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How to Meal Prep for Picky Eaters (Plus Free Meal Prep Ideas List)

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When you’re a picky eater, meal prepping isn’t always as simple as throwing together a few random recipes and calling it a day. Instead, it takes a little extra planning to make sure that you’re prepping meals you’re actually going to enjoy during the week. In this beginner’s guide, we cover everything you need to know about how to meal prep for picky eaters — and share 18 customizable meal prep recipe ideas that even the pickiest eater can enjoy.

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If you’re a picky eater, the idea of meal prepping your food ahead of time might seem daunting. However, the truth is that anyone can enjoy meal prep, even if you have food or dietary preferences. So, here are some tips on what you can do as a picky eater to reduce the stress of meal prepping and make your meal prep experience a good one.

Choose a customizable type of meal planning

Most people meal prep using a type of meal planning called “portioned” meal prep. As the name implies, portioned prep is when you batch cook your food and separate it into individual portions or containers.

Portioned meal prep is one of the most popular ways to prep. But if you don’t enjoy eating the same meal for 3-4 days in a row, or your food preferences change often during the week, portioned meal prep probably isn’t the best style for you. Instead, the two approaches below can help bring more variety and options to your weekly meal plan.

Buffet prep

As someone who likes to mix up my meals throughout the week, buffet-style meal prep is one of my favorite ways to prep. And whether you’re a picky eater because of taste, personal preference, or something else, it’s probably going to become a favorite approach for you, too.

teriyaki shrimp three ways for meal prep
The Healthful Human / Eleesha Lockett

Just like the name implies, buffet-style meal prep involves prepping a “buffet” of ingredients for you to eat throughout the week. When you buffet prep, you start by prepping a few of each of your main ingredients, like grains, veggies, and proteins. After you’ve prepped your ingredients, you can then mix and match them in whatever way you’d like once it’s time to eat.

Ingredient prep

Even if you don’t like the idea of prepping a bunch of leftovers, that doesn’t mean that you can’t meal prep. In fact, meal prep is any type of preparation that you do ahead of time to make it easier for yourself when it’s time to cook — including prepping ingredients.

For ingredient prep, all you have to do is prep the ingredients you plan to cook with ahead of time. In most cases, the includes doing things like cutting your vegetables, portioning out your grains, and slicing, marinading, or otherwise preparing your proteins. You can then easily refrigerate or freeze those ingredients to save yourself time and effort when you finally cook.

Explore different methods of cooking your food

People can be picky about the foods they eat for any number of reasons. For example, some people have aversions to certain food textures, like soft or spongy textures, while others are picky about certain smells or flavors, like strong seasonings.

If your food preferences involve things like texture, smell, or taste, it’s important to consider not only which foods you’ll prep, but also how you’ll prep them. So, here are a few tips to keep in mind when cooking food for picky eaters:

  • Explore ingredient variations. Many ingredients have diverse textures and tastes depending on how they’re prepared, like chicken thighs and ground chicken. If a recipe calls for a certain type of grain, protein, or vegetable that you’re not a huge fan of, see if there’s a different variation or substitution you can cook instead.
  • Try alternate cooking methods. There are so many different ways to prepare food, and most food has a different taste and texture depending on how you cook it. If you’re picky about the way certain foods are cooked, make sure to narrow down which methods you want to use before you start cooking your meal.
  • Be careful when reheating food. Even if you’ve cooked your meal to perfection, sometimes reheating your meal prep can actually change the taste and texture of your food. Pay close attention to how you reheat your food so that you don’t accidentally end up with flavors and textures that you don’t enjoy.

Introduce new foods into your meal plan slowly

Picky eaters often work with a limited menu, which can sometimes make it difficult to keep meal prep feeling fresh and exciting each week. But having a limited meal plan doesn’t mean that you can’t try new foods — as long as you do it slowly.

creamy kale salad for meal prep
The Healthful Human / Eleesha Lockett
The Healthful Human / Eleesha Lockett

A great way to introduce new foods into your meal plan as a picky eater is to add new foods into the menu, slowly, one at a time. So, let’s say that you want to try and meal prep a new vegetable. Consider adding this veggie as a side dish in your meal plan, not a main feature, until you know whether you like it or not.

And when you’re introducing new foods into your menu, it can be helpful to have alternatives available. For example, if you’re introducing a new vegetable for the week, make sure that you have another backup option available. That way, if you don’t enjoy the new ingredient you’ve prepped, you’ll still have enough food to eat.

Accept that you may be working with a limited menu

As a picky eater, you don’t have to branch out and try new foods or mix up your weekly meal plan. After all, meal prep is all about prepping the foods you actually enjoy and want to eat consistently each week.

If you already know what you like to eat, you can always build a weekly meal plan around those foods, even if it’s limited. And of course, if you’re someone whose tastes change frequently throughout the week, having meal prepped snacks on hand can help you avoid going hungry if you’re having a picky food day.

Meal prep ideas for picky eaters

Whether you’re meal prepping for yourself or someone else who is a picky eater, it’s always helpful to have recipe ideas on hand that you can use to build a weekly menu. So, we’ve put together a downloadable cheat sheet, featuring 18 meal prep recipe ideas for picky eaters, that you can try for your next weekly meal plan!

By the way, if you’re prepping meals to keep in the fridge for 3-5 days, don’t forget to practice meal prep food safety. Following proper food safety, including cooking, cooling, and reheating your meals properly, will help ensure that your meals stay fresh all week long.

And there you have it — your full guide on meal prep for picky eaters, with tips and recipe ideas you can try today! Hopefully, these beginner-friendly tips will help you feel more confident making meal prep a regular part of your weekly routine.

Eleesha Lockett

Eleesha Lockett is a nutrition professional, meal prep expert, and freelance writer who specializes in crafting empathetic and inclusive health and wellness content. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Psych Central, SELF, Shape, Verywell Health, and Well+Good. She holds a master’s in Human Nutrition from The University of Bridgeport, which she uses to share her passion of nutrition (especially meal prep) with others.

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