How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan

Tired of waiting until you’re hungry to decide what to eat? Avoiding the urge to grab a meal at a fast food drive-thru? Wanting to improve your overall health and quality of life? Meal planning is a strategy for eating well whether you eat at home, work, in a restaurant or on the go. By creating a healthy meal plan each week, you can save time, energy, and money and help promote overall healthier living. Planning ahead allows you to improve your food options and makes for a healthier diet.

Understanding Basic Food Groups

meal plan

Foods are divided into five basic groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Eating a variety of these different groups is important for getting the nutrients your body needs.

Fruits include berries, melons, juices, and other fruits.

Vegetables include dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, starchy vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, and other vegetables. Grains are made up of whole grains and refined grains.

Proteins consist of meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans, peas, lentils and soy products.
Dairy contains milk, non-dairy calcium alternatives, yogurt and cheese.

It is important to determine your daily goals for the different food groups based on your specific needs (age, sex, height, weight and activity level). Once you understand your daily limits, then you can develop your healthy meal plan for the week.

Healthy Meal Planning Strategy

Consuming a varied and wide range of foods provides a well-balanced and healthy diet. Balance the food energy you consume with the energy you use. Eat the right amount of food to support your body’s physical activities. Selections from each of the basic food groups should be included daily. Use these tips to plan your healthy meals.

Decide What to Eat

When narrowing down your options, here are some good rules of thumb to follow:

  • Keep in mind the basic food groups and how many servings of each you need daily.
  • Choose meals you like and find recipes at online food websites, cookbooks, or create your own. Look for ways to substitute ingredients with alternative and healthier options.
  • Include lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Limit the amount of protein and dairy foods.
  • Consider preparation of meals using less fats, sugar, and salt.
  • Increase flavor with low calorie seasonings.
  • Don’t forget to hydrate with plenty of liquids. Six to eight glasses daily is recommended.

Create a Shopping List

Stay on track by making a shopping list with a few of our suggested tips:

  • Make a shopping list of food items needed for your healthy meals.
  • Add quick healthy snacks for eating in-between meals.
  • Consider food items used regularly to keep stocked in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.
  • Focus on a premade list and avoid adding unnecessary and unhealthy grocery items while shopping.
  • Check grocery store sale items to plan shopping on a budget.

Meal Prep Ahead

Meal prepping will help save you time during a busy week. Here are a few of our suggestions for meal preparation:

  • Prepare meals and components ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator. This makes getting the final meal ready fast and easy.
  • Many meals can be cooked fully ahead of time and simply reheated.
  • Ingredient prep includes measuring, peeling, chopping, roasting, and sautéing beforehand, so meals can be put together more quickly later.
  • Batch prep is cooking and storing an ingredient to be used as a base for several meals.
  • Consider purchasing a slow cooker, instant pot, or hot air fryer to aid in meal prep.

Eat and enjoy your healthy meals! Contact Gardendale Primary Care for more ideas on how to stay healthy.