If you’re looking to get healthier this year, you’ll need to start from the inside out. This means consuming less processed foods and eating healthier homemade meals. But with a busy schedule and personal life it’s never easy! That’s why meal planning is a great solution to this problem. It saves time and money while allowing you to change your eating habits for the better. Today we’ll be breaking down everything you need to know about how to make a healthy meal plan.
Plan Ahead and Get Ready
Like anything in life, you should start by planning ahead for the best results. When it comes to meal planning you should start on the weekend. First you’ll need to look ahead to see which days will need a prepared meal. This means days when you’ll be too busy with work or other activities to come home and cook a nutritious meal. Next it’s time for you to create a short menu of meals you would like for the week.
Themed dinners are one way you can keep meals interesting and creative throughout the week. They also help you plan out a fun menu without taking up too much time. A few examples include;
- Taco Night – Lean ground beef or chicken tacos (soft or hard shells) with a side of rice or beans and fresh vegetables.
- Pasta Night – Freshly made pasta and sauce with a side of vegetables and toasted bread.
- International Night – Enjoy a Moroccan, Japanese or Indian style dish.
- Vegetarian Night – Tomato and tortellini soup is both easy to cook and filling.
- Seafood Night – Marinated salmon or shrimp with a side of whole grains and fresh corn.
Once you’re done planning your menu, you can make your way to the grocery store to shop for all the ingredients.
On the night before prep day it’s important for you to soak any whole grains, beans and oatmeal overnight to save up to an hour of cooking time.
- Slow-cooking whole grains such as splint, barley or wheat berries should be placed in a large bowl and covered with a couple of inches of water. Leave them on the counter overnight (about 9 hours).
- You’ll need to store rolled oats in a jar with ½ cup of milk and plain yogurt. Top it with fresh or dried fruit, spices, nuts, seeds and/or a protein powder. Store them covered overnight (about 9 hours). Enjoy the rolled oats for breakfast warm or cold.
- Beans should be stored in a large bowl with 4 parts water and left on the counter overnight (about 14 hours).
You’ll also need to have plenty of clear storage containers on hand to store the premade meals or leftovers neatly within your fridge. These containers will make it easy for you to stack and organize a weeks worth of prepared meals.
In the morning you can complete quick prep tasks such as washing, chopping, roasting and boiling. You can make these tasks less burdensome by working them into your daily routine. One way to get the task done quickly is to prep in bulk, this means slicing several vegetables at the same time.
Select Fresh and Healthy Ingredients
To create a balance meal you have to choose items that are not only good for you, but tasty as well. Every fresh nutritious meal should include a protein, vegetable, smart carb and a healthy fat. By simply mixing-and-matching the ingredients listed below you can create a delicious and complete meal.
- Chicken Breasts
- Red Lentils
- Pressed Yogurt
- Pork tenderloins
- Red Cabbage
- Green Beans
- Brussel Sprouts
- Bell Pepper
- Spaghetti Squash
- Red Potatoes
- Brown Rice
- Butternut Squash
- Chopped Almonds / Peanuts
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
- Canola Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Walnut Oil
- Raw Avocado
Once you’re done putting together a healthy meal, select the right aromatics, garnishes and spices to give it a flavorful finish. Below are a few flavor profiles you can try out!
Mexican – Cilantro, Cumin, Ancho, Chipotle chiles, Lime, Cocoa.
Italian – Oregano, Basil, Fennel, Capers, Olives, Orange
French – Rosemary, tarragon, thyme, Bay Leaf, Black Pepper, Lemon,
Japanese – Miso, Sesame seeds, Seaweed, Pickled radish, Ginger, Yuzu
Southwestern – Cumin, Cilantro, Mint, Chiles, Pepper, Lime, Coriander
Moroccan – Cardamom, Saffron, Cinnamon, Cayenne, Cumin, Preserved Lemon
- Use the fresh herbs to garnish vegetables or an entire dish.
- Squeeze fresh citrus juice (lemon or lime) over your protein.
- Add dried spices to your smart carbs.
- Preserved foods or dried nuts can be sprinkled over your plate at the end.
- Marinade proteins such as chicken or steak for a few hour or overnight to infuse with flavor.
When it comes to your meals, the size your food is also important. It helps you get the correct amount of food and nutrients. Plus, all you need to do is use your hands as reference to build a better plate!
1 Palm = A serving of protein (meat, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt)
1 Fist = A serving of vegetables (salad, spinach, carrots, ect.)
1 Cupped Hand = A serving of carbs (grains, beans fruits and starches)
1 Thumb = A serving of Fat (oils, butters, nut butters and seeds)
Men’s plates should have 2 open palms of protein, 2 fists of vegetables, 2 cupped-hands of carbohydrates and 2 thumbs of fat. While women’s plates should have 1 open palm of protein, 1 fist of vegetables, 1 cupped-hands of carbohydrates and 1 thumbs of fat.
With that being said you should also take into account how often you eat, how active you are and are you trying to loss or gain weight. You can either increase or decrease the amount of food for a meal based on your personal needs and concerns.
Once you have selected the recipe, prepared and cooked the ingredients and portioned your servings, you can enjoy a healthy homemade meal.