Meal Planning 101
Last week I took on my first client! I am formulating a meal plan based on their specific dietary needs and then cooking and packaging it all up for them for the upcoming work week. While it is not feasible to cook for everyone, I offer meal planning as a service. If you have a particular wellness goal, or have a specific dietary need and are not afraid to get in the kitchen- let me do your meal planning for you! I can take all the guesswork out of whether you are eating optimally while taking in specific dietary needs based on your health history, current state of wellness, lifestyle and budget. If needed I can provide a shopping list, and prep list, and the meal plan will be formulated so there is no leftover ingredients. In addition I can give you the nutritional profile of each recipe including the nutritional stars of each dish, with researched backed information on why I chose that particular recipe for you! Here is an example of an in-depth meal plan that was based on a particular clients needs.
However, if you are a do-it-yourselfer and want to use a basic framework- meal planning is a great tool for helping to plan your meals and your grocery list. If you can dedicate an evening on the weekend to making your food, or at least some of if for the upcoming week- you will end up with much for free time during the week. Plus, if you are like me, you can then fantasize about what you will be having for dinner each day because it is already sitting there in your refrigerator!
What's the season? This is an important question for many reasons. To being with, if a fruit or vegetable is in season it will not not only taste better, but will be more nutrient dense and also cost less. Furthermore, you will probably want to vary your recipes based on the season. Listen to your cravings. If you are wanting a steamy bowl of chicken and rice soup in the height of summer, then you go for it! However, most of us tend to like soups and savory comfort foods in the fall and winter and light, bright foods in the spring and summer.
How many meals do you have to plan for? Do you plan on going out for dinner this week? Do you still want to cook dinner one night? Are you aiming to just cook all your lunches for the work week? This is something that will probably change every week, so it is worth it to take the time and figure out all the meals you want to cook ahead of time.
How tolerant are you of repetition? Are you okay with eating the same meal 2-3x in a week? I find that if you are cooking for just one to two people it is easiest to repeat some meals. This way you can just cook a large batch and divvy it up. When you are cooking for a larger amount of people, it becomes more feasible to make distinct meals for each day. The less recipes you make, the less time it will take.
What is your budget for the week? Once you have set your budget for the week you can use that to inform your ingredient choices. If you are on a limited budget, try for recipes that use more inexpensive protein choices like chicken. Or get creative in using less expensive cuts like beef shank, flank steaks, chuck roasts, pork shoulder chops or secreto.
What is your time availability like for cooking? Do you have all Sunday to spend cooking? Do you want to spend an entire one of your days off cooking? Some time savers include: using a slow-cooker, looking for "quick and easy" recipes, roasting a whole chicken and then using it in several recipes, cook a lot of a particular grain and use it in several recipes, and again make one or two recipes for each meals and alternate the days you will eat them.
Do you have a particular wellness goal or dietary restriction? This is a big one. This is a great way to have your meals all planned out and packaged so you won't gravitate towards a convenience food or sugar-laden choice based out of hangriness. In addition if you have a dietary consideration like a wheat allergy, or diabetes- seek out recipe sources that are based on whole foods.
Once you have thought out these.. you can begin to plan and look for recipes that fit the bill. There are some resources at the end that I personally like a lot!
Below I have outlined the 5 day meal plan that I created this week for my client who is on a diet that requires carbohydrate restriction with an emphasis on healthy fats and protein sources. This meal plan also emphasizes a low glycemic load and fiber rich foods and includes lots of foods that support small vessel integrity. I have also listed some of my favorite recipes in the meal plan.
Sorghum, Lentil and Grape Salad
1 1/2 cups sorghum
1/2 cup french lentils
1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled 1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups red grapes, roasted 1/2 cup almonds, roasted and chopped 1/4 cup parsley, minced 5 oz fresh mozzarella, torn 3 tbsp olive oil 2 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 tbsp shallots, minced 1 tbsp lemon juice zest of 1/2 lemon salt and pepper to taste
Cook sorghum in 4.5 cups water until tender, drain and rinse. While sorghum is cooking, cook lentils in a small saucepan by adding bay leaf and smashed and peeled garlic clove and covering with at least 3 inches water. Cook until tender, rinse and set aside. Roast grapes in a 350 degree oven by putting on a sheet pan by coating with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper until wilted and slightly caramelized. Stir together sorghum, lentils, parsley, almonds and mozzarella. In a separate small jar combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, shallots and salt and pepper. Drizzle and stir the vinaigrette in a bit at a time, tasting often.
Hazelnut and Almond Crusted Chicken
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup almonds
2 tsp paprika 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder 1 egg
2 chicken breasts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind all ingredients (except egg and chicken) in a food processor and set aside. Beat egg in a small bowl. Put half of the nut meal on a small plate. Dredge first chicken breast in egg mixture and then coat each side in nut mixture. Place on baking rack on baking sheet (or parchment lined baking sheet). Repeat with second chicken breast. Cook until chicken reaches 165 degrees. Serve hot.
-Weekly meal plans from The Kitchn
-Meal Plans from Whole Foods
-Real Simple's 10 ingredients, 30 meals
-10 ingredients, 40 meals from Womens Health