By Registered Dietician & Key Director Dawn Tucci
What happened to the days of enjoying a meal? Oh that’s right, life got busy. It seems like mealtime has become a time of stress and guilt with little enjoyment. Wouldn’t it be great if meals could be stress-free and enjoyable again, even in the midst of our busy lives? I think they can. There may be some changes that need to be made, but I think it’s doable! Just like everything else that we do, eating well requires some effort and a plan. Planning ahead for your week’s meals can take the stress off meal time and also be a time saver.
Here are some meal planning tips:
- Planning for one week allows us to think ahead to what we are going to eat, which means we don’t need to think about it anymore.
- Shop once and purchase everything you will need to have on hand when it is time to prepare the food.
- Chop vegetables for the week all at once. For example, I chop all my peppers, onions, carrots, and others on Sunday to save time!
- Use foods again throughout the week. For example, you can prepare enough chicken for 3 meals and use it in different ways or freeze it for another time.
- Crockpots can be used to cook all or part of the meal while you are busy doing life!
- Using a wok to stir fry allows you to cook meat, vegetables and noodles fast and in the same pot, which saves time during cleanup.
- Purchase part of the meal, such as a rotisserie chicken or pre-washed salad, and cook something quick like quinoa or rice to accompany it.
Is eating healthy a challenge because you can’t think of what to make and when to make it?
Here is an example of my weekly plan:
Brown a beef roast in oil (just a minute or so on each side) and place in crockpot. Top with potatoes peeled and halved, carrots and onion. Add about 1/2 cup water, salt and pepper. Cook on low all day and when you get home, dinner is ready!
Use leftover beef from Monday in a fajita or you can sauté chicken or shrimp. Also, sauté sliced onion and peppers. Serve with lettuce, cilantro, tomatoes, sour cream and corn or flour tortillas. You could also use lettuce as a wrap. I love these because everyone can put what they want on their fajita. You can also prepare black beans or pinto beans. I love making these and freezing them in small containers. They are a good protein and fiber source and go with everything!
Sauté shrimp in olive oil with salt and pepper. You can serve with rice and vegetables or over a salad. I buy the frozen shrimp that are raised wild and have been deveined.
Get that crockpot back out. Brown each side of a pork butt or pork loin. Salt and pepper and place in crockpot. Add cumin and garlic. Add onion and water. When you get home take out those black beans that you made earlier this week. Sauté chopped onion and garlic in olive oil and add the beans to reheat. Cook rice. Buy salad that has been pre-washed and dress with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic powder. You could omit the pork if you want to have a vegetarian meal and add some extra veggies instead.
Serve leftover pork with barbecue sauce on buns. Add a side dish of coleslaw and good, healthy, crusty bread. You can add a salad if time permits to have more vegetables. This is also great with cooked apples. This is so easy! Just peel and chop apples and cook in a small amount of water until tender and mushy.
Coat chicken pieces in flour and cook in butter and olive oil until done. Add lemon juice and chicken broth and let thicken. Serve with mashed potatoes or baked sweet potatoes and a vegetable. My family loves this with broccoli or green beans.
Place a ham in the oven and bake according to package instructions. This is going to smell delicious! We like to splurge on this meal and serve ham with macaroni and cheese or a corn casserole. The cooked apples mentioned above also go well, so you may want to make enough on Friday to have leftovers. Asparagus is a great addition to this meal. There will be leftover ham to start your week!
Here are some other healthy side ideas:
- Sauté spinach in olive oil until wilted.
- Quarter Brussels sprouts and sauté in olive oil, salt and pepper. Add a small amount of balsamic vinegar.
- Chop bottom third off asparagus, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
Part of the satisfaction in a meal is taking time to enjoy it with others. Slow down as much as you can to take time to feed your body well. It will thank you by allowing you to work and play with good health, energy and better sleep. No stress, just good food! A little planning will save you time and money and your meal will be healthy!