Planning meals ahead of time can save both time and money, as well as help with making better dietary choices. Having a pre-planned meal helps to ensure that you have healthy ingredients on hand and prevents you from making unhealthy meal choices at the end the day. Healthy meal planning can be both fun and simple.
Consider some of the healthy meals that you and your family love to eat. Write down some meals that you know are family favorites and add those in to your menu plan. Look up recipes online and in cookbooks for additional ideas.
Include all food groups. Picture filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with lean protein and one quarter with a whole grain. A low-fat dairy product, such as a glass of skim milk, can also be included.
Add a meatless meal for at least one meal per week. Some excellent choices include black bean tacos, vegetarian lasagna or tofu stir-fry. This will help save money and is often healthier.
Include in-season produce. Fruits and vegetables that are eaten in season are often the tastiest and most nutritious. Plan meals around a delicious vegetable in season. Try a tomato-mozzarella salad with ripe summer tomatoes.
Include a variety of foods. To prevent boredom, choose different whole grains such as pasta, rice, quinoa or a whole-wheat roll. Switch up vegetables to include varieties of all colors, which are rich in different vitamins and minerals. Try different cuisines with unique spices and flavors such as Chinese, Italian, Mexican and Thai.
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Choose high-fiber foods including fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Fiber helps to fill you up and aids in digestion. Men need 38 grams per day and women need 25 grams. Include high-fiber options at each meal to meet the daily requirements.
- Use old meal plans for ideas for the new week's plan.
- Shop sale ads and cut coupons to save the most money on groceries.
- Start planning the weekly menu early to ensure that you have time to finish it.
- Check your pantry for ingredients before buying them.
- Be flexible with meals and switch them around as needed.
Amanda Hernandez is a registered dietitian who holds a Master of Arts degree in family and consumer sciences with an emphasis in dietetics from Western Michigan University. Her work has been featured in "Women's World" and "Women's Day" magazines. She writes for nutritionistreviews.com and has been a nutrition writer since 2010.