The easiest way to start your healthy eating journey is to create the best healthy eating meal plans for the week that work for you. There may be some trial and error but once you get the basics down it is much easier to follow and stay on a plan vs trying to come up with your meal ideas every week. Find your favorites and stick with them, especially on busy weeks. Use your slower weeks to try new recipes.
The best healthy eating meal plans and recipes allow for flexibility within guidelines so you have a lot of options but don’t get overwhelmed. I have also included a few go-to recipes to get you started.
Here are some great ideas for meal planning – pick one item from each group for breakfast, lunch and dinner and 0-3 snacks depending on how your day is going & how much you want to eat. If you are exercising, you may want to include more snacks but if you have a day where you’re at home not doing much (maybe a Netflix binge?) then you may want to have less snacks.
Healthy Eating Meal Plans – Breakfast
- Avocado toast: 1 ripe avocado, smooshed over 2 pieces of toast (100% whole grain) with a poached/scrambled/fried egg over the top. Season generously with salt & pepper (and maybe some red pepper flakes); feel free to add some cheese if you enjoy dairy.
- Eggs: 2 eggs cooked to your liking, 2 slices of bacon (I prefer no sugar, uncured) – easy to cook in microwave by putting in between 2 paper towels, and some sauteed spinach, brussel sprouts or other veggie. I cook the veggies quick in a saute pan, add to plate and then cook the eggs in the same pan.
- Smoothie: Pick your favorite smoothie and have all the ingredients on hand so you can make it any time. My favorite is a plant-based protein powder, 1-2 tablespoons of flax seed (or MCT Oil), almond milk and some fresh strawberries. Another great option is 1 scoop plant-based protein powder, 1 cup greens, 1 cup almond milk and 1 cup of frozen fruit. You can also add a few handfuls of greens and/or frozen fruit. The goal for a smoothie as a meal is to be sure you are including some protein (yogurt is another good option), fat and fiber.
- Oatmeal: I will often make this ahead of time as you want to be using steel cut oats (not the quick cooking oatmeal). It takes about 30 minutes so I’ll make 4 cups at a time (1 cup of oatmeal + 4 cups of water) then I have enough for 4 mornings. I don’t add a sweetener but will add some chopped nuts and/or fruit.
Healthy Eating Meal Plans – Lunch
- Aunt Sue’s Favorite Greek Salad: This is a family favorite and Aunt Sue brings it to all our gatherings. But we realized it doesn’t have to be just for a special day. Delicious and healthy. Feel free to change out each ingredient to include your favorite. Rough chop 3 peppers (we like to use different colors), 1 red onion, 1 cucumber. Add 2 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar, a large splash of olive oil and salt to taste. Chop or crumble 1 cup of Feta cheese and spread over top. I love it when I can find & afford a really good Feta but the packaged crumbles will work as well. This is great on it’s own but you can also add some chicken breast on top if preferred.
- Buddha Bowl: What I love about Buddha Bowls is you can make them based on your favorite flavors and can customize based on your nutrition needs such as extra protein or carbs. Start with a base such as quinoa or brown rice (make some on Sunday to last the week); alternatively use mixed greens if you don’t want the carbs. Add whatever vegies you might have, black beans, shredded chicken or strips (you can find good frozen chicken strips or use rotisserie chicken) and maybe some shredded cheese on top. Salsa is a great flavor addition, or a favorite salad dressing. For another option, see Nancy Hala’s Buddha Bowl Recipe.
- Mixed Salad: I love salads and this is one of my go-tos: Chopped mixed greens, some chopped pecans, thin slices of red onion, Feta cheese cubes. I often add a little chicken salad or tuna salad (or whatever is left over from dinner the night before). My favorite dressing is Brianna’s French Vinaigrette (it has no sugar) but the best option is to make your own.
- Mediterranean Bowl: I have to admit that I love Roti and while I try to avoid fast food I do occasionally enjoy lunch or dinner from here. This is a take on what I order from there. The base can be quinoa, rice or salad (or cauliflower rice which you can find in the frozen aisle). Then chop some cucumber, tomatoes and scallions & mix with some olive oil and vinegar and add to bowl. Other toppings include pitted greek olives, hummus, tzatziki, and chickpeas. You can find recipes online to make the hummus and tzatziki but for a busy week I will buy premade and then this salad comes together so quickly.
- Tuna Salad with a side salad and fresh fruit.
Healthy Eating Meal Plans – Dinner
- Spinach Salad with Beans/Chicken/Shrimp/Steak: Use whatever protein you have on hand and layer on top of a mound of spinach. Add some strawberries or tomatoes and toss with a vinaigrette.
- Zoodle Spaghetti: When I received a zoodle maker as a gift I started making zucchini noodles and now we all enjoy them. You can now also find them premade in the store. I’m not going to say they taste the same as a bowl of pasta but when you have a good sauce it comes pretty close. I use about 1 zucchini per person. Cut off the ends and make the zoodles. Put in microwave for a couple of minutes (check to see if they are soft) then drain the excess liquid. It’s best to make your own sauce but use jar spaghetti sauce in a pinch (check label to ensure minimal ingredients and no sugar added).
