plan to eat it at work, you may get some stink eyes.
Meal-Prep: If you're cooking salmon for dinner, add a few more fillets to the pan, because this fish can last you for the next few days. Rather than heating it up in a microwave and making the entire office smell like a fish market, just eat it cold over a bed of lettuce with some sliced veggies and avocado. We also love adding it to an egg scramble. You don't have to have smoked salmon.
Bonus Tip: If you don't feel like spending last week's paycheck on salmon fillets, look for a frozen version that will be significantly cheaper per pound. Want to spend even less? Salmon comes in a can too.
Meal-Prep: It's not meal-prepping without chicken! Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with oil. Add chicken breasts, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until opaque on the inside. Let them cool and divide up into containers, so you can bring them to work all week.
Bonus Tip: Don't get bored with the same chicken every day. One day, add bite-size chunks to this cranberry walnut salad; the next, shred a breast and toss with buffalo sauce and chopped-up celery and carrots. Then get really crazy and roll them up in a corn tortilla with avocado and hot sauce for an easy take on chicken tacos.