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Last Updated on March 2, 2021

How to Create a Delicious and Healthy Meal Plan for the Week

How to Create a Delicious and Healthy Meal Plan for the Week

Meal plans are a great way to cut down waste, make shopping for food quicker and easier, and stick to healthy choices. But what makes a healthy meal plan for the week, and how do you know what to include?

Firstly, there is no healthy meal plan that works for everyone. At different stages of your life, you will need different levels of nutrients, but there are some general principles that you can follow, and then adjust as necessary. Here’s how to create a healthy meal plan for the week.

The Backbone of Your Healthy Meal Plan

For the vast majority of adults, these practical tips should be the backbone of your meal plan:

  • A range of fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grain carbohydrates (brown rice, brown bread, millet, bulgar wheat, etc.)
  • Fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut
  • Unsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil, rapeseed oil, avocados, and nuts
  • Two portions of oily fish, such as salmon, per week (or nuts and seeds if you don’t eat fish)
  • A handful of nuts and seeds a day
  • Aim for 30g of fiber a day
  • Eat a range of beans and pulses (such as chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, and lentils)
  • Drink approximately 8 glasses of water a day[1]

Calorie Counting

A calorie is the energy required to raise the temperature of 1g water from 14.5 to 15.5°Celsius. This is calculated in a laboratory, by burning the food. However, the food is not “burnt” in our bodies, and people’s metabolism and energy expenditure vary, so it’s a very rough estimate. This is also why losing weight can be a tricky process.

The absorption and, therefore, how much energy is available for you to use, is also affected by how the food is processed. An example of this is sweetcorn. If you grind it down into a powder and make a tortilla, you will absorb far more calories than if you eat whole sweetcorn kernels.

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Another concern with calories is that instead of thinking about nutrient quality, it promotes prioritizing quantity. For example, there is a huge difference in the number of nutrients you could consume in 500 calories of fruit and vegetables, versus 500 calories of ice cream, so you need to think about this when creating your healthy meal plan for the week.

Also the number of calories you need varies according to so many factors, such as age, gender, lifestyle, and activity level, that it is hard to accurately predict exactly how many you need. Instead, I prefer to recommend a general principle of how to balance your plate and a reminder to eat mindfully when you are physically hungry, not because of an emotional trigger.

How to Balance Your Plate

When thinking of your healthy meal plan for weight loss or just a healthier lifestyle, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, your plate should contain approximately:

  • Fruit and vegetables (1/2 plate)
  • Whole grains (1/4 plate)
  • Lean protein (1/4 plate)
  • A spoon of unsaturated oil

How to build a balanced plate

    This will help you when you think of each meal to work out what to include and approximate portion sizes[2].

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    If all of this feels overwhelming, and you’re convinced that you just don’t have time for all of this planning, check out Lifehack’s 4 Step Guide to Creating More Time Out of a Busy Schedule. It will help you get organized and find the time you need to start living a healthier life.

    Your Healthy Meal Plan for the Week

    Check out the following healthy meal plan for seven days of meals and snacks to get you started with meal prep and planning done the right way.

    Monday

    Breakfast
    • Overnight oats, with chia seeds, quinoa, and milk or fortified plant-based milk
    • 1 grapefruit
    Snack
    • A handful of mixed nuts
    Lunch
    • Grilled tofu with a green salad and bulgar wheat
    • A piece of fruit
    Snack
    • Apple slices with nut butter
    Dinner
    • Tofu and salmon
    • Miso brown rice
    • Spring greens

    Tuesday

    Breakfast
    • Two hard-boiled eggs
    • Two slices whole wheat toast
    • 1 cup of low-fat milk or plant-based milk
    • 1 banana
    Snack
    • 1 cup of plain yogurt with a spoonful of honey
    Lunch
    • A turkey sandwich (turkey breast meat, tomato slices, lettuce, on two slices of whole wheat bread)
    • 1 small cup of vegetable soup
    Snack
    • 1 cup of grapes
    Dinner
    • Vegetable curry
    • Daal
    • Brown rice

