Fitness
Meal Prep Recipe Roundup! 8 of My Favorite Make-Ahead Lunches (& my Macro-Friendly Prep Tips!)

Meal Prep Recipe Roundup! 8 of My Favorite Make-Ahead Lunches (& my Macro-Friendly Prep Tips!)

One of the most challenging aspects of weight-loss, and health and fitness in general, is nutrition. Learning how to fuel your body properly, while also satisfying your taste buds, can be a tricky process!

“Health” or “diet” food is commonly misconstrued as being boring, tasteless, and leafy. We’d all rather mow down a bag of Doritos – let’s be real…a Party Size bag of Doritos. Obviously – than eat plain ol’ lettuce with a sprinkle of carrot shavings, amiright or amiright?

The good news is that you can make “diet food” delicious, and I’ve found having something I actually look forward to eating helps me make smart choices. There is a difference between having the ingredients for great recipes, and having your food cooked and ready to eat come lunchtime. The chances of me scarfing down an entire box of Fruity Pebbles for lunch are greatly reduced when I have the latter. 

Knowing how much it helps keep me on track with my nutrition, I’ve been consistently preparing a week’s worth of lunches for me and my husband weekly for over 2 years now!

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It takes a bit of time to chop, dice, boil, grill, sautée, bake, etc, and clean up afterward. After all, you’re making a week’s worth of meals, but it is always worth the time and effort. In my case, I make enough of a single recipe to make 10 lunches – typically a double batch of any recipe listed as making between 4-6 servings. I portion it out into ten individual meal prep containers – 5 for my husband and 5 for myself.

It may sound like a lot of work, but meal prepping doesn’t have to mean hours in the kitchen or be complicated. Over time, I’ve identified a number of lower maintenance recipes with minimal clean up. They have become meal prep staples in my home because they come together quickly and taste delicious.

Here are 8 of my favorite make-ahead lunches, as well as my suggestions for how you can tweak them to fit your individual macros.

Caprese pasta salad with chicken
  1. Caprese Pasta Salad – Cheese, pasta, basil, and tomato smothered in pesto and balsamic vinegar…need I say more? This is one of two recipes on this list that are served cold. No microwave, no problem!

Make it fit your macros/needs:

  • Add chicken for a protein boost.
  • Use less mozzarella and/or pesto to keep the fat total down.
  • Regular pasta would work, but would yield less protein per serving. Using red lentil or chickpea pasta, for example, would give you that added protein boost.
  • Use more balsamic vinegar because it’s basically nutritionally “free,” and adds moisture and rich flavor to this dish, particularly if you’re decreasing the amount of pesto you’re adding.
Shrimp and sausage vegetable skillet bowl

2. Shrimp and Sausage Vegetable Skillet – The only dishes you will dirty cooking this delicious, quick meal is a cutting board and knife, one pan, and one pot. The ingredients are minimal and it only calls for ONE seasoning.

Make it fit your macros/needs:

  • Use turkey smoked sausage/kielbasa, chicken sausages (macros and price for these are insane), or chicken breast for less fat.
  • Use more shrimp for more protein.
  • Use less oil or no oil to decrease fat. I sautée nearly everything without oil and it always works out for me. Just a quick spritz of nonstick cooking spray typically does the trick.
  • Add an obscene amount of vegetables for a more filling meal. 
  • Use more cajun seasoning or add Nashville hot chicken seasoning for more of a kick.
  • Serve over rice for even more volume.
  • Pro-Tip: use frozen/pre-chopped veggies for convenience.
Mediterranean Chickpea Salad with Chicken

3. Mediterranean Chickpea Salad – this is an all-time favorite meal prep recipe! These salads are so fresh and crisp and the mix of flavors is just amazing between the chickpea seasoning, parsley, and the unique red wine vinegar and lemon juice based dressing.

Make it fit your macros/needs:

  • Add chicken for protein (always add chicken! haha).
  • Air fry or bake the chickpeas with less or no oil.
  • Use less oil and more red wine vinegar and lemon juice for the dressing to decrease fat.
  • Use plain couscous instead of seasoned to reduce sodium. I keep an eye on sodium for my husband’s blood pressure.
  • Pro Tip: Do NOT use regular cucumber in place of English, because the English ones have the perfect freshness and crunch that makes this dish amazing!
Sheet pan sausage and veggies

4. One Pan Italian Sausage and Veggies – Anything that claims to use 1 sheet pan is okay in my book! When doubling the recipe to make 10 lunches at one time, however, I usually use 2 or 3. But still. I absolutely love roasted veggies. If you dislike veggies, I’m positive you just haven’t found the proper way to prepare them to suit your taste.

