18 healthy meal prep ideas
Get ahead with our easy meal prep recipes for lunch or dinner. Make them in advance and enjoy all week, from healthy pasta salads to nourishing curries, soups and roast veg.
Whether you're looking to eat a little healthier, save money on food or minimise waste, the pros of preparing your meals ahead are endless. And when it comes to pre-portioned lunches and fuss-free dinners, we have all the healthy recipes you need.
Not only will you cut down on time spent in the kitchen with our tasty make-ahead meals, you'll give yourself a nutritional boost, too. Our healthy dishes are created to give you a good dose of protein, veggies, carbohydrates and everything else you need to feel energised all day.
1. Meal prep pasta salads
Make three healthy takes on pasta salad in one go – salmon pasta, chicken pasta and aubergine pasta – ready to be boxed up and popped into the fridge for lunch on consecutive days.
If you prefer something hot, our big-batch bolognese recipe makes a whopping 12 servings and freezes beautifully – simply reheat and serve over cooked wholemeal pasta.
Read our review of the best food storage containers for packed lunches and leftovers to find out more.
2. Meal prep rice salads
Wholegrain rice is a meal-prep favourite and can be flavoured with all sorts of delicious ingredients. Our easy meal prep rice recipe uses a base made from brown basmati rice mixed with herbs, onion and a zingy cider vinegar dressing. Split the base into two pots and top one with a healthy tuna salad and the other with crumbled feta, beetroot and crushed walnuts.
Find out how we choose the best meal prep containers and get our recommendations on which to buy.
3. Big-batch soups
Set aside an hour on Sunday to make a big batch of healthy soup, freeze individual portions in freezer-and-microwave-friendly containers, then feel smug in the knowledge that your lunches are sorted for the week ahead.
Read our review of the best flasks and thermal cups for drinks and soup, then pack yours to go.
4. Hearty quinoa salad
Versatile quinoa is easy to cook ahead and keep stored in the fridge. It's delicious with meat, fish or veggies and packs a serious protein punch, making it an excellent option for pre- or post-workout meals. For a fresh and zesty dish, try our Peruvian-style chicken, avocado & quinoa salad.
When it comes to frying meat, you need a top quality pan. Read our review of the best non-stick frying pans to see our favourites.
5. Vegan shepherd’s pie
Our individually portioned vegan shepherd's pies are packed with veggies and chickpeas, and topped with crispy potatoes. Make eight pies and stash in the freezer, ready to be pulled out when you want a low-calorie, low-fat, healthy dinner.
Don't forget to check out our review of the best pie dishes to buy, with our tips on choosing between ceramic or enamel.
6. Keto frittata
For a keto-friendly meal, fry up our tarragon, mushroom & sausage frittata. It's filling enough for lunch or dinner, delicious eaten hot or cold, and won't cause your energy levels to slump in the afternoon.
If you're watching your carb intake, we have lots more ketogenic diet recipes which have been chosen by a nutritionist to supply no more than 15g of carbohydrate per serving.
To cook your frittata, it's important to have a pan that distributes heat evenly. We tested all the big name brands – read our review of the best non-stick frying pans to find our favourites.
Fishcakes are robust enough to make ahead and pack for lunch, or you can pop them uncooked into the freezer to keep for another time. Once you know how to make them, it's easy to switch up the fish and the flavours depending on what you fancy.
Tinned tuna is an incredibly versatile ingredient that's ideal for meal prep. Keep some in the cupboard and give our tinned tuna recipes a go.
Read our review of the best food containers for freezing, defrosting and storing your meals.
8. Nourishing curry
Our vegan spinach & sweet potato dhal makes for a comforting weeknight dinner – and packs up just as well for another day. It's rich in iron but low in fat and calories, so you're guaranteed to feel great after you eat a bowl.
Be inspired by our healthy curry recipes. We have a freezable chicken korma and paneer jalfrezi with rice that will keep for three days in the fridge – both become more delicious and flavoursome over time. Just be sure to reheat thoroughly and safely.
9. Wraps and burritos
A tortilla or wrap filled with plenty of veggies and protein is a great way to fill up for lunch or dinner. Our spicy rice burritos are stuffed with avocado, sweetcorn, lettuce and tomato rice – they keep overnight in the fridge and make an excellent option for a take-to-work lunch.
Not vegetarian? Then try our spicy chicken and avocado wraps. Lean chicken breast is pan-friend with chilli, garlic and lime, and piled into seeded wraps to make a fabulous alternative to your standard sarnie.
If you regularly cook rice, you may want to invest in a rice cooker. Read our review of the best rice cookers for making perfectly fluffy grains.