    Wednesday

    Breakfast
    • 1 whole-wheat English muffin with peanut or almond butter
    • 1 orange
    • A glass of non-fat milk or plant-based milk
    Snack
    • 1 cup carrot slices
    • Hummus
    • 1/2 piece of pita bread
    Lunch
    • Chicken breast (6-ounce portion), baked or roasted
    • Garden salad with tomato, onion, and quinoa
    Snack
    • 1 cup of blueberries and an apple
    Dinner
    • Stuffed eggplant
    • Mixed vegetables
    • Millet or quinoa

    Thursday

    Breakfast
    • 1 bran muffin
    • 1 serving turkey breakfast sausage
    • 1 orange
    • 1 cup non-fat milk
    Snack
    • 1 pear
    • 1 cup of flavored soy milk
    Lunch
    • Chicken noodle soup
    • Saltine crackers
    • 1 apple
    Snack
    • Celery sticks
    • Hummus or peanut butter
    Dinner
    • 5 oz sirloin steak
    • Mashed potatoes
    • Cooked spinach
    • Green beans

    Friday

    Breakfast
    • 1 cup whole wheat cereal with non-fat milk
    • 1 banana
    • 1 slice whole-grain toast with peanut or almond butter
    Snack
    • 1 cup cottage cheese
    • 1 fresh pineapple slice
    Lunch
    • Tuna wrap with wheat flour tortilla, mayonnaise, lettuce, and sliced tomato
    • 1 sliced avocado
    Snack
    • 1/2 cup of blueberries
    • Non-fat yogurt
    Dinner
    • Trout or salmon fillet
    • Boiled carrots
    • 1 cup quinoa
    • Small garden salad with bulgar wheat

    Saturday

    Breakfast
    • 1 cup cooked oatmeal with 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup non-fat milk, and almond slivers
    • 2 slices turkey bacon
    • Non-fat milk or plant-based milk
    Snack
    • Raw broccoli florets
    • 2 tablespoons hummus
    • 1 peach
    Lunch
    • 1 cup whole wheat pasta with red pasta sauce
    • Medium garden salad
    Snack
    • 1 cup plain yogurt
    • 1/2 cup strawberries
    • 2 tablespoons nuts
    Dinner
    • Vegetarian chili with kidney beans
    • Small garden salad
    • 1 baked sweet potato

    Sunday

    Breakfast
    • 2 slices whole wheat toast with avocado
    • 2 poached eggs
    • Low-fat milk or plant-based milk
    Snack
    • 1 orange
    Lunch
    • Baked macaroni and cheese
    • Small garden salad
    Snack
    • A handful of nuts
    Dinner
    • 8 oz turkey breast
    • 1 cup baked beans
    • Cooked carrots
    • Cooked kale or spinach

    How to Adjust Your Meal Plan

    There are certain phases when more or less nutrients are needed, so it is important to consider your changing needs.

    When You’re Pregnant

    During your pregnancy, as you create a special health meal plan for the week, you should limit oily fish to once a week, and only 2 tuna steaks or 4 medium-sized cans of tuna per week, because of the risk of pollution.

    You should also avoid the following food groups:

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    • Raw or undercooked eggs
    • Unpasteurized cheese
    • Raw or undercooked meat
    • Pâté
    • Swordfish, shark, and marlin
    • Homemade ice-cream with raw egg
    • Soft-serve ice cream from vans or kiosks
    • Vitamin A supplements
    • Liquorice root
    • Alcohol

    When You’re Breastfeeding

    While you are breastfeeding, your body needs more calcium (1250mg), selenium (70mcg), and iodine (200mcg). Ensure that you include these in your meal plan.

