How To Plan Healthy Meals?

plan healthy meals

How do you plan your meals? Find out how and more information, like how to effectively prepare your food, eat for maximum nutrition, and have healthy snacks and lunch takeouts with you.

Planning healthy meals can be difficult, especially if you are cooking for a family that is stuck in a rut of unhealthy meals.

With some basic nutrition knowledge, however, you can have your family eating healthy without them really even realizing it.

The key to creating healthy meals is to plan.  Plan your week’s meals ahead of time and ensure you have all of the necessary ingredients.  Don’t put off preparing healthy meals because you don’t have a tomato.

Plan your meals out and go grocery shopping.  While shopping, it is important to get only the foods that are on your list and stay away from the cookie and ice cream aisles to limit temptation.

This will also allow you to keep your food costs to a minimum because you are buying less expensive whole foods instead of processed foods.

Huge time savers such as slow cookers and microwaves are also helpful, and everything that comes out of the microwave doesn’t have to be unhealthy.

A slow cooker will allow food to cook all day while you are at work.  When you get home, you will have a delicious and healthy meal waiting for you.

When you are planning meals for the week, create a chart of each day’s meals and your daily schedule.  This will help you decide which days are best for certain meals.

For example, maybe you have time to cook something extra special on Friday nights, but the rest of the week is so hectic that you don’t know if you are coming or going.

You can place those special recipes you have been wanting to try on Friday and then come up with healthy alternatives for your busy days.

Get the Family Involved

Eating healthy is a family affair.  It is important to get your spouse and your kids involved.

This allows you to ensure that each day someone has something that is his or her favorite being served.

This may mean that Friday nights are special pizza nights, but the rest of the week is healthy.

It is important to plan meals with everyone’s input to ensure that everyone’s tastes are involved.  You also do not want anyone to feel as though they are being deprived of something they like.

It is an even better idea to get everyone involved in cooking.  This allows the children to learn their way around the kitchen and what foods are healthy for them to eat.

Get Prepared

Cooking in large quantities is an excellent way for you to have healthy foods at your fingertips.  Cooking large amounts of soups, casseroles, chilies, and pasta will save you a lot of time during the week.

You can even make double or triple batches of certain staples in your diet.  This will allow you to freeze them and use them later.  This saves you both time and money.

When you freeze your leftovers, be sure that you label your containers with freezer tape and permanent markers.

This will allow you to rotate items wisely and keep the older foods near the top.  This also allows you to avoid waste by not having to throw out foods that have expired.

Stock up on meats when they are on sale, and then divide them up into individual serving portions for your family.

For example, if you buy 5 pounds of ground beef, separate it into 5 one-pound servings for your ground beef recipes.  You can also divide up your chicken breasts, turkey, steaks, roasts, and pork chops.

If you are going to have pork chops one night, all you have to do is pull them out of the freezer and allow them to thaw while you are at work.  When you get home, you can cook them up on the grill and sauté up some fresh veggies.

A well-stocked pantry is also important.  Keep a good supply of staples such as canned veggies, fruits, soup stocks, etc.

These will help you prepare your meals much more quickly, especially when combined with your stocked freezer.  This also allows you to save time and money.

Other items that you can stock up on include:

  • Whole-grain cereals
  • Pastas
  • Tomato sauce
  • Baked beans
  • Canned salmon
  • Tuna
  • Whole-grain breads

Eat for Maximum Nutrition

In the past several years, a lot of fad diets have hit the market.  This is mainly because people are recognizing that it is time to start eating better and living a more healthy lifestyle.

You know that you need to eat fruits and vegetables, but perhaps you are far too often choosing the wrong items.

For example, avocados may look like a healthy food, but they are actually full of fat and calories.  Bananas may seem healthy, but they have a lot of sugar.  It is the healthy balance of these items that we are looking for.

The key to changing your diet is to recognize the areas that you need to change and then work on those areas.

For instance, some people simply need to add veggies to their diet and cut back on meat.  Others need to cut back on sweets and add fruits and vegetables.

Some people could do themselves a lot of good by eating a breakfast so that they do not overeat later in the day.

These are little changes that can be made if you get motivated to do it.  The key is to make small changes so that they are seamlessly incorporated into your life.

Eating healthy also means different things to different people.  A healthy runner who runs a 5K every other weekend doesn’t have the same nutritional requirements as an office worker who sits at a desk all day and needs to lose 20 pounds.

