So. You wanna meal plan? First check out our how-to post here for meal planning basics. This post is all about how to build or select meals to fit into a weekly meal plan. Planning your meals can help quash the “what’s for dinner” conundrum- when you plan your meals, you know what to make!
If you are having what I call “meal block”, a nice way to break that up is to assign each day a cuisine theme: Italian, Mexican, seafood, build-your-own-pizza, etc. Then you can start building your meal from there.
Try to think of the entree first- it may be easier to come up with sides that complement the entree rather than the other way around. This week I was craving my herb and lemon baked chicken and I saw whole chickens were on sale so I grabbed one up.
When it’s time to fill in my sides I first think about what vegetables are in my fridge I need to use up- last week I ended up with tomatoes that were kind of mealy- not really good for salads but perfect for roasting with some parmesan cheese and herbs on top! That brings up a point about trying to eat in season: winter is not a great season for tomatoes or avocados, but does bring us Brussels sprouts and Delicata squash! Check out your local farmer’s market for seasonal fruit and veggies or do a quick internet search to find what’s growing in your area.
For starches, try to include whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa- the thing about those is they can be kind of boring on their own. Cooking grains in broth and adding finely diced veggies and herbs to make a pilaf will boost flavor and texture. Roasted potatoes with herbs are an excellent choice as well as being high in vitamins and minerals. Starchy vegetables such as corn, peas, winter squash will fit in this category.
A green salad is a great way to get in another serving of vegetables. I like to make my own salad dressing with a little bit of olive oil, flavored vinegars (my favorite is tarragon), grated garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs. Salads are easy to throw together with a little bit of prep work- I try to make a huuuuge salad at the beginning of the week to have for lunches and dinners for the next few days.
One last tip: when you get home from the store with all of your delicious, fresh produce, do yourself a kindness and take some time to prep it! Wash and dry lettuce for salads, slice bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, etc. They can easily be used for salads, stir fries, sauteed for omelettes or used to dip in hummus for a snack.
Adrien Paczosa is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian practicing in Austin, Texas and the surrounding counties.
She is the owner and founder of I Live Well Nutrition her Dietitian practice which started in 2007 and serves clients in the Austin, Texas area in two locations. Fearless Practitioners, the division of her business that offers training to dietitians and wellness professionals.