Meal Planning Tips and Guide
ByJoanne Aponte, ND •January 9, 2019
When it comes to eating healthfully, it all takes planning, time and more cooking at home. I have not found any way around this. But there are ways to to make it easier and reduce the time you have to spend on planning and cooking. I hope this meal planning guide helps make it all a little easier!
Meal Planning Tips:
- A routine and consistency are the keys. Have a similar meal schedule each week. For example, on Sundays I make a vegetarian meal for dinner, Tuesdays are salmon, Thursdays are chicken. Make your own meal plan template that fits your schedule, use the one below for an example.
- Choose a few days per week to do the majority of your cooking and meal prep – make an extra dinner to freeze, chop veggies, make muffins or a breakfast casserole for the week. I do most of my cooking on Sunday, Tuesday andThursday when I have more time. Every Thursday I make muffins with my daughter and freeze them for breakfasts and snacks.
- Make a list of meal ideas (with page number of the recipe book or web addresses). Keeping a binder with printouts of recipes is another idea. Each week when you do meal planning, look at your list or binder for ideas. Look up a new recipe 1-2 times per month. If you like it, add it to your list or recipe binder.
- Choose 3 lunches and 3-4 dinner meals to make each week and then plug them into your meal plan template. For dinner meals – choose at least one meal with fish and at least one vegetarian meal.
- To save time buy pre-cut or prepared veggies – I like to make butternut squash soup, to save time I buy the squash in cubes so I can just throw it in the pot with the broth, takes less than 10 minutes to put together.
- Double or triple recipes and freeze to use in following weeks. I make a list of what meals I have in my freezer so I don’t forget and I look at this each week when I meal plan. Buy extra glass storage containers to freeze things in and buy a second freezer if needed for extra storage.
- Take a night off – one day per week eat out, pick up something pre-made at a grocery store or make something super quick. Here are some healthier eating out ideas:
- Buy pre-made dinners from your local health food store – a rotisserie chicken with kale salad and roasted butternut squash for example.
- When eating out, think Ethnic foods – Mexican, Thai, Mediterranean. These often have healthier options. Skip the Italian cuisine and other bread and dairy heavy restaurants.
- Choose simple lunches that are quick to prepare and require very little prep or cooking time. See below for ideas. No time to prepare a whole lunch? Then just prepare part of the meal and get the rest from the grocery store or work cafeteria. For example, I will pick up a curry chicken salad from my local health food store and then I bring my own salad greens and a gluten-free wrap to eat with it.
- Eat leftovers! It’s okay to eat the same thing for 2-3 meals in a row.
Sample Meal Plan
*See the end of this blog for meal examples and recipes.
Day 1 – Sunday
- Breakfast: Eggs any way you like them (egg muffins, quiche, hard boiled eggs, omelets, etc). Make extra quiche or egg muffins and freeze for another time.
- Lunch: Leftovers or something quick and easy
- Dinner #1: Vegetarian – double the recipe and freeze the rest for next week’s freezer meal.
Do some prepping for the week- cut up veggies, prep lunch for Monday.
Day 2 – Monday
- Breakfast: Leftover egg dish
- Lunch #1: Quinoa bowl
- Dinner: Leftovers
Day 3 – Tuesday
- Breakfast: Homemade muffin from the freezer or nut butter with fruit.
- Lunch: Leftover Quinoa bowl
- Dinner #2: Salmon
Prepare chocolate pudding for breakfast
Day 4 – Wednesday
- Breakfast: Chocolate pudding
- Lunch: Salad with leftover salmon
- Dinner: Meal from freezer
Prep lunch for Thursday – Coconut red lentil dahl. Make extra for the next 1-2 weeks and freeze
Day 5 – Thursday
- Breakfast: Leftover chocolate pudding or Homemade muffin from the freezer
- Lunch #3: Red lentil dahl
- Dinner #3: Meat or poultry dish
Prepare overnight oats for tomorrow’s breakfast. Make enough for 2 mornings.