A good place to start is to begin by changing your diet up by adding variety.  Make smarter choices when shopping and try to avoid the sugary temptations that lurk in the grocery store.

If you eat out a lot, you can still make better choices.  Limit your salad dressing and eat more veggies and skinless chicken.  It is also a good idea not to eat your whole plate but to take a portion of it home with you for later.

Eat more highly nutritious foods rather than high calorie foods.  You will be amazed at the difference this can make at your first sitting.  Most fatty foods are full of empty calories.  This means you are eating foods that have a lot of calories but they don’t fill you up.

By eating foods that have calories you use, you are feeding yourself useful energy without overeating on unhealthy foods.  The produce section of the grocery store contains a lot of healthy and filling foods that are not full of empty calories.

Don’t be afraid to try new things.  Your tastes change as you grow older.  You actually begin to like foods that you despised as a child.  Some people think that they don’t like foods, but they have never eaten many of what they say they don’t like.

Produce is relatively cheap.  So you are not losing too much money if you by some fresh spinach for a salad and find out you still don’t like it.

If you do like it, then you found something healthy that you don’t mind eating and it’s relatively inexpensive.  Talk about a win-win situation!

You don’t have to give up your Saturday night steak.  Just work on it a bit to make it healthier.  Cut off the excess fat that you don’t need and don’t slather your potato in all the “fixins.”  Try a little bit of butter or even a little cottage cheese.

If you want to know more on nutrition, check this post:  What You Should Understand About Nutrition?

Healthy Snacks

 

It never fails, there’s a pang that hits our stomach around 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon.  This little bit of hunger is easily overcome by a healthy snack.

Instead of reaching for those chocolate chip cookies, why not some apple wedges with a little peanut butter on them?  Or, how about a glass of milk or cup of cottage cheese?

You could even grab a handful of nuts.  Whole grain products make good snacks as well.  Wheat bread or bagels can make you a nice little snack to hold you over until dinner.

For the kids, consider having some carrot sticks already peeled and sliced for them when they come home from school.

You could even have a little bowl of broccoli florets, green peppers and carrots in a bowl with a little side of low fat salad dressing for dipping.  These are much better snacks than Jell-O, Fruit Roll-Ups, Pop Tarts or candy bars.

Here is a little quick recipe that you can whip up in no time:

  • Can of mandarin oranges
  • Cut up banana
  • Apple
  • Nectarine
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raisins

Mix in the juices from the orange and serve.  This is a delicious little fresh fruit salad that you can use as a snack or even a healthy dessert.

Keeping a bowl of fresh fruit around on the table also encourages you to grab an apple or orange instead of a handful of M&Ms.

Milk and dairy products are also important.  You don’t have to buy the fattiest of these items either.  If you are a whole milk drinker, consider dropping down to 2%.

You will be amazed that the taste is very similar to whole milk, but with less fat.  It is also not as watery as skim milk.  You can also have some low-fat or nonfat yogurt, puddings, cheeses and cottage cheese around.

Lunch meats can also make a great snack.  Get some healthy turkey, chicken or ham.  Pregnant women should be sure to warm these up to kill off any bacteria before eating them, just to be on the safe side.

Sandwiches that are made on whole grain bread with low calorie mustard can be a good snack to hold you over.

Tuna that is packed in water is the best and very easy to whip up.  Peanut butter, eggs, poultry, nuts and beans make good snacks as well.

You can also pair your fresh fruit with nonfat plain or vanilla yogurt.  Add fruit to cereal or use fresh fruit and juices to make smoothies as a quick snack or breakfast.

For bagels that are getting a little stale, toast them and spread a little bit of peanut butter on them.  You could also use a low fat cream cheese.

Or, slice them into little thin slices and brush with a little butter.  Sprinkle with a little garlic and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.  Now you have healthy bagel chips and you didn’t waste any food.

You can also check this post:  What Are Your Healthy Snack Options?

 

Take Your Lunch with You

When you are a career person, it can be difficult not to eat out every day for lunch.  It is possible to take your healthy lifestyle on the go.

You also never know what they are serving in school cafeterias these days, especially when it comes to older kids in middle school or high school.  If you all brown bag it, then you can still create healthy lunches for your whole family.

The most important decision to make is what you are putting in those lunchboxes.  It is very important that you choose foods that are easy, yet quick.

If you are able to include a favorite food in each lunch, then there is less of a chance of your child hitting a vending machine to get a candy bar.