- Chicken and Veggies: This is a go-to staple in our home. The chicken is usually pan-fried in the pan with a little mix of olive oil & butter but it I grill a lot during the summer. Always make extra to use in your lunches. For the veggies, I will chop and roast on sheet pans – I try to do 2 sheet pans each time so I have plenty of leftovers. Roasting will give your veggies deeper flavor. Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions and peppers are our favorites. Cut the veggies to a medium/small chop and keep them all around the same size. Brussels can be cut in half or even 4ths. Put them in a bowl and add some oil and season with salt, pepper and any other spices – ancho chili powder is a good one to try. Mix well and spread out on sheet plan (if you are in a hurry just toss with oil & seasoning right on the sheet pan). Cook at a higher heat – generally 425 – 450 and check for doneness – you’ll want to be able to pierce easily with a fork.
- Fajitas: I go straight to sheet pan fajitas when I need a quick, healthy, tasty and easy dinner prepare dinner. Slice 3 peppers, 1 onion and 1 pound of chicken (you can also use steak or make it veggie by leaving out the meat all together). Mix with some oil and Fajita seasoning (best to make your own but you can also buy prepared seasoning). Lay out on sheet pans and cook at about 400 degrees. I keep the chicken separate from the veggies and they’ll cook for different times. When done, combine both in a large bowl and serve. We often eat these without tortillas but you can find some healthier tortillas in the store. Fresh avocado is a great addition as well.
- Breakfast for Dinner: Yes, it’s ok to be non-traditional and have some eggs for dinner!
Quick TIP: Tastefully Simple
A friend recently started to sell Tastefully Simple products and my family fell in love with a few of the products. I keep these on hand for when I’m short on time or have run out of ideas. The products also make great gift ideas. I encourage you to give a few products a try and you may just find that you want to keep a few on hand in your pantry too. If you decide to order, please order from my friend’s page: Mary Lou Luif, Dyer, Indiana, Zip Code 46311. [this is not a sponsored post, I just really love a few of these products and wanted to pass the info on].
Honey Teriyaki – This is my go-to and is so good that you can use it when you have guests over. I always have a couple of bottles in the pantry and have given it as gifts (it’s that good!) I slice up chicken, sirloin, or hanger steak and marinade it with the sauce but it is also good as a sauce over stir-fry veggies.
Here is a delicious chicken recipe that you can make in a slow-cooker; it uses the Makin Magic Chicken . It makes a lot so you can freeze it in separate portions and grab it out of the freezer on a busy night. Magic Chicken Recipe.
Snacking is where many of us get tripped up with healthy eating. By planning ahead you can be sure to have some good options on hand to help make the decision quick & easy. Find the ones you like the best and keep them on hand at all times.
Snacking is also where we can add a lot of calories that our bodies don’t need, especially when it becomes a daily habit. Don’t think of your snacks as must-haves every day, think of them as additional nutrition to support your daily needs based on your day. This is a major mind-shift for many of us. I find that I often eat “just because” not because I’m hungry. Learning to understand what your body is saying to you is important to know when you are really hungry and when you are eating just for something to do.
Quick & Easy:
Rotisserie Chicken – pick up a precooked chicken (preferable made without additives) and add any leftover vegies from home (or frozen if you prefer) and you have a quick, easy dinner. You can add a salad, fresh fruit, or some quick cook brown rice or quinoa and you have a complete meal in minutes.
Smoothie – great for breakfast but is also a great alternative for lunch and dinner when you are on the move or don’t have much time. Make sure you are including some protein (for example, yogurt or protein powder), fat and carbs so it’s a complete meal.
Best Healthy Eating Meal Plans – Here’s A Sample Day
- Breakfast: Cook old-fashioned quick-cooking oats using organic skim or soy milk. Top with a sliced apple and garnish with chopped walnuts.
- Lunch: Toss baby spinach with balsamic vinegar and salt-free dried Italian herbs. Top with a scoop of chilled red quinoa and cannellini beans (canned, drained, and rinsed beans are fine) and sliced avocado.
- Snack: Drizzle a little honey into a container of nonfat Greek yogurt, fold in a sliced mini banana, and garnish with sliced almonds.
- Dinner: Sauté onion, halved grape tomatoes, and chopped green bell pepper in extra-virgin olive oil until slightly tender. Add chicken breast or organic tofu to heat through. Serve over whole-wheat penne.
I hope this has provided some good food for thought about how you can transition to healthy eating or reinforced those good decisions you’ve been making. To dive more into this healthy eating journey, here are a few of my favorite resources:
My favorite healthy eating cookbooks:
Comment Below – I would love to hear from you what your healthy eating journey looks like and your favorite cookbooks or resources.