Planning meals that will keep you and your family healthy is not only important, but it is crucial. Cooking meals for yourself enables you to control what goes in to them, and what doesn’t. Below I’ll give you a quick rundown of the VERY BASIC steps to take to ensure creating a healthy and delicious meal every night!
Cooking From Home:
First and foremost, decide to cook from home.
The only way to eat healthy on a regular basis is to regulate what’s in your food by making it yourself. I’m not talking about frozen meals you throw in a pan. Those are great for the nights you come home late and just can’t find the energy, but they are not for every day.
Building A Recipe Collection:
After you’ve come to the decision to cook at home, where do you start and where do you find recipes?
If you’re new to cooking, like I was not long ago, then this can be the most intimidating aspect. However, there are literally hundreds, probably even thousands of quality websites that offer a wide range of recipes.
Here are just a few of my favorite recipe sites:
There are so many more, but just those two will get you well on your way.
Other places to look include food and drink magazines, state fair cookbooks, and your friends and family!
Now that you’ve started to find new recipes, be sure to hang on to the recipes you and your family love! Make a recipe box, download a recipe software, or just jot them down in a notebook. Just don’t lose the good ones, because this will enhance your collection of sure fire recipes.
Also, if you find along the way that you like a recipe, but would like to change something about it, change it up! Try new things to the recipe and re-invent it for your own.
The Food Pyramid:
Now that we’ve got to cooking our meals from home, you need to make sure they are healthy and well rounded. Basing your meals off of the basic food pyramid is the way to go.
Everyone has their own interpretation of the food pyramid, acceptable servings of each, etc. But one thing stands true, you need your meals to be well rounded and balanced. You need to include most, or all, of the groups in the food pyramid into your meals to stay healthy.
Here are the very basics you should include; however, if you want more detailed information and more specifics, then Google the “Food Pyramid” and you’ll find tons of info.
- Meat/Protein: Poultry, Beef, Pork, Eggs, Fish, Nuts, etc.
- Vegetables: Carrots, Corn, Beans, Tomatoes, Onions, Garlic, etc.
- Starches: Pasta, Potatoes, Bread, Grains, Cereals, etc.
- Fruits: Apples, Bananas, Strawberries, Grapes, etc.
Before I go on, let me say that there are a lot of people out there who will say that you have to measure out servings each meal. This is fine, except it can become VERY time consuming and stressful to keep track of all the servings like that and if you’re not trying to lose weight, but just stay healthy, then doing the above is better than doing NOTHING.
For those of us out there who just don’t want to spend all that time counting exactly how many servings you have of each group in the pyramid, working off of this basic concept will get all your food groups into the meal at the very least.
Adding Balance To Your Meals:
Now that you know WHAT to include in your meals, how do you incorporate it all to fit together?
My favorite type of meals are the kind that end up having all, or most, of the food groups in them. You’ll find this a lot with the recipes that are a mix of beef/chicken, noodles, vegetables, and a cream sauce made with milk. However, you don’t always have to do it this way.
I start my meal planning by choosing a recipe with the main dish of meat/protein in it, then work from there. If the recipe has dairy included, then I call that my dairy serving, if it has lots of vegetables, that’s my vegetable serving, and so on. However, if it only has a small portion of the food group, then I would include the group in a side as well. For example, on the side of your meat dish include a basic serving of vegetables, like corn, and for your starches make biscuits or buttered bread.
You’ll notice above that I didn’t include fruits. Where in the world do you include this into a dinner that is not meant to be sweet? Well you can do a few things here. First, you could try to get in your fruit throughout the day as snacks, or you could make a delicious dessert with fruit.
Putting Your Plan Into Action:
Now that you have an idea of what to do, you need the tools to do it.
The day before you go grocery shopping, make out your meal plan for the next week and write out your grocery list. I make out my meal plans on Friday for Saturday through the following Friday.
After doing this, I go through all of the ingredients in the recipes for that week and write down the ones I need to buy. Once you have a good stock of spices, pastas, and canned goods, your meals will become much cheaper.
Since I mostly cook beef and chicken, with pork sometimes thrown in the mix I try to keep it interesting and have even more of a balance by alternating types of meat each day. For instance, I’ll make a recipe with beef on Monday and then on Tuesday a recipe with chicken, and so on.
To get you started, here is a printable meal planning sheet/grocery list that you can download. It might also be a good idea to print out your favorite food pyramid that you come across on the internet and keep that with you when you plan your meals.
Good luck and stick to it!
DISCLAIMER: I do not claim to be a doctor or a professional nutritionist. The advice above is to be taken at your own risk and I am not liable for any results due to the advice above. It is always a good idea to consult your doctor or nutritionist before changing your diet and eating habits.