AICR just put out a press release “Healthy Eating Doesn’t Have to Mean an Empty Wallet: Four Tips To Be Both Frugal and Fit” and one tip is to plan and prepare.
And recently, my daughter and sister-in-law and I have been exchanging our menu planning ideas and tricks.This has kept me inspired and given me some new ideas for getting a healthy meal on the table at the end of a busy day.
Here are the menu ideas from the press release:
- Monday: Bean and veggie chili, corn bread
- Tuesday: Baked potato topped with leftover chili and side salad
- Wednesday: 3 oz fish, steamed vegetables, rice
- Thursday: Stir fry veggies with lean beef or chicken and leftover rice
- Friday: Low sodium canned minestrone soup with added frozen vegetables and whole-wheat bread and reduced fat cheese
Here are ideas from my correspondence:
I start from a basic template of two vegetarian meals and three meat meals (beef, chicken, and seafood/fish) per week. For the meat meals, I add vegetables and a starch (usually potatoes, polenta/cornbread, or couscous – at some point we’ll try quinoa too) and for vegetarian meals we usually do one pasta meal and one “other” in which I try to incorporate protein, a starch, and vegetables.
Ideas for veggie variety:
Peas: add a sprig of mint as they cook.
Zucchini: Grilling is so handy -slice zucchini lengthwise into planks, paint with canola oil sprinkle on a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Grill both sides.
A lot of other vegetables are good grilled this way. For the fun factor, I like kebobs with mushrooms (button and crimini), chunks of bell pepper (all colors), pearl onions, zucchini chunks, etc.
Spinach, kale & chard: Sauté some chopped onion until almost translucent, add some sliced mushrooms (whatever variety you choose should work). When these are almost done cooking, add a big old pile of spinach and let it cook down. Cover to retain moisture if needed. Works well for chard also. Kale takes longer to cook down.
Stir-fry: one of my favorites is julienned zucchini, julienned carrots, sweet onion, mushroom slices, strips of red bell pepper. Serve over somen noodles with “soy sauce sauce”: about 2 tablespoons soy sauce, one teaspoon of sugar and some sliced spring onion is more than enough for two servings of somen noodles with stir-fried vegetables.
Tomato / avocado salad: cut tomatoes and avocados into similarly sized chunks, add honey-mustard dressing and stir to coat.
The cajun trinity: green bell pepper, celery, onion — dice all to similarly sized chunks, about a cup each. Sauté. Add to whatever dish you’re making. One way to use them is to add chili powder to taste, toss them into the rice cooker and cook rice as you normally would. Consider cooking the rice with broth instead of water for extra flavor.
Do you plan meals? What are your secrets for variety?