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10 Healthy Make-Ahead Meals

author image Katie Farmand
Katie Farmand is a writer, food stylist and recipe developer based in Orlando. She is the coauthor of the forthcoming farm-to-table cookbook, "Florida Field to Feast: Year-Round Recipes Celebrating Farmers, Chefs & Artisans" (University Press of Florida). She maintains her own blog providing original recipes and holds a Master of Arts in mass communication from the University of Florida, Gainesville.

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10 Healthy Make-Ahead Meals
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Lack of time during the week may be the biggest hurdle to eating well-balanced meals. But with a little planning and prep work on the weekend, you can have delicious, healthful and wholesome meals ready to go when life gets crazy. You’ll not only save time during the week, but your wallet and waistline will thank you too. Restaurant food and pre-packaged pre-prepared entrees in grocery stores typically cost more than home-cooked meals, and they are also high in sugar, fat, salt and calories. On the next slides, we’ll show you 10 healthy nutrient-rich dinner, lunch and breakfast recipes you can make on the weekend and enjoy during the week.

1. Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili
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Vegetarian chili doesn’t have to be boring. This version, which includes butternut squash and black beans, is proof that going meatless can be fulfilling and delicious. This vegetarian chili tastes better after a few hours of chilling in the fridge, allowing the flavors to meld. Make a batch three to four days in advance; just add the squash and reheat when you’re ready for it. Antioxidant-rich butternut squash adds creamy sweetness, while black beans add a hefty dose of protein and fiber. Toss together a simple salad, and dinner is done.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Details in MyPlate

2. Roasted Shrimp With Tomatoes
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You can put this easy dish together in the morning while your coffee brews -- toss it in the oven when you get home, and you’ll have a delicious and healthful seafood supper in less time than it takes to watch the evening news. Shrimp is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein and is low in mercury making it a great seafood choice. It also offers calcium, magnesium and potassium. You may wish to consider seeking out wild Alaskan shrimp, which has been deemed a “Best Choice” by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Serve the shrimp and its juices over quick-cooking whole-wheat couscous for a fast and easy dinner.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Details in MyPlate

3. Veggie-Packed Meatloaf
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Meatloaf is a simple, delicious comfort food and an easy way to sneak in extra vegetables like bell peppers and zucchini for picky eaters, which bumps up the nutritional value. Meatloaf can be put together in minutes and then refrigerated until you’re ready to bake it. Another option is to bake it right away and then freeze it so it can be thawed out and reheated when you’re too busy to cook. A diet rich in protein (like lean ground beef) keeps you feeling full and may help with weight loss. Round out the meal by roasting chopped carrots and broccoli tossed in olive oil alongside the meatloaf for the last 20 minutes of cooking.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Details in MyPlate

4. Chicken, Chickpea and Chorizo Stew
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In the warmer months, soups and stews can still be a great dinner -- instead of a rich, creamy base, go for light broths. This stew is a protein powerhouse packed with a handful of fresh greens for a dose of vitamin C, calcium and vitamin K. Chickpeas add protein and folic acid, which can help prevent birth defects in pregnant women. Though chorizo can be a bit fatty, you only need a little bit to get the wonderful flavor and color it lends to the stew. You can also opt for chicken chorizo versus beef or pork to reduce fat and calories. Store leftover chorizo in the freezer for up to two months.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Details in MyPlate

5. Salmon Croquettes
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Canned salmon, which has a hefty dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, is one of the least expensive superfoods available in the grocery store. When shopping, look for wild-caught Alaskan salmon: It’s earned Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s “Best Choice” rating. Mixing it into creamy-on-the-inside, crunchy-on-the-outside patties makes it approachable even for those who think they don’t like salmon. Whisk together a little fresh lemon zest, salt and pepper into plain Greek yogurt for an easy side sauce and serve over a bed of chopped romaine lettuce mixed with baby spinach and drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Details in MyPlate

6. Red Lentil Coconut Soup
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Creamy, wholesome and delicious, this soup is full of fiber, heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and inflammation-fighting spices. It’s fairly easy to make and freezes well, so you can prepare a double batch to split into two meals -- one for now and one for later. Red lentils are a great source of fiber, potassium and folic acid. They all but disintegrate in the cooking process, so while using another kind of lentil would taste just as good, the texture will not be the same unless you puree the soup. This soup also combines garlic, ginger, curry and cinnamon, all of which are packed with antioxidants. Make sure to cool soup to room temperature before freezing in an airtight container for up to three months.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Details in MyPlate

7. Arroz Con Pollo
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This classic Latin-American recipe can be created in stages, making it an ideal dish to get started ahead of time and finish just before eating. You can substitute brown rice for white and cook it in advance (it keeps well). Brown rice does take longer to cook than white rice -- about an extra 20 minutes -- and it requires an extra half-cup of chicken stock. Serve with low-sodium black beans (add a smashed clove of garlic and a sprinkle of ground cumin for extra flavor) and a simple green salad for an easy, complete supper.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Details in MyPlate

8. Middle-Eastern Spiced Brisket
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Forget the brisket you think you know. With a mix of fragrant spices, this braised beef uses Mediterranean flavors to freshen up a comforting classic. And like many dishes, this tastes even better after a day (or two) in the fridge after the flavors have had a chance to fully combine. It’s simple to throw together, but it does take a while to cook, so it’s a good one to make on a Sunday afternoon to serve later during a busy week. Tomato sauce adds tang and a healthy dose of lycopene, which may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Details in MyPlate

9. Egg and Canadian Bacon Breakfast Sandwiches
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Breakfast can be the toughest meal of the day to get right (busy schedules or an extra tap of the snooze button can make for a hectic morning). Making a hearty, healthy breakfast in advance is the best way to get the day off to a good start. A breakfast that contains a hefty dose of protein can keep you feeling full longer; add in some fiber- and vitamin-rich whole grains, and you have a healthy, well-balanced morning meal. Making a batch of these sandwiches ahead of time gives you a breakfast that’s easy to eat on the go. Grab a piece of fruit on your way out the door to round out the meal.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Details in MyPlate

10. Peaches-and-Cream Steel-Cut Oatmeal
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Steel-cut oats are a whole grain and a good source of fiber, iron and protein, but they take several hours of cooking to become tender -- not exactly a great choice for a busy weekday morning. But this do-ahead method allows you to prepare the oats the night before, limiting the hands-on work to just a few minutes in the morning. Adding potassium- and antioxidant-rich fresh sweet peaches (even frozen will do) eliminates the need for excess sugar, making this a healthful, energy-sustaining morning meal. Milk adds additional protein, calcium and vitamin D. Milk alternatives made from almond, flax or soy will also work.

Related: See Full Recipe and Nutritional Details in MyPlate

What Do YOU Think?
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Do you prepare your meals in advance on the weekends to save time or eat healthy? What are some of your favorite recipes? Do you have any other time-saving tips and tricks you’d like to share? Please respond in the comments below -- we would love to hear from you!

Related: 18 Foods With a “Bad” Rap That Are Actually Good for You

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