Meal Planning 101

Caroline Loveland BIDMC Nutrition Volunteer

NOVEMBER 11, 2016

It’s not always easy to cook healthy, flavorful dishes at home throughout the week. And that’s especially true during the hectic nights of the holiday season. But don’t worry. Whether it’s a lack of time, ingredients or inspiration that’s holding you back, these simple tips and recipes will help you eat right and still enjoy the spirit of the season.

Pack your pantry: Keep staple foods stocked in your pantry. Having the right ingredients around makes it easier to serve up a quick weeknight meal without having to stop at the store first. Some key items are whole grain pasta, brown rice, canned beans, olive oil, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth and canned tomatoes. These shelf-stable ingredients are convenient, packed with nutrition and perfect building blocks for a healthy dinner.

Fortify your freezer: Don’t limit the foods you have to those in your pantry. Wait for sales and stock up your freezer with whole grain breads, chicken, fish and shrimp. Store them in the freezer to extend their shelf life by months. You can use frozen items to make stews, sauces or heart-healthy stir-fries like this brown rice, chicken and vegetable dish. Yum!

Score with salmon: Salmon is a flavor-filled fish that’s heart-healthy and easy to prepare. Pair pan-fried salmon with the brown rice and some fresh winter kale for an easy weeknight meal. Use seasonings like garlic powder, lemon pepper, or herbs and spices as a healthy alternative to salt or butter. For more information on this flavorful fish and the different ways you can prepare it, check out this article by the New York Times.

Bring on the beans: If you’re trying to cut back on meat, consider a protein-packed “meatless Monday” meal like these black bean tacos. All you need are some whole wheat or corn tortillas, canned black beans, salsa, and seasonings such as cumin and garlic powder. Add some diced onion and heart-healthy avocado slices if you have them on hand. Out of tortillas? No problem! Turn these tacos into a southwestern-style omelet, wrap them in lettuce leaves, or create your own Spanish rice by adding in some brown rice for a quick, nutritious meal.

Take a step back and slow-cook your meals: Even one slow cooker meal per week can save you tons of time in the kitchen. By planning and preparing ahead, all you’ll need to do is throw the ingredients together and plug in the slow cooker! This method of cooking makes weeknight meals easy and allows for easy, one-pot cleanup. It makes cooking less work for you, especially if you are making meals for the whole family, and by measuring out enough for two meals, it even helps with controlling portion sizes. Experiment with recipes that use your essential pantry items, such as this simple slow-cooked chicken and vegetable meal. For a meal with an extra kick of flavor, try these vegetable and chickpea curry or zesty chili one-pot fixes.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.