Tips for Healthy Meal Planning

May 11, 2017 10:32
Tips for Healthy Meal Planning

Whether you are cooking for just yourself or a larger group, planning meals is a good place to start improving your food choices. Taking the time to plan a healthy evening meal can help you avoid a less healthful "drive-through" dinner— and save you money in the process.

And we all know that eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits can have many health benefits. It may reduce risk for heart disease, protect against certain types of cancer and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.


Here are some tips:

Make a Weekly Meal Plan

  • Before making a grocery list, decide on the meals you want to make. Buying for the week means fewer shopping trips. Plus you’ll buy only the things you need. 

Meal Planning Basics

  • See what you already have in your fridge or cupboards. No need to buy things you lready have in stock.
  • Make a list or keep a notebook of new recipes to try.
  • Think about your schedule. If you have a busy week, plan easy meals.
  • Get more servings out of your favorite recipes! Add frozen vegetables to favorite pasta dishes, or beans to burgers to serve more meals.
  • Plan to use leftovers. Make larger recipes with enough servings for extra meals.
  • Picture the plate. Vegetables and fruits should cover half. Lean protein should cover a quarter, and the rest should be whole grains.
  • Look for sales. What’s on sale this week? And don’t forget coupons!

Make Healthy Choices and Save Money

  • Reduce portion sizes and buy fewer high-calorie foods.
    • For example, sodas and flavored drinks are mostly empty calories. Use less costly sparkling water and serve with a splash of a 100% fruit juice.
  • Read the label. Compare two different items by reading the Nutrition Facts and choose the healthier option.
  • Have a meatless meal once a week or more to take in more. Eggs are a great source of protein and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Choose lower-calorie ingredients.
    • In casseroles and meat sauces with a cream soup base, use a low-fat version.
    • Use low-fat instead of full-fat cheese in casseroles and vegetable sauces.
    • Use a lower-fat ground beef such as ground round or sirloin in tacos or pasta sauces. Or try using skinless ground turkey breast. After browning, drain the excess fat.

Kitchen Timesavers

  • By taking the stress and hassle out of cooking, you’ll have more time to enjoy it.
  • Organize your kitchen. Keep frequently used items such as cooking oils/sprays, spatulas, cutting boards, and spices within easy reach.
  • Clear the clutter. Before you start cooking, clear off your counters. This allows more room for prep space.

Other things to know:

  • Eat before you shop. Grocery shopping hungry can lead to impulse buying and unhealthy food choices.
  • Keep it simple. Healthy and creative meals don't have to be complicated. A simpler menu will usually cost less money and will be easier to prepare in the end. 

Try these healthy recipes:

Chicken Stir Fry

Pita Pizzas

Learn more about helathy eating at ChooseMyPlate.gov.