The Worst Foods to Prep Ahead
Here's what not to do the next time you meal-prep, tips on what to do instead, and meal-prep recipes that will actually work.
Meal-prep has so many benefits, from helping you save time and money to keeping you on track with a healthy diet. Meal-prep can even help you lose weight. But even if your intentions are good and all, meal-prep can take a turn for the worse if you end up trying to prep foods that are better left unprepped. Here are the foods that should never be prepped ahead (or at least not too far in advance), unless you're actively looking to waste your time and money. Plus, we've got tips on how to meal-prep the right way and easy meal-prep recipes to try.
A great way to destroy a beautiful meal-prepped salad is to add the dressing too early. The dressing will quickly wilt the lettuce and turn the veggies to mush, which is why we always tell you to wait to add the dressing till you're ready to eat, like in the tofu salad pictured below. Pack your dressing in a small mason jar or another meal-prep container and refrigerate the salad and salad dressing separately. Or, you could pack your salad in a mason jar with the dressing on the bottom, as we did in our Mason-Jar Chicken Salad with Japanese Hibachi Dressing. This keeps the dressing from wilting the veggies—just shake it up before serving.
Try this: Citrus Lime Tofu Salad
See More: Healthy Meal-Prep Salad Recipes
We all know how temperamental avocados can be. One second they're as hard as rocks, the next they're perfectly soft and ready to eat, and before you know it, they're brown and gross. Knowing this should be reason enough to leave avocado off your grain bowl or salad until you're ready to eat. Add it in the morning before you leave the house or take the avocado along with you with and scoop out some to top your meal. Try one of these tricks to keep the rest of your avocado from turning brown.
It doesn't take long for shrimp to get smelly and go bad, so if you're planning to prep a shrimp dish ahead of time, you need to be strategic. A great trick for keeping shrimp as fresh as can be is to opt for frozen precooked shrimp and defrost them the day you plan to eat them. In our Spicy Slaw Bowls with Shrimp & Edamame, you can simply add the frozen shrimp to the meal-prep container in the morning, so they'll be defrosted by lunchtime, or defrost them ahead of time by submerging a zip-top bag of shrimp in a bowl of cold water (you can weight them down with a plate if they keep floating up to the top).
Try this: Spicy Slaw Bowls with Shrimp & Edamame
Anything with breading
Breaded chicken, shrimp, pork or whatever you choose to roll in breadcrumbs and fry or sauté is a delicious idea—just not for meal-prep. The breading becomes soggy and will slip right off the meat, leaving you with lumps of mushy breading in your salad or on your sandwich. Go for unbreaded options instead, such as grilled or roasted chicken, and save the breaded foods for when you'll be eating right away (a must-try: Homemade Chicken Tenders with Everything Bagel Seasoning over Salad).
Try this: Chicken Caprese Pasta Salad Bowls
See More: Healthy Meal-Prep Chicken Recipes
Yogurt parfaits with granola
To prevent your granola from turning into, well, oatmeal, wait to add it to your parfait till you're ready to eat. Either add it in the morning before you leave the house or bring it in a little to-go jar to add once you get to work or wherever you're headed. Your fruit and yogurt can chill together in the fridge just fine overnight—simply mix it up before eating to reincorporate any water that may have gathered at the surface. Muesli, on the other hand, takes very well to soaking overnight.
Try this: Strawberry & Yogurt Parfait
Chopped salad with broccoli
Specific, I know, but this is an important one. We love a good chopped salad, like this Superfood Chopped Salad with Salmon & Creamy Garlic Dressing, but one thing's for certain, if you plan on prepping this recipe ahead of time, leave the broccoli out of the mix and unchopped until ready to eat. The sulfur in the broccoli has a tendency to make this healthy veg smell like, um, farts. The longer it sits after being cut or cooked, the smellier it will get.
Of all the veggies that don't hold up well after being chopped, tomatoes probably degrade the quickest. Unless you're intentionally tying to make a bruschetta, the solution is simple—leave your tomatoes whole and cut them up before eating, or opt for cherry tomatoes, which don't require cutting.
Try this: Greek Meatball Mezze Bowls