My Ask a Nutritionist column for Fleet Feet Tucson this month focused on one essential change for the New Year and my recommendation is to create a weekly meal plan. This is the key to achieving any food- or health-related goal. From weight loss, to fitness and to managing health concerns, it all begins with thinking ahead to ensure that you have the food available that your body needs.
Where to start
Make time to plan your meals for the coming week and shop accordingly. I do this each and every week. No matter what. Is is a non-negotiable part of the weekend. You have to start somewhere when creating a food plan for the week. For me, it is often the most recent cookbook or food magazine I’ve purchased, or a cookbook I haven’t looked at for a while, or a new website I’ve found. I also keep a list of family favorites to incorporate into the weekly menu. I’ve listed my favorite resources on the homepage and there is an easy to use Recipe Index on my website if you are looking for good ideas.
In developing the menu for this week, I decided it was time to clean out the pantry. I had a number of random ingredients that simply needed to be used up. I also have a new cookbook, Eat Like a Dinosaur, which was a Christmas gift for my 5 year old daughter. She wanted a cookbook, but most kid-friendly cookbooks are full of gluten and dairy, neither of which her body tolerates. Eat Like a Dinosaur is a Paleo cookbook which means that everything in it is gluten-free and dairy-free, and that works well for us.
To give you a little inspiration, here is our family’s menu for this week:
Sloppy Joe lettuce wraps using a random Simply Organic seasoning packet found in the pantry. I mixed the packet with tomato paste and vegetable broth and used it to season ground bison cooked with red onion. We served it on lettuce to make little “burritos” and had sliced cucumbers and carrot sticks as our “salad”.
“Fools Gold” chicken nuggets with pineapple dipping sauce from the new cookbook. The chicken nuggets were coated with almond flour and spices and then baked. The dipping sauce was canned pineapple with chilies and I used a can of diced Hatch chilies that was hanging out in the pantry. We had the nuggets with our family favorite, roasted cauliflower and broccoli.
Roasted chicken, stuffing and roasted carrots. We’ve had two roasting chickens that had been in the freezer for way too long and a box of gluten-free stuffing in the pantry from Thanksgiving. While this sounds like it would take forever, it’s very easy. I stuffed the chicken with 1 red onion and 4 cloves of garlic and rubbed the outside of the chicken with paprika, sage, dry parsley, salt and pepper. Put the chicken in the oven for 50-60 minutes at 450 degrees. I leave the chicken on time bake or put it in the slow cooker. The stuffing mix was a box of gluten-free bread cubes…not that interesting, and so I diced and sautéed 1 red onion, 1 bunch organic celery and 1 tablespoon dried thyme until the vegetables were cooked through. Then added vegetable broth, the stuffing mix and little more olive oil. The chicken and stuffing was served with roasted carrots that went in the oven with the chicken for the last 20 minutes of cooking.
From the cookbook I found a recipe for a pork roast with “squishy apples” that I thought the kiddos would enjoy. Plus I had a pork roast in the freezer and a few apples that were bruised that needed to be cooked. I’ll make a green apple and green cabbage slaw to go with this.
I try to have fish at least once per week for dinner and this week I found a recipe for Lemon Dill Salmon in the new cookbook. It looks simple; baked salmon with dill and lemon slices on top. I’ll make a mayo-dill-lemon dipping sauce to go with it and serve it with asparagus.
There you have it. This is what we are eating this week. I think about it once on the weekend when I make the menu and then I don’t have to think about it again until it is time to cook. This is key to eating healthy foods, keeping it varied and maintaining consistency in your diet and lifestyle.
A great investment of time
If you aren’t planning ahead for the week, this can be a daunting task. Nonetheless, it is a skill that is easily developed. I can help you learn how during nutrition appointments in the office, or I can come to your home and walk you through it. Once you get going, you will quickly find out that the time spent planning for the week has huge pay offs.