    When Going Through Menopause

    Menopause

    changes your long-term risk of disease, so it is important to focus on items that help support bone and heart health. The healthy meal plan for the week you saw above already sets out a diet to support long-term heart health, but for bone health aim for:

    • 1200mg calcium per day
    • High-quality protein at every meal
    • Foods rich in Vitamin K
    • Foods rich in phosphorus
    • Foods rich in magnesium

    Organizing Your Shopping

    Once you have completed your healthy meal plan for the week, you can save the ingredients that you regularly need in an online shopping list in order to make repeat ordering simpler. Some recipe books also now have a QR code so that you can easily synchronize the ingredients needed with your online shopping.

    Try to eat seasonal fruits and vegetables where possible, but canned beans, frozen, dried, and freeze dried fruit make great substitutes for fresh, retaining most of the nutrients.

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    Final Thoughts

    Creating a healthy meal plan for the week may be daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll become a fun addition to your weekly planning, and one that will ultimately improve your overall lifestyle as you begin cooking at home more and utilizing healthy recipes. Try to use the general feedback above, and adapt it to your own specific needs. Enjoy looking for new and exciting recipes to include in your plan!

    More on Healthy Eating

    Featured photo credit: Ello via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Dr. Harriet Holme

    Registered Nutritionist, and doctor

    How to Create a Delicious and Healthy Meal Plan for the Week What Is Emotional Eating And How To Stop It

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    Last Updated on March 2, 2021

    10 Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas That Fit Your Busy Schedule

    10 Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas That Fit Your Busy Schedule

    In today’s society we are all overworked, pressed for time, and stressed. We all want to be healthier, and most people make a concerted effort by eating better, moving more, and getting to bed earlier. But if you’re like me, it’s an uphill battle, especially if you don’t know where to find healthy lunch ideas.

    How often do you find yourself working through lunch? And when you do get a chance to eat, you have to scurry to the nearest market or take-out spot, grab something barely edible, only to scarf it down in front of your computer screen. I know the dilemma—you have to eat to keep your brain functioning, and quick and healthy options during lunch madness are pretty scarce.

    The answer to this dilemma is simple: pack a lunch. It really is the best option for busy people who skip lunch, are crunched for time, and who have “working lunches” frequently.

    Benefits of Making Your Own Lunch

    The benefits of bringing your own lunch from home are numerous. Here are just a few:

    1. You can track and control your nutrients.
    2. You can prevent yourself from over-eating and consuming large, calorie-dense meals.
    3. You save money.
    4. You have more time to actually eat your lunch.

    It’s easy to feel convinced that it’s a good idea to bring your own lunch to work. However, now comes the issue of what to pack. The time saver in you—once you do make it to the grocery store—will try and talk you into buying a bunch of prepackaged, processed mess. You’ll have to fight these instincts to build in the new habit of preparing your own meals.

    If you need help boosting your motivation to start this new habit, check out Lifehack’s Ultimate Worksheet for Instant Motivation Boost. It will help you tap into your reasons for doing what you do and help you find a “why” for making your own healthy lunches.

    To get you started, here are 10 easy, healthy lunch ideas that you can make in a short amount of time.

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    10 Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas

    1. Quinoa Veggie Bowl

    Mexican-Quinoa-Bowl

       

      Toss together your choice of fresh or cooked vegetables with cooked quinoa, fresh herbs, and a dressing such as tahini, apple cider vinegar, cashew, cheese, or mashed avocado. Quinoa is an amazing grain that is full of protein, fiber, and antioxidants, so it’s a great addition to any meal.

      The quinoa and veggies can be cooked the night before, making this the perfect lunch for when you know you’ll have to get up and go the next morning.

      Get the recipe here!

      2. Buddha Bowls

      Protein-Packed Buddha Bowl Recipe by Tasty
        Buddha bowls are one of the most versatile lunches you can make and top the list of many easy recipes. They can be altered depending on your favorite sources of protein and the tastiest vegetables sitting in your fridge. If you’re looking for health lunch ideas, look no further!They often consist of a base of rice, quinoa, or another healthy grain. The next layer is built with two to three vegetables and a protein. You can even add hard boiled eggs! If you like mixing and matching depending on what’s available, this is the perfect healthy lunch recipe for you. For extra flavor, many choose to make a healthy sauce to top it all off, which usually uses soy sauce or olive oil as its base.Get the recipe here!

