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Last Updated on April 19, 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
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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 Krill Oil vs Fish Oil: Which Should You Take? 6 Health Benefits of Beetroot Powder (And How To Choose A Good One) What Is Emotional Eating And How To Stop It

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    Published on July 14, 2021

    13 Best Foods to Eat at Night (Advice From a Health Coach)

    13 Best Foods to Eat at Night (Advice From a Health Coach)
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    We’ve all had late-night cravings. Those times when you would lie in bed but your mind is on the fridge. You try to fight it, but you find out that you can’t. Food—you want food—to chew and to drink and to swallow. It usually goes this way: after much hesitation, you would get off your bed and walk over to the kitchen where you would stand for seconds and maybe even minutes contemplating a lot of things.

    You have heard about it—read about it, too—the famous “eating late at night isn’t good for you.” You know well about how eating late at night can cause you stress and make you gain weight. But you just want to eat—and eat you must.

    But what must you eat? What are your best and most healthy options? Here are the 13 best foods to eat at night.

    1. Turkey

    If you aren’t a vegetarian, then you most probably love turkey. It is not only very tasty and delicious, but it is quite nutritious, too. Turkey contains a lot of protein. As little as 28 grams of turkey already contains eight grams of protein.[1]

    It also contains some amount of vitamins and a nutritive compound called selenium. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that plays an important role in ensuring the thyroid gland functions properly.

    Turkey passes as one of the best foods to eat at night because the protein tryptophan, which it contains in a considerable amount, is believed to promote tiredness and thus, sleepiness.[2]

    2. Fish

    Another great choice for non-vegetarians is fish, especially fatty fishes like salmon, tuna, and mackerel. These are considered healthy choices because they contain a considerable amount of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body regulate its calcium levels and is good for your kidneys, parathyroid glands, skin, etc.

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    Fatty fishes also contain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of healthy fatty acids that can serve as anti-inflammatory agents and are good for the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are shown to be able to increase the amount of serotonin produced by the nervous system, and thus, make sleep feel better.[3] This means that fishes would not keep you awake! You don’t have to roll from side to side trying to fall asleep after eating them.

    Fishes also contain nutritive oils that are good for your body and skin.

    3. White Rice

    White rice is just rice that has no bran germ—that is, both bran and germ have to be removed as a result of processing from brown rice to make it white rice. This removal of bran and germ causes white rice to contain lower fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants when compared with brown rice. However, white rice still contains a commendable amount of nutrients such as thiamine, folate, and manganese and so is great as a late-night meal.

    White rice has a high Glycemic Index. (GI). A food’s glycemic index is simply the measure of the rate at which that food increases the body’s sugar level. Taking in foods with a GI index, such as rice, can improve the quality of one’s sleep. This is as long as one takes these foods one hour before sleep. If you plan to sleep by 7 p.m, then it is a good idea to eat white rice by 6.p.m.[4]

    4. Bananas

    Finally, Something for vegetarians. A fruit! Bananas not only taste good, but they are also rich in the compounds potassium and tryptophan, making them one of the best foods to eat at night.

    Tryptophan, as earlier stated, is an essential protein that plays a role in relaxation. Some bananas before meals can improve the quality of your sleep. Plus, they contain vitamins and are rich in antioxidants. They also contain compounds that are capable of making bowel movements easier.

    5. Cheese and Crackers

    Cheese and crackers, crackers being a source of carbohydrates and cheese a source of tryptophan, can help balance the body’s sugar level. When you take cheese and crackers together, more tryptophan is made available to your brain.[5] The sugar in cheese feeds your brain, and tryptophan helps with the production of melatonin.

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    This means that there would be more serotonin and melatonin production in your nervous system when you take cheese and crackers together. Serotonin improves the quality of a person’s sleep.

    6. Warm Cereals

    Cereals are great sources of fiber. Ones like oats also contain an impressive amount of melatonin, which improves sleep.

    Before bed, a hot bowl of cereal and maybe even whole grains are a good choice. They do not contain a lot of calories and would most likely not keep you awake.

    7. Yoghurt

    Yogurt tastes good, and kids and adults love them. They are also a rich source of calcium. Calcium is an essential mineral to the body. It is necessary for the growth of bone and teeth, and skeletal, smooth, and cardiac muscles need it for muscular contractions to happen.

    Your body also needs calcium to produce melatonin from tryptophan. If calcium levels are low, there will be a reduced rate of production of melatonin—and thus, low quality sleep. Yogurt also contains casein. Casein is believed to reduce early morning hunger.

    Unsweetened yogurt is a great snack and one of the best foods to eat at night.

    8. Eggs

    Eggs are great sources of protein and don’t contain many calories. As a late-night snack, eggs are a great pick. They are easy to cook and can go along with many different kinds of snacks.

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    Eggs also contain tryptophan, which—as you must now already know—can improve the quality of one’s sleep.

    9. Protein-Pineapple Smoothie

    As you may have noticed, most of the snacks and foods on this list of best foods to eat at night are protein-rich foods. Protein-rich meals taken around bedtime can boost muscle repair. They can also combat age-related muscle mass loss especially in people who frequently exercise.

    As a late-night snack, you can blend some pineapple pieces into milk. Milk is a great source of the protein tryptophan from which the body produces melatonin. Pineapples do not contain a lot of calories and might not prove a threat to your body’s normal digestive functions. Pineapples can also boost your body’s serotonin levels.[6]

    10. Tart Cherries

    Juices made from tart cherries are great alongside other snacks, such as crackers and cheese. Tart cherries have anti-inflammatory effects. Even though in small quantities, tart cherries contain the sleep hormone melatonin. They also contain procyanidin B-2, which is believed to keep stable the essential amino acid tryptophan.[7]

    Tart Cherries have low calories, too. This means that they are not too heavy and do not pose the threat of fat deposition, and they would not keep you awake.

    11. Honey

    Honey harvested from bees is nutritious and does not contain a lot of calories. It is known to be capable of increasing the production of melatonin in one’s body.[8]

    It also contains healthy sugars, such as fructose and glucose, and can have a healthy effect on your body’s sugar level. Honey is one of the best food to eat late at night.

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    12. Popcorn

    When it isn’t swathed in sugar and milk and other fatty stuff, popcorn presents as a great late-night snack. Popcorn is a low-calorie snack and contains a rich amount of fiber.[9] High-fiber grains are believed to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

    Also, popcorn contains polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants believed to improve circulation and in general, health.

    13. Baked Sweet Potato Fries

    French fries are amazing. They taste so good. Do you like french fries? Then baked sweet potato fries are a great pick you might want to consider.

    As a late-night snack, you can very well bake sweet potatoes instead of frying them. They are easier to prepare when baked and do not contain so much fat. Sweet potatoes contain a good quantity of fiber and vitamins.[10]They also contain some great amounts of protein.

    Final Thoughts

    When next you have the craving for a late-night meal, you should know that not all meals are great when eaten at night. Some are about right, and others could contribute to excessive weight gain, heart diseases, digestive disorders, and other health issues.

    Have you ever woken up with swollen eye bags, felt nauseous, or had malaise after a late-night meal? Then it’s possible the meal was not a great pick.

    When choosing the best meals and snacks to eat at night, you should choose meals that contain low calories—not more than 200 calories—and have high protein content. Proteins like tryptophan enhance the quality of sleep. Some of these foods include eggs, turkey, cheese, bananas, yogurt, juices, etc.

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    Remember, eating healthy is a great way to remain healthy.

    More Healthy Snacks Options

    Featured photo credit: K15 Photos via unsplash.com

    Reference

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