When you are packing lunches, be sure to choose at least three of the following:

  • 1 fruit or vegetable (fresh, canned or frozen)
  • Whole grain product
  • Milk or dairy production
  • Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, peanut butter, legumes or hummus

It is also a good idea to get the family involved in fixing their lunches.  Have a little session each night where everyone gets to choose some of these healthy items to put in their lunches.

Lie out all of the healthy food options and let everyone decide what they want to take with them the next day.  If they want milk to drink, it is a good idea to give them milk money, as it is difficult to keep milk cold at school.

Kids will love to fix their own lunches.  You might even have a special shelf in the refrigerator just for those foods.  It is also a good idea to have plastic bags, napkins, plastic silverware and straws for the kids to pack in their lunches as well.

Healthy Lunch Tips
  • Incorporate different breads in sandwiches.
    • Rye
    • Pumpernickel
    • Whole Wheat
    • Tortilla wraps
    • Pitas
    • Bread sticks
    • Crackers
  • Bite sized veggies are best
    • Baby carrots
    • Broccoli florets
    • Pepper slices
  • Bite sized fruit are good too
    • Grapes
    • Blueberries
    • Orange wedges
    • Strawberries
  • 100% fruit juice or milk money
  • Single serving cereals (Good for breakfast too)
  • Selection of various nonfat yogurts.

 


POINTS TO REMEMBER

How To Plan Healthy Meals?

  • Get the family involved
  • Get prepared
  • Eat for maximum nutrition
  • Healthy snacks
  • Take your lunch with you
  • Healthy lunch tips

 

TAKEAWAY QUESTIONS

– How do you usually plan your meals?
– Do you get your family involved in meal planning?
– How do you make sure you eat for maximum nutrition?
– How do you prepare healthy snacks?
– How do you prepare healthy lunch?

 

 

What Are Your Healthy Snack Options?

healthy snack option

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What are you snacking on lately? Snacks are an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But it is very important that you don’t snack up on oily and junk foods.

Healthy snacks can help provide extra nutrients and also count towards our five a day target of fruit and vegetables.

Healthy natural snacks should be eaten between meals and will help towards your health and nutrition.

Nutritionists recommend that healthy snacks should contain vegetables, fruit, nuts or cereal grains. They will also cost you less than buying junk food that has little nutritional value and is bad for your health.

The keys to healthy snacking are to select foods that:

Can satisfy your hunger,

Supply your body with energy, and

Provide important nutrients

By pre-planning for snacks and eating the right food you can use snacks in your favor instead of feeling guilty afterward.

Here is a healthy snack tip. A key to losing weight and keeping it off is eating more negative calorie or fat burning foods with lots of volumes but few calories.

Eating fat burning compatible or negative calorie foods creates a calorie deficit that requires your body to use stored fat as energy.

Here are  just some examples of healthy snack ideas that are negative calorie foods:

apples

cantaloupe

carrots

cod

corn

crab meat

grapes

lobster

low-fat yogurt

mangoes

pineapple

raspberries

strawberries

watermelon

Avoid late night snacks because your body’s metabolism slows way down when you sleep. That means anything you eat just before you go to bed will turn to body fat.

If you eat vending machine snacks they contain high fat and you can forget about reducing body fat because these snacks can sabotage your weight loss quickly.

Also, beverages like smoothies, sweetened coffee drinks, soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks and flavored teas contain a lot of sugar that will end up as body fat.

raspberries

Snacking on blackberries, peaches or red and green peppers can help you meet your daily recommendations of fruits and vegetables. You need two to four servings a day.

Dates, mangoes, papaya are very sweet and natural. You can easily eat them if you have got the urge to much on any candy. These can also be eaten in dried forms and you would love their taste.

They are also rich in vitamin C, A, and iron. So if you eat them you can keep your body safe from any harmful and fattening chocolate and candy bars.

You can eat low fat crackers instead of the standard rich biscuits. You can easily use them as your snacks whenever you are hungry and just feel like munching on something. These can keep you away from fatty chips and Doritos.

If you want more refreshing snacks then you can make yourself a bowl of salad. You can all your favorite fruits and vegetables and mix it.

In the end, you can add lemon, low-fat yogurt, or olive oil as dressing. The salad bowl would be very refreshing and you would also feel very full.

Just like the salad you can also have small or mini sandwiches with low-fat cheese and it would taste as good as anything else.

sandwich-healthy snack

Combining healthy snacks with a good diet and exercise lead to an improved wellbeing.

The ideas below, for healthy snacks, are suitable for everyone from school children to those at work.