        3. Grilled Chicken Veggie Bowls

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        Veggie-bowls
          This recipe is quick, simple, and to the point. If you’re a chicken fan, you use this as your base and build around it using your favorite vegetables. If you’re not sure where to start, you can try using sweet potatoes and green beans, or even adding rice. Using different spices for each day, you can have different variations of this meal all week without boring your taste buds to death.Get the recipe here!

          4. Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup

          Best Slow-Cooker Split Pea Soup Recipe - How To Make Slow-Cooker Split Pea Soup
            If you know you’ve got a busy week ahead of you and are looking for quick and healthy lunch ideas, put this soup at the top of your list of healthy meals. Let it cook in the slow cooker Sunday evening, and you have a week’s worth of healthy lunches to keep you going.

            Full of protein-packed peas and healthy vegetables, this soup is filling and delicious at the same time.

            Get the recipe here!

            5. Chickpea Salad Sandwich

            UltimateChickpeaSaladSandwich1

              Meatless Mondays aren’t just for Mondays anymore! Go meatless for a week by prepping the chickpea filling for this sandwich and bringing a little to work each day. Have some bread waiting at your desk, and you have a quick and healthy lunch that won’t take time away from your break.

              Get the recipe here!

              6. Steak Fajita Salad

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              Fajita salad

                This salad is full of vitamin-filled vegetables and contains all the amazing flavors of a fajita, making it one of the best healthy lunch ideas. It’s topped off with a creamy cilantro-lime dressing that will feel new and fresh each time you eat it.

                Get the recipe here!

                7. Pesto Pasta

                Pesto Pasta

                  This is a delightfully light, yet filling meal that will definitely add a twist to the working lunch. It’s packed with roasted tomatoes and asparagus, adding another dimension to an already delicious pesto pasta. Make it for dinner the night before and use the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

                  Get the recipe here!

                  8. Spinach Artichoke Turkey Panini

                  If you’re a fan of spinach artichoke dip, you’ll love this easy panini. It includes Greek yogurt, which will offer an extra dose of protein and combine well with the flavors of the turkey and spinach. Everything combines to create filling sandwich that’s the perfect alternative to the traditional ham sandwich that you often find strewn on your coworkers’ desks.

                  Get the recipe here!

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                  9. Chicken Lettuce Wraps

                  This Chicken Lettuce Wraps Recipe is easy to make and has incredible flavor!

                    These are favorites at Chinese restaurants, and now you can make them as a quick and healthy lunch ideas in your own home! Use large leafy green lettuce leaves as a nutrient-rich alternative to a regular wrap. This recipe calls for ground chicken, but you can use ground turkey, lentils, black beans, or any other protein to fill your lettuce.

                    Prepare the filling on a Sunday evening, and you’ll have your lunch ready to go for several days.

                    Get the recipe here!

                    10. Mason Jar Ramen

                    This Mason Jar Ramen Recipe Will Forever Change Your Lunch Game

                      Forget boring, sodium-packed, store-bought ramen. This homemade ramen is stored in mason jars, making it amazingly easy to just pull out of the fridge before you head off to work. It also includes kimchi, Korean fermented vegetables, which is full of probiotics that will help you digestion[1]. This is truly one of the best quick and healthy lunch ideas for a busy lifestyle.

                      Get the recipe here!

                      The Bottom Line

                      Don’t let your busy lifestyle impede your progress towards gaining optimal health. Healthy lunch ideas can help keep you focused, prevent the 3 PM energy slump, boost your mood, and save you time and money in the long run. Learning how to meal prep is a process as it’s a new habit you’ll have to form, but once you’ve learned it, life will be a great deal easier.

                      More Healthy Lunch Ideas

                      Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis via unsplash.com

                      Reference

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