Simple Steps to Healthy Meal Planning
I often get the question “How do you plan meals, particularly when it is at the last minute?” A busy schedule means that meal times are not always perfect! But what makes it easier is if there are a few favourite dishes in mind that you call fall back on. That way, there is less panic and a meal on the table within 30 minutes!
What type of cuisine do I feel like?
This does not mean that you have to be the next Masterchef! It just helps to know what type of dish you have in mind or “feel like” which can make meal times more interesting rather than a chore. This will also help to know what type of vegetables to use e.g., eggplant and zucchini for Greek dishes, bok choy and snow peas for Asian etc.
What protein will I use?
I always start off with what protein is going to be used e.g., if you had chicken last night then do salmon tonight. This prevents monotony and ensures that a variety of proteins are used.
- Lean lamb
- Lean beef
- Lean pork
Protein needs to be a third of the meal. Per person, this equates to 120g of raw meat, 160g raw fish/seafood or 120g tofu. A general rule with a portion of animal protein (including salmon) is the size of your palm. A portion of white fish is the size of your hand.
- Frozen meat, chicken and fish cut into portions ready to defrost
- A good supply of eggs e.g. omelette, scrambled eggs on toast, frittata
- Tins of tuna and salmon e.g. patties
- Frozen leftovers e.g. slow cooked dishes
Fill up on colour i.e. vegetables or salad
Seasonal veggies or salad should be included with every meal. Aim for your plate to be ½ to ¾ full.
Choosing vegetables and salad in season is not only cheaper but also better quality (see seasonal vegetable and fruit guide).
Add herbs for favour and a nutrition boost.
- Have a supply of fresh, canned and frozen vegetables for last minute meals
- Buy read washed salad leaves that can be used straight from the bag
Will I have a carbohydrate?
This depends on the type of dish. If you have a good amount of vegetables or salad featuring in the dish, then there is no need to add carbs e.g. a stir fry with loads of vegetables and protein.
That does not mean that carbs are ‘evil’. Low GI carbs are a slow burning fuel and provide fibre a good amount of fibre and B group vitamins. So it’s about being ‘carb smart’ i.e., quality low GI carb and a small quantity.
Low GI Carbs:
- Sweet potato
- Brown rice
- Legumes e.g. lentils, chickpeas etc.
- Sourdough break
This will depend on your activity levels but in general the portion is a ‘closed fist’ size.
- ½ cooked quinoa or brown rice (1 cup cooked for the very active males/females)
- ½ cup legumes
- 1 medium piece of corn or sweet potato
- 1 slice sourdough
Compliment with ‘good fats’
Forget low fat or not fat! By adding ‘good fats’ to your diet you will actually increase antioxidant absorpotion which is essential for protection against cancer! Ensuring you have enough fat in your diet will bring a whole raft of other health benefits too including heart health, better skin and even fat loss and improved energy levels. As with everything, you can have too much od a good thing. Any extra fat that we don’t use as energy will be in fact stored as fat. The key….portion caution or a syndrome I call….portion distortion!
This will depend on your activity levels but in general include 1 of these portions at every meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
- 1 Tablespoon cold pressed olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 Tablespoon raw nuts
- 1 Tablespoon seeds
- 1/4 avocado
- 1 Tablespoon tahini paste
- 1 Tablespoon 100% nut butter e.g., almond, peanut butter
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