Avocado and Cheese Sandwich made with Wholemeal Bread

Avocados are a good source of vitamin E and C as well as being high in fiber and potassium. They also contain folic acid, an important vitamin for pregnant women. Cheese contains important levels of calcium and wholemeal bread is high in fiber.

Dried Banana Chips

Dried banana chips are often fried in coconut oil and coated in honey. Bananas contain high levels of vitamin A and C. They are also rich in potassium. You can often find banana chips included in muesli. Great for a carbohydrate boost.

Crackers and Cheese

This is a very popular snack after dinner. Cheese is high in calcium. Crackers also come in wholemeal varieties and these are a good source of extra fiber.

Fruit Salad

You can combine any of your favorite fruits in this snack such as kiwi fruit, apples, pear, and nectarines. This snack will help you towards your five a day of fruit and vegetables.

Hummus in Pita Bread

Hummus is made from dried chickpeas, garlic and sometimes tahini. Hummus contains fiber and iron while tahini is made from sesame seeds and is high in calcium.

Turkey Sandwich

Lean turkey or chicken on whole wheat bread with mustard will provide you with energy-boosting carbs as well as valuable protein that will ensure you feel full longer. A full sandwich would be approximately 400 calories while a half a sandwich would be around 200 calories.

Popcorn

Popcorn is a whole grain food, which makes it a high-quality carbohydrate source that is not only low in calories, but a good source of fiber.

 

This means it takes longer to chew and makes you feel full sooner and for a longer period of time compared to non-whole grain snacks. Compared to many snack foods, popcorn is also low in calories.

Air-popped popcorn provides only 30 calories per cup. When oil-popped, it contains only 55 calories. Even drizzled lightly with butter, it’s only 90 to 120 calories per cup.

mixed-nuts

Try these power snacks for a quick pick me up, that’s good for you, too.

Mixed Nuts 

Nuts are an excellent source of Vitamin E, which is good news for your heart. They are high in good fats that offer a great boost of energy. Just be careful not to eat too many, as they are high in calories, too. Aim for about a ¼ cup.

Raisins 

Raisins are cholesterol-free, low in sodium, and totally fat-free. They provide many necessary vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium, calcium, and certain B vitamins.

They are a good source of fiber and rich in antioxidants. They are also easily digested, for quick energy. A ¼ cup of sun dried raisins is about 130 calories and the perfects portion for a snack. Try mixing raisins, mixed nuts, and a few other foods such as cheerios for a great take-along.

Nutrition Bar

Nutrition or protein bars have dramatically improved in taste over the years. Today, many offer the perfect balance of carbs and proteins and are packed with beneficial vitamins and nutrients, including calcium, folic acid, iron and much, much more.

Check the nutrition facts and beware those that full of fats and sugars. Go to your trusted health store to be safe.

Milk

Milk contains 9 essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamins A, D, and B 12, protein, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, and phosphorus.

This powerful package of nutrients does more than just build strong bones. 8 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk will give you the sugar you need for energy, and the protein to sustain it.

Yogurt 

Yogurt is an outstanding source of protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins B6, B12, niacin, and folic acid. It contains just as much potassium as a banana does.

This special dairy product contains a lot of friendly bacteria that benefit your health tremendously. A 16-ounce container of yogurt is usually 100-200 calories, depending on whether you choose fat-free or low-fat

Fruit 

Go for fruits that are high in natural sugar, without the fat. Grapes, bananas, cantaloupe, and watermelon are all good choices. These fruits supply the burst of energy you need without the fat you don’t need.

Cut up some pieces of fruit to add to your yogurt for a nutritiously packed afternoon goody.

Fruit, such as oranges, bananas, and apples, are packed with vitamins, including Vitamin C; minerals; antioxidants; good carbs; and fiber. Plus, they are easy to carry with you! A piece of fruit or a cup of berries is usually 80-120 calories, depending on the fruit.

Whole Grains

Whole-grain snacks are rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber, which give you immediate energy that has some staying power. Consider items such as low-fat whole-grain crackers and whole grain crispbreads.

Low-Fat Dairy Products

Cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products are good sources of calcium, protein, and other nutrients. Be sure to choose low fat versions.

Mix up your snacks a bit, so that you never get bored. Try new fruits, yogurts, and nuts often. Try out different power snacks together to reap the benefits of a diverse diet. You can truly treat yourself without feeling sinful!

smart snacking

Tips for Smarter Snacking

There are smarter ways to snack throughout the day where you can lower your calories and still fill the hunger gap.

