How to Eat More Vegetables and Fruits with Meal Prep
How to eat more vegetables and fruits with meal prep. You’ll eat much more fresh produce when it’s ready and visible in your refrigerator!
In this post, you’ll learn:
- Why meal prepping vegetables and fruits is a smart kitchen strategy.
- How to plan for your meal prep session.
- How to prep and store fresh produce and how long it will last.
- The best fruits and vegetables for make ahead meal prep.
- Ideas for how to incorporate the fruits and vegetables you’ve prepped into your meals and snacks.
Why meal prepping vegetables and fruits is a smart kitchen strategy:
I pretty much always have a goal to eat more fresh produce, especially vegetables. You too? I tell myself that I’m going to incorporate a vegetable into every meal and snack, but it’s easier to say it than to actually follow through.
The one thing that helps?
Stocking my refrigerator with ready-to-eat produce that I’ve washed and prepped ahead of time.
When I open my refrigerator and see colorful fruits and vegetables that I’ve already washed and/or cooked, it’s easy to grab some carrot sticks and snap peas to snack on. Putting together a nutritious grain bowl filled with grilled veggies takes just minutes.
Meal prep helps you to eat more vegetables and fruits throughout the week, which means more fiber, vitamins, and nutrients, and possibly even more energy.
Planning ahead with a meal prep session will also save you time during the week. One weekly prep session is an efficient way to get a head start on your daily cooking. I also find that I eat out less when I’ve prepped ahead. When I’ve already spent the time to wash, chop and cook ingredients, I’m not going to let that food (or time investment) go to waste.
How to plan for your meal prep session:
Meal prep should help you, not overwhelm you. Focusing your time on fruits and vegetables means that you can simplify your prep sessions. You’ll also incorporate more fresh produce into your meals.
Rather than preparing full meals ahead of time, just getting a head start on prepping the ingredients can make a huge difference later in the week. Perhaps you’ll wash some greens for salads, wash and slice raw veggie sticks for snacks, roast a sheet pan of vegetables to add to your lunches and dinners, and cut up a melon for breakfasts.
When planning what to prep, keep it seasonal. Visiting your local farmer’s market or signing up for a farm box delivery service are two ways to ensure that you eat seasonally. You can also use an online seasonal produce guide to see what’s in season before shopping at your grocery store.
You can start with the recipes you want to make for the week, and choose a few parts to prep ahead. Or, you can first decide which vegetables and fruits you’d like to enjoy and then make a meal plan around those. I’ll give you lots of simple meal ideas to get you started!
How to prep and store fresh produce:
Below, I’ve listed specific fruits and vegetables that are ideal for different prep ahead methods (such as grilling or roasting, for example), as well as how long you can expect them to last in your refrigerator. Many vegetables and fruits can be washed, chopped and even cooked ahead of time. Those that are best washed right before serving (such as raspberries and blackberries) aren’t included here because you won’t want to include them in your meal prep.
How should you store your prepped fruits and vegetables? The best kind of containers are those that are clear so that you can easily see what’s inside… so you’ll remember to use the contents in your meals and snacks!
A sample meal plan with meal prep:
To give you an idea of the possibilities, here is a recent meal prep that I did that focused on getting vegetables and fruits ready for the week. I prepped:
- strawberries and blueberries
- raw carrot and bell pepper sticks
- salad greens
- grilled onions, zucchini, yellow squash and green beans
- roasted sweet potatoes
- roasted bell peppers and onions
From my prep session, I created a simple meal plan for the week to use up all of those vegetables and fruits. Anything that you don’t see listed on the meal plan, we ate for breakfast, snacks and lunches.
Tuesday: Pasta with grilled green beans and baked chicken breast (plus other leftover grilled vegetables)
Wednesday: Roasted vegetable grain bowls
Thursday: Roasted sweet potato and black bean tacos
Friday: Dinner out or homemade pizza
The best fruits and vegetables for make ahead meal prep:
Disclaimer: The times listed for how long each fruit and vegetable will last are approximations, based on my personal experience. Use your judgment when deciding how long to store foods before eating.
