Written By: Karla Tafra
Meal prep is one of the best ways to ensure you’re eating nutritious food even when you’re so busy you don’t have time to do more than reheat leftovers from airtight containers. It’s convenient, easy, and helps you save time and money.
Still, even though many foods can be prepared days in advance, some need to be done the day of. The reason may be texture, taste, or food safety-related, so here are the six worst foods for meal prep you should definitely plan to avoid.
WHAT IS MEAL PREPPING?
Meal prep, or meal prepping, is an activity that involves taking a chunk of one or two days a week to prepare for all the others. Meaning you get to spend a few hours on a Sunday night preparing your Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and sometimes even Thursday meals. All you have to do throughout the week is use the prepped food to create your meals.
You can reheat, toss in a bowl, whip up a salad, or even wrap your meal in a tortilla and you’ll be good to go. Depending on the ingredients you end up using, you might make the same dish and just divide it into separate meal prep containers, or prep your food individually so you can mix and match and create different dishes throughout the week.
This smart way of preparing food ensures you always have something nutritious on hand so you don’t reach for fast food or spend your money on yet another Uber Eats order. It also saves you time so you can plan your post-work evenings much better and dedicate those precious hours to hobbies, playing with your kids, or even simply relaxing in front of the TV.
THE DANGER OF MEAL-PREPPING THE WRONG WAY
The point of meal prep is to prepare ingredients or dishes in advance so you can eat them a few days in a row. Certain foods can’t stay in your refrigerator for longer than one day or cannot be reheated for safety reasons as it may cause indigestion and other gastrointestinal issues. It may even cause food poisoning as fungi, mold, and bacteria build-up.
So, be careful when choosing which foods you’ll prep for the week as not everything tastes good three days after you cook it.
WORST TYPES OF FOOD TO MEAL PREP
From raw seafood and poached eggs to pasta and spinach, here are the worst foods to meal prep.
If you like seafood, you’ll probably never want to meal prep any of its ingredients in your life. Raw, it’s not recommended to keep it in the fridge for more than two days, and cooked, probably not more than three. But, even if you do choose to prep your salmon or shrimp, after a day or two, you’ll notice discoloration, a noticeable smell coming from your fridge, and a very dry texture - nothing you’d want your juicy fish to be.
So, if you really love your tuna and salmon, meal prep everything around your dish and leave the protein for the day of. It’ll taste much better and you’ll decrease the risk of a foodborne illness.
Another animal protein that simply doesn’t taste as good after a few days in the fridge are eggs. And not to mention, the only version of eggs you can actually meal prep are hard-boiled eggs. Don’t even think about poaching your eggs and then leaving them in the fridge as they aren’t fully cooked and can be the perfect environment for salmonella or other bacteria.
If you can’t stand hard-boiled eggs, make sure to poach or make eggs Benedict the day of. You can even do it as you’re reheating other ingredients you’ve already meal-prepped!
Even though there’s nothing wrong or unsafe with meal-prepping your pasta, it simply won’t taste good. Once you put the pasta in the fridge, it will harden and dry out, and no amount of reheating will bring the silky soft texture back. If you’re unbothered by the change in texture or flavor, you might still enjoy having your pasta meal prepped and ready to go, but if you’re a pasta lover who dreams of the “al dente” touch, make your pasta on the day you plan to eat it.
Wilted leafy greens are everyone’s nightmare, making them one of the absolute worst foods to meal prep. Once you make spinach, swiss chard, or kale, the richness of flavor and texture is immediate. The longer it sits and the minute it gets transferred to the fridge for later, it’s all gone.
Reheated, these leafy greens completely lose their flavor and turn into a slimy mess which sometimes, due to oxidation, may even turn brown. So, yeah, meal-prepping leafy greens isn’t the best way to go. Luckily, they cook pretty fast and all you really need is 10-ish minutes.
Another veggie that completely loses its form and flavor are potatoes. The juicy, crispy tubers are delicious as they come out of the oven. Reheated? Not so much. You can cut them and prep them raw a day before you plan to bake them, but once you do, aim to eat the whole batch. Placing them in the fridge will make them become soggy which can lead to spoilage, especially if they’re left there for more than two days. Aim to eat your potatoes once you make them, but if you do end up with leftovers, mash them up with some cream or butter the following day, or toss them in breadcrumbs and make croquettes. This way they’ll taste way better.
And last but not least, mushrooms definitely fall under the worst foods to meal prep as they completely lose their texture in the fridge. Pre-chopping them may dry them out and even cause them to brown, and cooking them may make them slimy and soggy, which can once again, lead to spoilage. Aim to cook your mushrooms the day of. They cook quickly and taste best when fresh out of the pan.
Meal prepping your food is a great lifestyle habit that can help you save time and money, but it also has to taste good. There’s no use in spending half of your Sunday prepping everything for the week ahead if come Wednesday, the food in your fridge has no flavor or texture. And yes, you will learn as you go, but avoid meal-prepping these six foods and you’ll already reduce the risk of eating a slimy salad with wilted spinach and dodgy-smelling shrimp.