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Eating Healthy During The Week: Meal Planning

As a busy mom of two, I find meal planning every week an absolutely critical habit to maintain healthy eating.  If you have no plan during the week, and you are busy, something comes up, or you are just tired, what is the first thing you are going to do?  Turn to an unhealthy frozen dinner, unhealthy fast food on the way home, or calling for pizza.  Some people may have worked out ways to get around this and still eat healthy, if you have healthy staples in your home and time to think about what to make when you get home, you may not have to do this.  I still suggest that you try it for at least a week or two, see if it helps you, and if so enter the giveaway (details below).

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The first week that you meal plan, don’t try a bunch of new recipes, and definitely don’t try things that are going to take lots of time.  My first step of meal planning is to look at my week and see what is going on.  Some days I know I will have more time than others, and on days when I am pressed for time I try to think of the easiest meals I can make.  When I have more time on other days I will make slightly more involved meals and sometimes make double batches for leftovers for lunch.  The most involved and time consuming recipes I make on the weekends.  As you try more healthy recipes on the weekends, or on days when you have more time, you can and them to your repertoire, but in general what you make at home is going to be healthier than frozen meals and takeout either way.  

Tips for your first week:

  1. Stick to mostly recipes you know.
  2. Stick to recipes that are easy and you will have time to make on a weeknight.
  3. Add other new healthy recipes on days when you have more time.
  4. Pack leftovers for lunch if possible.
  5. Plan the whole week, but if you get off a day don’t worry. I usually don’t stick to my plan all week, something always comes up.  Just do your best.
  6. Stick with just dinners at first, if you like it you can add planning breakfast and lunch.
  7. If you want to, plan a night to eat out as a treat and something to look forward to.  We usually eat out at a restaurant once a week on Fridays, but try to keep it healthy fare.
  8. Help yourself out, buy pre-chopped veggies and fruit, or pre-chop them yourself on the weekends when you have time.
  9. Don’t feel like you have to be perfect!  Better is good enough.

My challenge to you is sometime in the next week to plan a list of meals for yourself, and post them here in the comments.  

Here’s our meal plan from a couple of weeks ago to get you started:

Day 1 – This was Easter, so we cooked a lot more than normal.  

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  • Lunch – Gluten free wraps with hummus, arugula, shredded carrots, and tomatoes, served with oven roasted french fries and strawberries
    • Tip – I helped myself out by using La Tortilla Factory gluten free wraps, Sabra hummus, baby arugula, pre-shredded carrots, and tomato.  I used Cascadian Farms french fries, and we pre-chopped the strawberries when we bought them.
  • Dinner – Asparagus and leek risotto and roasted broccoli
    • I don’t have a recipe for the risotto, Jeremy whipped it up himself and it turned out really well.
    • The broccoli was chopped tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roasted at 425 for about 20 minutes.

Day 2 – Monday –  Tomato and Basil Pasta

  • I violated my own rule here, I’d never tried this recipe before, but it looked pretty easy.  This is from the Oh She Glows cookbook and very similar to the one she has on her website here.  It ended up being very tasty. 

Day 3 – Tuesday – Spinach, Apple, and Walnut Salad

  • This was the plan for this day, but we didn’t end up having enough spinach to make it.  Instead we had a hodgepodge of vegetables and some gluten free rolls we had in the freezer.  The meal was supposed to be just what it sounds like, baby spinach, apples, and walnuts covered in homemade dressing.  I do one part balsamic vinegar to two parts olive oil as salad dressing.  
  • I had the salad the next day for lunch (I had enough spinach for myself), along with leftovers from Monday

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Day 4 – Wednesday – Jaime Oliver Wok Cooked Mussels, Asian Kale Salad, and Brown Rice

  • This is a really tasty mussel dish from Jaime Oliver.  I really like mussels because they are cheap (about $4 for a pound), easy to make, and full of nutrients.  They are high in Vitamin C, B vitamins, folate, iron, zinc, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids.  My kids also really enjoy taking the mussel out of the shell.   The recipe I used is from a Jaime Oliver cookbook, but a very similar one is posted here.  And just in case you are wondering, when he talks about coriander leaves, he is referring to cilantro (coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant, and in the UK they refer to cilantro as coriander leaves). 

Day 5 – Thursday – Tofu Tacos with Frontera Sauce

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  • This is a really easy meal, inspired by Chipotles sofritos.  I sautee up chopped tofu in a skillet with a little oil and then add Frontera taco sauce to it (it is meant for chicken but tastes great on tofu as well.  Then I cut up some avocado, lettuce or cabbage, and tomatoes to serve, and serve on corn tortillas.  We usually eat canned refried beans as well, I like the Bearitos brand because they are the lowest in sodium and have no added fat.  

Day 6 – Friday – Portabella mushroom burgers with pesto

  • This meal is another easy one.  If you read the recipe it calls for homemade pesto, but I just buy pesto.  I clean and marinate the mushrooms in the marinade, and then serve on gluten free buns with the pesto, tomatoes, and lettuce.   

Day 7 – Dinner at Fresh Thymes

  • This is a completely gluten free and egg free restaurant in Boulder that we love!  The food is very healthy here, it is kid friendly, and delicious.  When we’ve eaten at home all week it is fun to go out to eat every once in a while.  

So that was our plan for eating a couple of weeks ago!  When you come up with your plan post it here!!  It doesn’t have to be amazing.  To enter the giveaway, just post a comment with whatever you have planned and let me know why its better than what you were doing before, and how your week with meal planning helped.  One winner will be selected to win either this handy meal planner or one of my favorite cookbooks, Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon… winner’s choice.      

 

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