Tips for Meal Planning Success
How do I get out of the habit of eating fast food/eating out? How can I get my kids to like the foods I make? How can I eat healthy? How do I save money when eating? The answer to all of these questions is meal planning! As the quote from Benjamin Franklin goes, “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” So let’s decide to start thinking ahead, balancing our schedules, events and time restraints to set ourselves up for success!
The basic foundation for creating healthy meals is to base your meals off the MyPlate guidelines. Aim for half of your plate as fruits and vegetables with the other half as whole grains and lean proteins. Pair this with a calcium source, and you have yourself a healthy, balanced meal!
The amount of preparation you decide to do is up to you. Sometimes prepping ingredients is all you need to be successful in assembling a quick and healthy meal later in the week. For example, having grilled chicken on hand makes it easy to make chicken salad, chicken tacos, chicken stir fry or chicken pasta meals. Having prepped vegetables and fruits will make it easy for your family to have options in rounding out the meal or choosing a healthy snack. If basic preparation does not seem like enough for you, you may want to pick recipes for each day and plan a grocery list based off those recipes.
Pick a Theme
It may help to pick themes for the week to help guide you to what kind of food/recipe you want to choose. You might decide to have meatless meals on Mondays and taco or Mexican food on Tuesdays, etc. From those themes you could narrow down your favorite recipes and rotate them for the weeks to come.
Planning for Picky Eaters
If you have picky eaters, it might help if the children can choose which recipes they want – or at least have an option between vegetables/sides they want to eat. Having your children help in the preparation of the meal is also helpful. Can they tear the lettuce or wash the produce? How about stir the pot to prevent burning?
Start your plan with one food group. Some may find it helpful to start with the protein and then fill out the rest of the meal based off what might compliment that protein. For example, you could choose between seafood, chicken, beans/tofu/eggs, turkey, beef or pork and make the last day a leftover day. To help narrow down options, choose entrees that provide more than 400 calories, have 500 mg of sodium or less and have 13 grams of fat or less per serving.
Look ahead at what you plan to cook. Can you chop enough onions for every recipe in the week? Do you need to budget when you’ll prep your vegetables, grain, or meat? Does it work best to prep vegetables right after purchasing? Does it work best to prep tomorrow night’s meal the night before?
If you need some guidance as you start meal planning, we can help! Sign-up for one of Mercer Health’s meal planning services!