A common topic with my clients is about planning meals. Often people want to see a dietitian because they want a meal plan. Well, there is much more into meal planning then just throwing together what will be for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I have to get to know what you are currently preparing/eating, where you shop, who cooks, your ethnicity, food preferences, work and home schedule (hello kid’s sports you are in my way), how much time you have, and budget. So throwing a meal plan at you will not lead you to success (well unless you are that good—because I lack most weeks).

What works best for my clients is working one meal or snack at a time then going from there. I have found when I give my clients too much, they get overwhelmed and don’t complete anything. So maybe you had one vegetable this week (or month for some of my clients) well that needs to be celebrated! OR you drank 1 more bottle of water, I am going to jump for joy. I don’t expect anyone to do everything because this is life and things happen, I want you to enjoy life (dang that cake at the wedding last night was delightful!).

Small hinges move big doors!

We can enjoy life but most of our days should be eating healthy for your body—think 80% healthy, 20% to enjoy life. A way to know you are going to eat 80% healthy is being prepared. I ask the client what meal do they think will be a realistic one to start planning. Often dinner is the big culprit. We come home from work exhausted, help kids with homework, take them to sports, come home get ready for bed to do it all over again the next day. “Where is time for dinner?” they ask. My personal belief is that we need to say “no” to more things and go back to some basics once in awhile. Most nights we should be having a healthy home cooked dinner as a family AT THE TABLE (sorry the couch and on the run won’t cut it). If we are not prepared, we will look in the kitchen and go blank (often cause an argument in the home), so here comes take out or fast food! That is where preparation can come into play.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” -Ben Franklin

I grew up with my mom having this kind of schedule:

Monday: sweet potatoes, a green veggie, turkey

Tuesday: chicken, rice, broccoli

Wednesday: pasta and meatballs

Thursday: random

Friday: pizza

Not saying you have to eat the same things each week, but that’s what worked for her. You have to find what works for you. Here are just a few ideas to help you get a plan:

  1. Just go back to the basics – it doesn’t have to be a glorious meal.
    • 1/4 of your plate a lean protein (chicken, fish, beans, lean turkey, lean beef, tofu)
    • 1/4 plate starch (potatoes, winter squash, corn, peas, whole grains, chick pea pasta, rice, etc.)
    • 1/2 your plate non-starchy veggies (anything but the starches above).
  2. Go through cook books and find one recipe to try a week, if you like it add it to your weekly regimen.
  3. Do different ethnic cuisine or topic foods per day: (some examples listed but obviously not all)
    • Mexican (tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas)
    • Indian (curry, tikka masala)
    • American (Burgers, salads)
    • German (meat, potato, veggie)
    • Italian (meatballs, pasta, chicken parm)
    • Greek (falafels, gyros)
    • Thai (curry)
    • Chinese (Stir fry)
    • BBQ (grilled chicken/fish, veggies)
    • Meatless Monday (using more beans, tofu, lentils)
  4. Use up the extras from a prior meal. Example: buying a large amount of chicken (buying in bulk is cheaper) and using it for two meals OR cooked too much salsa chicken?— make enchiladas the next day

I hope this gets your mind spinning and ways to make this week better planned. Here is what we have going on in our house hold:

  • Monday: Shrimp stir fry (we have frozen shrimp, frozen stir fry veggies, and frozen brown rice for the quickest meal possible! Just add sesame oil, low sodium soy sauce (or coconut aminos), honey, and sesame seeds!)
  • Tuesday: Turkey chili (cans of beans (rinsed), cans of fire roasted tomatoes, red pepper, onion, chopped sweet potatoes, and spices in the pressure cooker= quick and easy)
  • Wednesday: Chicken tikka masala with onion cauliflower rice, garlic spinach, and naan
  • Thursday: Instant pot chicken salsa with tacos (I will post a blog on this recipe but super easy= jar of salsa, chicken, taco seasoning)
  • Friday: we go to pizza night at my husband’s parents (I usually eat their leftovers or throw a bean burger on a salad with some tortilla chips—I am not a big pizza eater unless it is thin crust with veggies on it or homemade)

I usually make more for dinner for leftovers for lunch. The recipe below is cooking a whole chicken, to provide chicken for the next lunches or thrown into dinners for a quick meal. Make sure to pick off the bone and save the bones for homemade bone broth!

Happy planning and cooking!