Roberta Larson Duyff, MS, RD, author of the American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, goes over some common snacking times and makes a few smart suggestions on what healthier items we can replace those “filler” foods with.

When you need a wake-up or need a quick energy jolt:

Eat a small breakfast of carbs and protein (cereal, egg, milk) or have an AM snack of proteins like peanuts or cottage cheese.

Before leaving the office for a meeting:

A quick piece of fruit or chunk of cheese is good if you don’t know when lunch is coming.

Before working out:

You might want pump up with a piece of fruit and a big glass of water.

After school or work:

A small sandwich and a glass of milk will work, otherwise, people eat all the way until dinner, a cookie, a cracker, a soda, and are never satisfied.

If you are cutting calories have some cut-up veggies or a rice cake with peanut butter or cheese.

When out with friends:

Try splitting a dessert or snack when you go for dessert or grab a bite with your buddies.

Before partying:

A cracker and cheese or little carrots are a good choice to take the edge off. Drink an equal amount of water after every drink when you can.

Before bed:

Milk contains tryptophan, which makes some people sleepy, and chai tea can be soothing.

Snacking not only helps ease those nasty hunger pains, but it relaxes and softens stress. Snacking should not be used to escape boredom. Find the smart snacks that fit both your individual needs and the occasion at hand.

child friendly snack

Child-Friendly Healthy Snacks

Make snack time nibbles attractive and hassle free. Prepare small portions of snacks and leave them in easy to find places like kitchen shelf, fridge or dining table.

The healthiest and simplest choice for snacks is fresh fruits and raw vegetables requiring minimum preparation time.

Some good suggestions of kid-friendly healthy snacks include:
1. Make fruit salads with kid’s favorite fruits. Prepare them in small batches from fresh fruits and freeze them.
2. Dry fruits like raisins or apricots and fresh fruits like apples, oranges, watermelons, and bananas.
3. Sandwiches with peanut butter, tuna or lean meat cuts.
4. Yogurt, plain or flavored or milkshakes made with low fat or skimmed milk. Dry cereals or cornflakes served with fruit and low-fat milk.
5. Fresh fruit juices like orange, watermelon, grapefruit or frozen juice bars.
6. Hard-boiled eggs with a slice of whole wheat bread, peanuts, pretzels or crackers.
7. Ready to eat cut up veggies like carrots, cucumbers, and celery. Unbuttered popcorns, wheat crackers or whole grain muffins served with low-fat cheese dip.
8. Fruit Smoothie made in a blender with fresh fruits, juice, and yogurt.
9. Yogurt dessert with layers of low-fat yogurt, fruits, and veggies.

 

Try out different things and you would be able to make things up yourself. Just look for bad and good carbohydrates and you would achieve your goals.

So next time when you are hungry think of the possible low-fat items that you can make instead of just opening the fridge and filling your mouth with high-calorie chocolate bar or sandwiches.

Don’t keep your body hungry but always keep it satisfied with the healthiest of food around.

Just like this, you can look for other low-fat snacks which can keep you fit. If you start thinking before putting anything in your stomach then you would be really able to keep a watch on your weight.

People who don’t really notice what they are eating are the ones who have got most problems with their weight and then they regret later. So it is better to think today and have a healthier tomorrow.

Believe it or not, small changes like these can have a huge difference in your weight loss results. Remember, successful weight loss is just a combination of the right choices.

So the next time you have a snack attack at home or at work you’ll know how to use it to your advantage for healthy and weight loss success.

 


POINTS TO REMEMBER

Healthy natural snacks should be eaten between meals and will help towards your health and nutrition.

The keys to healthy snacking are to select foods that:

  • Can satisfy your hunger
  • Supply your body with energy
  • Provide important nutrients

Avoid late night snacks because your body’s metabolism slows way down when you sleep.

Some Ideas of Healthy Snack

  • Avocado and cheese sandwich made with wholemeal bread
  • Dried Banana Chips
  • Crackers and Cheese
  • Fruit Salad
  • Hummus in pita bread
  • Turkey Sandwich
  • Popcorn

Examples of power snacks for a quick pick me up

  • Mixed Nuts
  • Raisins
  • Nutrition Bar
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Fruit
  • Whole Grains
  • Low-Fat Dairy Products

TAKEAWAY QUESTIONS

– Are you eating some healthy snacks?

– Do you always choose healthy snacks?

– How often do you have some snacks?

– Are you snacking for your advantage?


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