Make it fit your macros/needs:

  • Add other/more veggies based on what you love – brussel sprouts, green beans, yellow squash, butternut squash, green, orange, or yellow bell peppers, mushrooms, sweet or russet potatoes, and red onions would be great additions or substitutions.
  • Use turkey sausage, chicken sausage, chicken breast, or shrimp to decrease fat content.
  • Use less oil to lower the amount of fat. I typically add a little water to thin the seasoning and oil mixture when I coat the veggies.
  • Make a LOT of these veggies so you won’t need to serve over rice or pasta to make a filling meal with fewer carbs.
  • Pro Tip: Line your baking sheets with foil or parchment paper to make clean up a breeze.
  • Pro Tip: Know you’ll probably need to roast these veggies for longer than the 25 minutes the recipe calls for. I typically need to roast for at least 45 minutes.
  • Note: I also love this yummy recipe for Oil-Free Rainbow Vegetables, especially if I want to cut the amount of fat even further. Just cater the veggies to what you feel like that week or what you have on hand, and add a protein. Easy peasy!
Chicken fajita bowl

5. Chicken Fajita Burrito Bowls with Rice – I’m a BIG Chipotle fan and could eat a burrito bowl every day and never get tired of it.  I really like the combination of spices for the chicken and veggies in this recipe. Plus, it’s a simple sheet pan recipe, which is a major bonus.

Make it fit your macros/needs:

  • Use less oil for the seasoning mix to lower fat.
  • Add black beans to increase protein and carbs.
  • Add salsa to add flavor and heat for very few calories.
  • Top with a hefty dollop of plain greek yogurt (a great sour cream sub!)  for more protein.
  • Pro Tip: Put any toppings you want kept cold in snack-sized baggies (disposable plastic or reusable silicone), and dump them on after re-heating your meal prep container during the week. I love having shredded cheese, chopped cilantro and green onions, diced tomatoes, jalapeno slices, and a lime wedge in mine.
Chicken tortellini pesto bowl

6. Chicken Tortellini Pesto Bowls – I primarily use rice as the base or filler when I meal prep, so this recipe is a nice change up now and then. This dish looks and sounds super elegant – you’d never guess it’s such a cinch to throw together!

Make it fit your macros/needs:

  • Use less than a serving of cheese tortellini per lunch to save on calories, fat, and carbs.
  • Reduce the amount of sun-dried tomatoes and/or pesto to lower fat content.
  • Increase the amount of chicken for more protein.
  • Use more cherry tomatoes and asparagus to make a satisfying meal.
Easy fried rice with shrimp / chicken

7. Easy Fried Rice – This is by far the meal I make the MOST often for our meal-prepped lunches, simply because I almost always have everything I need in my fridge, freezer, and cupboard, AND it’s delicious! I’ve made it so many times I sorta wing it these days, using the recipe as a loose guide.

Make it fit your macros/needs:

  • Decrease the number of eggs to reduce fat content. I’ve scrambled egg whites in with fewer whole eggs before, as well, to up the protein.
  • Reduce or omit oil. I don’t use oil to scramble my eggs, and use maybe a teaspoon or two of sesame oil total for 10 lunches worth of ingredients.
  • Use coconut aminos in place of soy sauce to reduce sodium content.
  • Make this with chicken, shrimp, or steak. I’ve used both cooked chicken and shrimp in the past and they’re equally tasty and pack the protein.
  • Pro Tip: Frozen, steam-in-bag veggies are perfect for this recipe. I microwave them a minute or so less time than the package calls for and mix them in. Any veggies will do – just pile on as many as you can fit into your containers!
Slow cooker beef and broccoli

8. Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli and Rice – I was using this recipe for beef and broccoli for the longest time, and it is amazing and lists many substitutions for various dietary needs, but I’ve been using this slow cooker recipe lately because it’s easier, involves less clean up, only takes 2 hours in the crockpot, and is just as yummy. I have this slow cooker and I love it’s timer feature so it sets to warm automatically when the programmable cook time is over. 

Make it fit your macros/needs:

  • Use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce to reduce sodium.
  • Use less oyster sauce to reduce sodium.
  • Divide this out into meal prep containers over rice or quinoa. I use regular rice, but cauliflower rice would be fine if you’re into that kinda thing. If you do serve this dish over rice, know you can get away with less than a serving of rice per meal considering the amount of veggies and protein already present. For example, 8 servings of rice split between 10 lunches is appropriate. The same goes for pasta and couscous, for that matter – I find that about three-quarters of a serving is plenty.
  • Pro Tip: Put the amount of broccoli you think you’ll need for this recipe into your shopping cart at the store, then double it. Loading up on veggies is almost always the right choice, and the sauce they’re cooked in makes them super tasty.

Meal-prepping can sound intimidating, or even unnecessary, but there’s no harm in trying it out and seeing if it’s a good fit for you and your lifestyle. I know I am less stressed and more properly nourished during the week when my fridge is stocked with prepped lunches. It takes the guessing game and last-minute, perhaps less healthy, choices out of the equation when mid-day hunger strikes.

I’m always impressed with the amount of protein and veggies I take in during the day when I’ve done even minimal planning and meal-prepping. That, in itself, is a positive health benefit to meal prep that extends far beyond weight-loss alone.

Do you have a favorite meal-prep recipe? Share it in the comments, and please let me know if you try one of these favorites of mine! Follow me on Instagram where I share a daily food diary and exactly what I eat to hit my macros on my grid, stories, and highlights.

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