Plan Your Meals, Change Your Life!
by Jennifer Brewer, Certified Nutritionist

We all know that eating nourishing, healthy food can give us more energy for hours on the volleyball court, yet have you found that the busy-ness of life got in the way of eating healthier? Have you ever felt so rushed for time that you ate something unhealthy just because it was convenient?  Isn’t it true that the times when we think we don’t have time to eat healthy are the times that we need healthy foods the most? The first way to start eating healthier is by planning out your meals and snacks for the week.

I truly believe that planning out your food for the week is one of the best things you can do to improve your health. Planning meals can greatly reduce the stress in your life by preventing those last minute shopping expeditions or trips to the take out place down the street.  But more importantly, when you have healthy food to look forward to it becomes easier to make healthy food choices.  And when you make healthy food choices you feel better, increase your resistance to stress and have more energy to exercise.

I know some of you are thinking, “well, how much time is this going to take me?” I suggest you INVEST 30 minutes at the beginning of each week to plan your meals and snacks and write your and shopping list for the week.   In deciding what meals and snacks to plan, here are two things to keep in mind:

#1: Plan your meals according to how many nights you want to cook

Yes, you have to eat 7 days a week but you don’t have to cook everyday.  Instead of planning 7 nights of meals, getting overwhelmed and diving headfirst into a pizza, how about starting off with three?  This way, you can make large quantities and have a plan for your leftovers. No, putting them in a huge Tupperware container with a plate on top because you can’t find the lid is not a plan.  Instead, take the time to separate out individual servings and freeze them for this week’s lunches or future dinners. 

For Example:
Night One: Vegetable Chili with cornbread.  After dinner, pack up 2 containers of leftovers, keep one in the fridge and freeze one.
Night Two: Baked Potatoes with Vegetable Chili on top
Over the weekend: Nachos made with the chili from the freezer

#2: Have a high protein refrigerator staple in the fridge.

Protein is what keeps us satisfied and keeps us from over-indulging in simple, refined carbohydrates, yet it is typically the last thing (besides maybe broccoli) that we reach for when we are really hungry.  In my meal plan, I include a high protein fridge staple, like hummus that you can enjoy when you come home and are really hungry. 

Example: Snack planned ahead of time:
Sunflower Seed Spread on whole-wheat pita wedges

Instead of a snack chosen in the moment of hunger:
Peanut butter spread on anything crunchy--even the broken ends of the old, stale crackers in the back of the pantry. 

Remember, planning your meals will insure you have healthy food prepared and ready to go. This advanced planning will help you to make healthier choices when you are super hungry…a very good thing!  Here are some easy recipes to help you get started:

Vegetable Chili
Serves 6

This chili is easy to make, low in fat and loaded with protein and fiber.  It is inexpensive to make, filling and makes great leftovers.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 1/2 cups (about 4 ounces) fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 Tablespoon cumin powder
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 chipotle peppers canned in adobo, minced
2 Tablespoons tomato paste (save rest of can in another container)
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, not drained
1 15-ounce can red kidney beans, drained
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add garlic and onion; saute for a minute or two, then add peppers, mushrooms and zucchini, saute for a few more minutes, then add seasonings and tomato paste, stirring to make sure tomato paste is dissolved.

Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes (or longer, this is a great recipe for a crockpot!) and serve.

Sunflower Seed Spread

Life is good when I have this high protein spread in my fridge.  Sunflower seeds are a great source of protein and B-vitamins.  This is delicious spread on raw vegetables or as a filling for wraps and sandwiches.

1 1/2 cups sunflower seeds, soaked overnight*
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup tamari
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)

In a food processor, process the soaked sunflower seeds and pulse until finely ground.  Add lemon juice, garlic, green onions, tahini, tamari, parsley, and cayenne and blend until the mixture is a smooth paste, stopping to scrape the sides as necessary.

*Soaking the seeds overnight makes them more digestible and easier to blend into a creamy paste. Discard soaking water and rinse seeds, removing hulls that have come off. If you don’t have time, you can soak for an hour instead.

If investing 30 minutes looking through recipes and making your shopping list still seems daunting, how about I do it for you?  My Weekly Meal Planning Service provides you with four healthy recipes every week: one healthy fridge staple and three easy wholesome meals that generally make leftovers.  In addition, you receive an organized shopping list, coupons to New Leaf Community Markets and a weekly dose of inspiration.  Eating healthier just got a whole lot easier!  Plus, you can try it FREE for a whole month by going to

Until next time, Eat Well, Be Well and LOVE Every Bite!



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