10. Noodle salad
If all you have time for is assembling a few ingredients then a noodle salad is a great way to go. Cook your noodles to packet instructions then run under cold water and toss together with veggies, nuts, tofu, chicken, prawns or fish. Add a punchy sauce and you're ready to tuck in.
Vegans will love our wholemeal noodle salad with crunchy sugar snap peas, shredded carrots, juicy clementines and a spicy-salty sesame dressing. If you prefer fish, give our salmon & noodle salad a go. And meat-lovers should try our miso steak with noodle salad.
A bento box, full of handy compartments, is a great way to pack noodle salads to go. Keep the veg, protein, noodles and dressing separate until you're ready to eat. We picked the best bento boxes for easily transporting your lunch.
11. Stuffed peppers
This wholesome vegetarian dish of gremolata couscous stuffed peppers is packed with zesty, herby flavours. As the peppers roast in the oven, they take on a soft sweetness that works wonderfully with the punchy acidity of the gremolata. Make double and reheat the leftovers for your lunch or dinner.
A mini food processor makes light work of salad dressings and sauces like this gremolata. Check out the best mini choppers for speedy kitchen prep.
12. Lighter meatballs
Add meatballs to your menu and you won't be disappointed. Make them with lamb, pork, turkey or lean beef mince and serve on a bed of wholemeal couscous, rice or pasta for a meal that's just as hearty as it is healthy. You can easily double quantities and make enough to last you the week, or pop some in the freezer for busy days.
More like this
If you'd prefer something a little lighter, try our meatballs with fennel, balsamic beans and courgetti or browse our healthy meatball recipes to find your favourites.
If you want to cut back on carbs, you'll need a good sturdy spiralizer. Read our review of the best spiralizers to buy.
13. Roasted vegetables
Roasting vegetables is something which can easily be done ahead of time and all you need to do is add protein, salad or grains to have yourself a healthy meal in minutes.
Go Mediterranean and mix aubergine, peppers, courgettes and red onions with oregano and garlic, then top with basil and feta. Or roast beetroot, peppers, onion & tomatoes until sweet and sticky, then toss with giant couscous and zingy coriander pesto for a hearty dinner that packs up well.
A good roasting tin is an essential bit of kitchen kit. Read our review of the best roasting tins available.
14. Healthy bowls
Meal prep doesn't get easier than taking a few healthy ingredients and combining them in a bowl to make a lunch or dinner that's filling, tasty and gives you a good balance of nutrients. Keep all the ingredients in your fridge so you can throw them together when you're hungry – or build your bowls ahead of time and pack to go.
Knowing the best combination of flavours and textures is key to creating a good bowl meal. Go for fresh, crunchy, creamy and light with our vegan spinach falafel & hummus bowl. Or marinate prawns in a chilli and lime dressing, then serve with grains, mango, radish, avocado and spring onions.
Making hummus in a food processor couldn't be easier. Read our review of the best food processors, including Magimix, Kenwood and Kitchenaid.
15. Pasta bake
You can't go wrong with a classic pasta bake and our lighter version made with wholemeal penne, chicken, rich tomato sauce, veg and mozzarella is truly one of the best. Once baked, portions can be kept in plastic containers to be eaten for lunch or dinner throughout the week.
Check our review of the best food storage containers for all round use, easy storage and portion control.
Use lean turkey mince to make our healthy burgers and serve with sweet potato wedges, a green salad or in buns if you're looking for something more filling. The patties will keep well in the freezer, so double the recipe and save a few for dinners on busy days.
If you're looking to achieve the perfect char on homemade burgers, make sure you check out our review of the best griddle pans to buy.
17. Homemade protein pots
If you’re looking to increase your protein intake from time to time, it can be tempting to reach for energy bars or pricey shop-bought high-protein pots, but it’s really easy to prep your own. Each of our protein pot recipes provides two servings, is quick to make and keeps well in the fridge for two days. Make it your own, choose tuna niçoise, Indian chicken or steak and broccoli.
Looking to get more protein in your diet? Read our review of the best protein bars to buy.
18. Veggie chilli
With two different types of beans, plenty of veg and a sweet, smoky tomato sauce, this chilli is a real winner. Make eight servings in one session and freeze for later in the week. Stock up on wholegrain rice pouches to serve with it for a speedy supper.
If you're cooking big quantities of meat or veggie chilli, a casserole dish is an important bit of kit. Read our review of the best casserole dishes for hobs and ovens.
A note on food safety
While many foods can be safely stored in the fridge, some dishes such as soups, stews or pasta sauces may be best popped into sturdy plastic containers and stashed in the freezer. Follow the recipe instructions on thawing and always reheat until piping hot. For more information, read the FSA’s top food safety tips and our guide on how to reheat leftovers.
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This article was updated on 20 July 2022.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.