Looking for healthy meal prep ideas for the week? Preparing a batch of grains is one of my favorite quick & easy staples for weekly meal prep. Here are 7 nutritious grains to take it beyond your regular rice and quinoa as well as ideas for how to meal prep for the week!
Does the idea of meal prep sound alluring, but kind of overwhelming at the same time? I hear this a lot! You know it will save you time, stress, and even money during the week, but is it really worth giving up your precious Sunday?!
It doesn’t have to be complicated, or even time consuming. By streamlining your meal prep to just a few core ingredients that you can mix and match during the week, you can keep things simple and be in and out of the kitchen in less than an hour!
One of the easiest and most useful ingredients to meal prep is a batch of some type of grain. They make a great base for grain bowls, stir-fries, salad add ins and so much more! It can be easy to revert to what we know – often rice or quinoa, while they’re both great options and super versatile for different meals, It’s nice to be able to switch things up!
In this post I’m sharing 7 nutrition packed grains that are great for weekly meal prep!
For each grain I’ll be highlighting:
- What it is
- Where it comes from
- Nutrition benefits
As well as how to store your grains (dry and cooked), meal prep tips and a recipe round up of how to use them!
How to Meal Prep for the Week
There are a few tips that will help ensure your meal prep goes smoothly:
- Have a meal prep schedule – ideally, you want to schedule time in to do the prep. This will prevent you from forgetting or overbooking yourself, and if you’ve got a busy household, it can help keep you from getting distracted (put your partner on kid duty! haha)
- Limit the number of ingredients you prep – I organize all my meal plans to require just 6 ingredients for meal prep. This allows the whole process to be completed in just 1 hour! And by adding other fast & fresh foods to your grocery list, you’ll be able to mix and match to make so many different flavorful options!
- Invest in some good meal prep containers. I like to use glass containers in various sizes, and reusable Ziploc bags
What is it: Rice is thought to have originated around 9000 years ago and has been a staple in asian diets for most of its history. Brown rice contains the whole grain including the nutrient rich bran and germ, while only the inedible outer hull is removed. The nutrient rich bran and germ are removed in white rice.
Fiber: 3.5g/Cup (* all info is for cooked portions)
- Brown rice is a source of both soluble and insoluble fibers. Soluble fiber provides satiation, helps to balance blood sugars and can reduce the absorption of cholesterol. Insoluble fiber aids in digestion and minimizing constipation. Fiber can help lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Protein, which is important for the formation of structures in our body such as muscles, in regulating reactions in our body and for immune function.
Vitamins & Minerals:
- Manganese: 1.76mg/Cup
Manganese is an antioxidant (prevents damage to cells and tissues) and is important for the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and cholesterol. Manganese is also required for bone development and wound healing.
- Selenium: 19.11mcg/Cup
Antioxidant selenium is found in rice, antioxidants prevent damage to cells and tissues.
What is it: Quinoa originates from the cuisines of South America. Unlike wheat, oats, barley, rye, rice, and millet, quinoa is not a member of the grass family but a plant seed! Varieties of quinoa range in colour including red, white, black and yellow.
- Provides both soluble and insoluble fiber.
- Quinoa is a unique plant protein in that it contains all of the essential amino acids (building blocks of proteins). It is also on the higher end for protein count compared to other grains.
Vitamins & Minerals:
- Folate: 81.9mcg/Cup
Rich in the B vitamins, including folate, quinoa is a good source of energy. B vitamins are also important for red blood cell formation and overall cell health.
- Manganese: 1.2mg/Cup
Quinoa is also a great source of manganese.
What is it: Millet originates from Ethiopia. It has also been widely eaten in Asia and India since ancient times and is now gaining more popularity in North America.
What’s interesting about millet is that it’s technically a seed! But is often classified as a grain because of the way it’s used in cooking. It ranges in texture from creamy to fluffy depending on cooking technique.
A great bonus – millet is gluten free for those with celiac or gluten sensitivity!
- Contains about half soluble and half insoluble fiber.
- Like quinoa, millet is also a good source of protein.
Vitamins & Minerals:
- High in antioxidant copper.
- Millet is rich in phosphorous which plays an important role in the structure of bones and is a component of many biological molecules and enzymes.
What is it: Farro is an ancient wheat grain originating in Mesopotamia. The name farro is an umbrella term which includes three different varieties including einkorn, emmer and spelt.
Farro is a small light brown grain which contains the bran outer layer. I love it for it’s nutty flavor and chewy texture!
- Farro is a great source of fiber.
- Farro is also a great source of protein.
Vitamins & Minerals:
B3 (niacin): 11.2mg/Cup
- Good source of B vitamin niacin, an important vitamin in energy production.
- Farro contains a notable amount of magnesium. Magnesium plays an important role in the structural component of bone and is involved in many enzymatic reactions.
What is it: All wheat products, like whole wheat flour, are made from wheat berries.
Wheat berries are whole unprocessed wheat kernels which contain all parts of the nutrient rich grain, including germ, bran and endosperm. The hull, the inedible outer layer of the grain is the only part of the grain that has been removed.
- Very high in fiber!
- Source of both soluble and insoluble fiber
- Good source of protein
Vitamins & Minerals:
- Manganese: 1.1mg/Cup
Excellent source of manganese.
- Selenium: 28.2mcg/Cup
High in antioxidant selenium.
What is it: Bulgur wheat originated in the Mediteranean, it is found in many Middle Eastern and Mediteranean dishes today. It is a cereal grain made from dried, cracked wheat and partially precooked to speed up the cooking process. It contains the nutrient dense germ, endosperm and bran, making it a whole grain.
- Provides protein.
- Excellent source of fiber.
- Folate, required for cell formation, is present in bulgur wheat.
- Iron required for immune health, energy metabolism and the transport of oxygen in the blood is found in bulgur wheat.
What is it: Teff is a tropical grain crop that originated in Ethiopia and Eritrea and is a member of the grass family. It is the world’s smallest grain and is about 1/100 the size of a wheat kernel! It comes in darker and lighter varieties and has a nutty, earthy flavor. Lighter varieties are a bit sweeter. It is also gluten free.
- High protein content.
- Great source of fiber.
- Calcium: 90mg/Cup
Calcium is highest in teff compared to the other grains. Calcium is essential for bone health including the prevention of osteoporosis (reduced bone mass) and osteomalacia (soft bones).
- Iron: 3.7mg/Cup
Teff is a rich source of iron.
How to Store Grains
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place like your pantry (or the freezer!) for up to 12 months
Fridge: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days
Freezer: Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months (can technically store longer but may become freezer burnt)
- Weeknight Thai Turkey Quinoa Salad with Fresh Cucumber & Mint (Quinoa)
- Creamy Vanilla Bean Violet Rice Pudding (Rice)
- Mediterranean Farro Lentil Grain Bowl (Farro)
- Scrambled Tofu and Whole Wheat Spiced Pancakes: Made with whole wheat flour (whole wheat flour is made from wheat berries)
- Italian Roasted Vegetable and Wheat Berry Buddha Bowl (Wheatberries)
- Tabbouleh Inspired Bulgar Wheat Salad (Bulgar)
- Teff Porridge (Teff)
- Blood Orange Sumac Chicken Tabbouleh (Bulgar)
- Creamy Mushroom Risotto Millet (Millet)
For more help with meal prep and meal planning, check out The 3-2-1- Method 4 week meal plans!