Plan, Prep, Eat!

Smart shopping and a stocked pantry can make preparing and enjoying healthy meals a snap. All it takes is organization as you make your shopping list, and an hour of slicing and preparing for the week to come.

Mom and son cooking

1 Plan your list

To simplify your shopping, categorize your list into groups of like items:

  • For the refrigerator – yogurt, lean luncheon meats, seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables
  • For the freezer – frozen berries, meats, fish
  • Dry goods – pasta, beans and rice, cereals, onions, nuts, spices

Once you have the basics stocked, take an hour to slice and package fresh fruit and vegetables into 4 oz individual meal-size portions. You'll be ready to grab and go as you prepare a variety of healthy meals quickly!

2 Plan similar meals

Starting each day with a healthy breakfast helps everyone function better. An egg white western omelet is quick and easy, or choose baked oatmeal with sliced banana or fresh berries. A fun, healthy breakfast choice for children is a fresh fruit burrito. Spread a dollop of creamy peanut butter on a flour tortilla, top with your pre-sliced fruit (peaches, strawberries) and a spoonful of yogurt. The breakfast will disappear before the smiles do! Plan three or four breakfasts you can alternate throughout the week.

3 Make a little extra

Streamline your kitchen time by always cooking extra. If your dinner is baked chicken, prepare an extra portion. Mixed with chopped apple, celery and nuts in a creamy yogurt dressing, it will take mere minutes to make a tasty chicken salad, beautifully served stuffed in a ripe tomato.

Leftover salmon does double-duty when flaked and tossed with steamed snow peas and carrots in pasta. Add in cherry tomatoes, pepper strips or other raw vegetables for contrast, crunch and a colorful presentation.

4 Involve the kids

They'll delight in building their own sub sandwiches on whole grain rolls or pitas. Let them stack on lean luncheon meat, lettuce, tomato, pepper strips, sliced mushrooms, sprouts and carrot coins. Baked sweet potato strips seasoned with chili powder make a tasty change from packaged chips and high-fat sides. Baked for 20 minutes, they're a crisp and colorful treat.

Tips for cooking with kids >>

5 Get fishy

Incorporate heart-healthy fish several times a week. Poached salmon or halibut with a medley of oven-roasted vegetables make an elegant dinner suitable for company. Add a salad and wine, and enjoy the compliments.

Recipe: Easy fish fillets >>

6 Serve up healthy swaps

Consider healthier substitutions when you shop. Plain yogurt can replace mayonnaise, cream cheese and sour cream, and can be the base for smooth and creamy dressings and dips. Bison and turkey are lean meats, and make delicious burgers, meatloaf and meatballs. Instead of jarred sauce, chopped or pureed fresh tomatoes and vegetables make healthier marinara and soups. Add turkey meatballs for a kid-pleasing spaghetti dinner, or low-sodium chicken broth for a hearty vegetable-rich soup.

6 Easy ingredient swaps for healthier meals >>

By choosing a variety of seasonal produce and spending an hour each week shopping, slicing and packaging, your ingredients are ready when you are. You'll feel better and serve more creative, healthier meals.

More tips for healthy eating

5 Food priorities for healthy eating
Healthy dinner ideas for the busy girl
Healthful snacks for your snack attack

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Comments

Comments on "Tips for planning healthy meals"

Steve Dodge May 31, 2011 | 3:48 PM

Great idea for leftover Salmon--I flaked it, and tossed it with lightly steamed snow peas red pepper strips--crunchy, and full of flavor!

DONNA E. DEUTSCH R.N. May 22, 2011 | 7:46 PM

AS AN R.N. I AM ALWAYS PLEASED TO READ ABOUT HEALTHY WAYS TO EAT...I THINK THIS WAS A VERY INFORMATIVE AND WELL WRITTEN ARTICLE.I HOPE YOU HAVE MORE ON THIS SUBJECT IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

Kathy Valentine May 19, 2011 | 3:19 PM

Helpful planning tips for our on-the-go family. Great way to save time and eat healthy, eliminating last minute after work trips to the grocery store. Would like to read more on yogurt dressings and dip recipes.

Ann Pearce May 19, 2011 | 6:04 AM

Great article! The way it is written is truly one of the best articles on thinking through daily habits for healthy living! Thank you!

Judith Moak May 15, 2011 | 3:50 PM

Great article with helpful tips - will definitely use these next time I go grocery shopping!!

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