Day 6 – Friday
- Breakfast: Overnight Oats
- Lunch: Leftover Red Lentil Dahl, Turkey Roll up or Salad with hard boiled eggs.
- Dinner: Leftovers
Day 7: Saturday
- Breakfast: Overnight oats
- Lunch: Leftover meat from Dinner #3 with a salad – add walnuts and apples or avocado.
- Dinner #4: Throw together an easy prep dinner or dine out
- Red lentil Dahl
- Turkey roll up
- Quinoa Bowls – with Lemon Tahini Sauce or Thai Quinoa Salad with Almond butter dressing
- Curry chicken salad in lettuce wraps
- Avocado and hummus on sprouted wheat toast
- Choose something from the freezer that you’ve already prepared.
- Leftovers from dinner
- Turkey or chicken and avocado and veggies over salad greens
- Salmon salad over greens or on sprouted wheat bread – simply mix olive oil, a little salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon with a can of wild salmon.
- 2 tbsp nut butter and fruit
- Turkey or Canadian bacon with greens
- Leftovers from dinner
- Unsweetened Greek Yogurt with 2 tbsp hemp seeds and 1 tbsp ground flax seed
- Chocolate breakfast pudding
- Overnight Oats
- Mix together 1/2 cup uncooked oats, 1/2 cup dairy free milk (almond, flax, coconut), dash of cinnamon, 1 tbsp ground flax seeds or chia seeds, 1 tbsp nut butter or chopped walnuts, and a protein source (such as 1 serving protein powder or 3 tbsp of hemp seeds), add a drizzle of maple syrup, coconut nectar or stevia for a little extra sweetness. Put everything in glass jar or bowl with a lid and let sit overnight. In the morning, breakfast is ready!
- Protein Smoothie – search “smoothie” on our resources page for inspiration.
- Homemade Muffins
- Eggs – any way you like!
- Egg Muffins
- Crustless Quiche – whisk together 8 eggs, add 1/4 cup almond milk and veggies of your choice. Try spinach, olives and artichokes for a Mediterranean take.
- Dinner #1 – Vegetarian
- Spiced Lentil Soup
- One Pan Mexican Quinoa and Black Beans
- Curried Squash and Lentil Soup
- Vegetarian Taco Bowls with black beans or refried beans, corn, frozen spinach, radish, cumin, salsa and avocado. Serve with rice, quinoa or corn tortillas. For a lower carb option serve over salad greens.
- Dinner #2 – Salmon or fish
- Coconut Turmeric Crusted Fish
- Fish with Citrus Sesame Sauce
- Salmon Casserole – cook 1 cup of Quinoa and mix with 2-3 cans of wild salmon (boneless). Add 2-3 tbsp of olive oil, dill and salt and mix thoroughly. This one is super easy and requires only 1 pot! It’s a regular in our house.
- Asian Noodles with Salmon
- Creamy Spinach Salmon
- Dinner #3 – Chicken or Meat
- Slow Cooker Chicken Masala
- Paleo Pad Thai with Chicken
- Spanish Chicken with Creamy Pesto Rice
- Simple Stir Fry
- Chicken or steak fajitas
- Turkey or buffalo burgers fried in coconut oil with baked sweet potato fries.
- Dinner #4 – quick prep meal or eat out
- Bison or turkey burgers with avocado, fresh tomato and with a side of greens (buy patties that are pre-made to make things easier)
- Homemade pizzas loaded with veggies and served with a side salad – buy pre-made cauliflower crust, gluten free or sprouted wheat crusts. Pesto, goat cheese and veggies is a delicious combo.
- Taco bowls with black beans or refried beans, avocado, radish, peppers, and salsa. Serve over rice, quinoa or greens
- Pre-marinated fish or poultry with store bought sweet potato fries – just throw it all in the oven!
Good luck and happy meal planning!
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.