Fresh fruits are ideal for snacks and breakfasts, alongside whole grains (such as oatmeal) and proteins (such as eggs, nuts, yogurt and cottage cheese).
- Melons – up to 5 days, wash and slice or chop
- Oranges – up to 5 days, wash and slice
- Pineapple – up to 5 days, wash, peel, core and chop
- Strawberries and Blueberries – will last up to 4 days in the refrigerator if you use a vinegar wash (Soak your berries in 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water for 5 minutes, rinse and dry completely.)
Raw vegetables are good for snacks, especially with a dip such as hummus or homemade ranch. Raw vegetables are also perfect for adding to salads and for a quick side dish at lunch or dinner.
- Bell peppers – up to 5 days, wash and slice
- Broccoli – up to 4 days, wash and cut into bite-size pieces
- Carrots – up to 5 days, wash, peel and cut into sticks
- Cauliflower – up to 4 days, wash and cut into bite-size pieces
- Celery – up to 4 days, wash and cut into sticks
- Cherry tomatoes – up to 5 days, wash & dry well (or wash right before serving)
- Cucumbers – up to 5 days, wash, peel (optional) and slice into rounds
- Radishes – up to 4 days, wash and slice into rounds
- Snap peas – 2-3 days, wash and dry well
We like to add greens to salads and smoothies. Having them washed and ready makes life so much easier mid-week.
- Kale – 1 week or more, see my tutorial for how to wash kale
- Lettuce – up to 5 days
- Chard – up to 5 days
Add grilled vegetables to salads, pastas, grain bowls, sandwiches and wraps. With the vegetables grilled ahead of time, you can make a meal in minutes!
Grill vegetables until crisp-tender. Be careful not to overcook, as you don’t want them to become mushy. Grilled vegetables will last up to 2 days in the refrigerator. Reheat or serve cold.
- Onions – slice into ½-inch thick rounds before grilling
- Bell peppers – cut in half, remove stems and seeds, flatten with your hand, grill
- Zucchini and yellow squash – cut into ½-inch thick slices, lengthwise, grill
- Eggplant – cut into ½-inch thick rounds, grill
- Asparagus – no prep needed before grilling
- Green beans – no prep needed before grilling
- Corn – remove husks and silks, wrap in foil, grill until tender (about 15 minutes). Cool and cut off cob, save for salads, etc.
Add roasted vegetables to pastas, sandwiches, salads, grain bowls, tacos, burritos and wraps. They’re also delicious in an egg scramble for breakfast. Roasted vegetables will last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
Place vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper before roasting at 425 degrees F. Stir once about halfway through roasting time. Approximate roasting times are listed below. You’ll know your vegetables are done when they start to brown and caramelize, and are tender when pierced with a fork.
- Sweet potatoes – wash, peel, cut into ½-inch cubes, roast 20-25 minutes
- Potatoes – wash, cut into ½-inch cubes, roast 20-25 minutes
- Butternut Squash – peel and seed, cut into 1-inch cubes, roast about 30 minutes
- Onions – large chop, roast about 20 minutes
- Bell peppers – cut into 1-inch pieces, roast about 20 minutes
- How to roast red peppers
- Zucchini & yellow squash – cut into 1-inch pieces, roast about 20 minutes
- Eggplant – cut into 1-inch pieces, roast about 20-30 minutes
- Parsnips – slice 1-inch thick, roast 20-40 minutes
- Carrots – slice 1-inch thick, roast 20-40 minutes
- Broccoli – roast 15 – 20 minutes
- Cherry tomatoes – roast 15-20 minutes
- Brussel Sprouts – roast 20 minutes until almost tender
- Asparagus – roast 15 minutes until slightly tender
- Green Beans – roast 15-20 minutes
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