Healthy Meal Planning is Easy!
Recipes are great, and there are plenty of them out there, but the key to easy healthy meal planning is to know how to build a meal.
Each meal should have a carbohydrate, protein, and either fruit or vegetable, which I lump together as "produce". It is important to have all three in each meal. Most of us are lacking in the produce department, but not eating enough protein can hurt your health as well. Many fad diets include cutting out carbohydrates, but moderation is the key to long term health. Better to learn a proper portion size for your carbs than deleting them from your diet.
What are Carbs?
Bread, pizza dough, rice, pasta, couscous, barley, and potatoes are all examples of carbohydrates, or starches. They give you energy and can be full of nutrients when not over processed.
What is Protein?
Chicken, turkey, beef, pork, eggs, beans, tofu, nuts, milk and cheese are all protein sources. They are often fat sources because fat helps your body digest protein. In general, it is better to get your fats from non-animal sources because they contain less saturated fat.
What's left of our main three? It just isn't HEALTHY meal planning without the fruits and vegetables.
Do I Have To?
Yes. You do. You will feel so much healthier if you eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. The more raw and fresh, the better! This may seem daunting, but a serving is often no more than a cup! Try to eat fruits and vegetables throughout the day, and prepare large portions of vegetables at dinner. Have fruit as dessert as "catch up" if you didn't reach the produce consumption quota earlier in the day.
My goal is to have a fruit at breakfast, a fruit AND veggie at lunch, and a veggie afternoon snack so that as long as I have one serving of vegetables with dinner, I've reached my goal. If dinner's vegetables are lacking, I always reach for fruit for dessert.
Pick One of Each
The healthy meal planning rule is: have one of each - carb, protein and produce.
Now that we have all the pieces, let's put them together.
Oatmeal with peach slices
Cheese melted on toast/bagel with pear slices
Cereal with milk and berries
Egg scrambled with spinach and toast
Pasta with cheese and veggies, and an apple.
Peanut Butter on Toast with a Banana and baby carrots.
Grilled Cheese with Turkey Sandwich and an orange.
Lunch is great time for a raw vegetable: baby carrots, celery sticks, little broccoli and cauliflower trees, grape tomatoes, bell pepper strips, etc. Dip in homemade ranch dressing or peanut butter (sparingly)
Dinner Carb: Rice, Potatoes, Pasta or Bread (broad categories)
Dinner Protein: MEAT! (or beans)
Dinner Vegetable: Everything!
So, a bread based meal might be a chicken pizza with a salad. A rice based meal might be a soup or gumbo or pilaf.
Don't Forget Snacks!
It is very easy to grab carbohydrates for snacks. Crackers and pretzels and chips are so readily available. But by reaching for fruit or baby carrots instead, you will finish and move on with your day. I find when I reach for carbs, I keep coming back. When I sit and dip some bell pepper strips in ranch dressing, I can hold off until dinner. Apples are a great afternoon snack. They satisfy sweet and crunchy cravings. Add some cheese for protein and you're all set!
Healthy meal planning begins by selecting a carb, protein and vegetable (or fruit). With that, you will create a balanced diet that will keep you healthy and feeling great. Browse our recipes for more ideas.
When you've finished Healthy Meal Planning, head back to the Healthy Lifestyle Home Page