Being able to whip up quick, healthy dinner meals in minutes is a skill that will serve you well in your quest to eat healthier.
In our household, my wife and Six Factors to Fit co-author, Nancy, prides herself in doing just that for our family.
For this blog, we share tips so you can learn to do the same.
If you’re interested in boosting the healthfulness of your meals, here are some meal planning tips:
1 – Theme Your Meals
Themed meals break from the typical American meal that is big on meat and starchy carbohydrates like white pasta and potatoes and not so big on less calorie-dense foods, such as vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains.
Theming your meals allows you to more easily achieve the following nutrition goals that support healthier eating and healthier meal planning:
- Use more plant-based foods, like vegetables, salads, beans, nuts, seeds
- Choose higher-fiber and better-quality whole grains
- Select leaner protein sources
- Incorporate some healthy fats
Here are some themed meal examples that can be repeated with varied ingredients week to week:
- Whole Grain Thin Pizza Night
- Taco, Chili or Make-Your-Own Burrito Bowl Night
- Stir-Fry Night
- Soup & Sandwich Wrap Night
- Entrée Salad Night with Protein Toppers (like fish, seafood, chicken, veggie or turkey burger, falafel, tofu or tempeh)
- Garbage Salad Night (use leftover salad greens, vegetables, canned chickpeas, proteins, grains)
- Breakfast Anytime Night
Know that other more familiar themed meals, like Pasta Night (whole grain), Burger Night or Fish Night can also be adapted to fit this format.
2 – Use Online Ordering when Short on Time
No time to go to the grocery store?
Check out your neighborhood for the most convenient way to do online ordering.
In our community, Target, Amazonfresh, Whole Foods or Instacart can be used for last-minute mid-week grocery pickups or deliveries.
Also, pay attention to the food staples you need for your themed dinner nights.
You want to make sure you have protein, whole grain and healthy fat options for more balanced meal planning.
Some staples to keep on hand may include tuna fish or salmon in packets, eggs, nut butters, nuts and seeds, hummus, beans, tofu, edamame, frozen seafood, fish, falafel or turkey and veggie burgers, whole grain pizza crusts and wraps, quinoa, shredded mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, olive oil and avocados.
Know that frozen vegetables and fruits are also excellent to keep in your freezer.
3 – Cook Once, Enjoy throughout the Week
Vegetables can be roasted in big batches and then used throughout the week – on an entrée or side salad, as a topping to a thin veggie pizza dinner, an addition to a burrito bowl, sandwich wrap or a breakfast anytime egg scrambler.
You can also batch cook lentil or bean soup that can be frozen and enjoyed many times over.
Be patient as you try new dishes to find your favorites.
Maybe your family isn’t a fan of pizza with roasted broccoli and peppers but loves barbecue chicken pizza with roasted onions made with the same individually-portioned healthy crust.
Or maybe they don’t like bean chili but love shrimp tacos.
If you want more meal planning tips, check out our self help book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight Loss that Works for You!
Healthy cooking and eating is a journey; enjoy the ride!
Robert Kushner, MD