I’m back again with a third year of healthy meal planning ideas! My first and second year posts were so fun to write and reflect on, I couldn’t wait to compile a third one. The big difference you’ll see here in v3.0 is that I have been seeing a nutritionist now for about a year and have really changed the structure of my meals to be more nutritionally balanced.
I always get questions about what we eat and how we meal plan. There’s no one answer really – it’s hard work and requires a lot of forethought. One of the reasons I started these posts was to collect our go-to meals to keep me organized (I reference my v1.0 & v2.0 posts all the time!). The basic run down is that we have a collection of roughly 50 meal and snack ideas that we rotate (with a few new favorites being added every year), we menu plan and do one big food shop each weekend, and then make as much in advance on Sunday to make life easy for the week. I find that most of those simple, everyday meals don’t make the blog – the recipes are really basic and not super special. However, they are easy, healthy, reliable, and worth collecting into a post like this. (You can also follow me on Instagram for meal planning posts in real time.) I hope this year’s compilation gives you some ideas, encourages you to revisit some old standbys, and maybe even jumpstarts you out of a food rut. Enjoy!
Fun fact about me: I don’t really like breakfast food. I don’t enjoy a heavy breakfast, it loads me down for the entire day! So breakfast for me, no matter where I eat it, is usually pretty light. No omelets, pancakes, waffles, or breakfast sandwiches here. Just thinking about it makes me want to hork. I always have fruit and tea with my breakfast (it wouldn’t feel the same without it!), so you’ll notice that below.
When I eat breakfast at home I have a little more time to prepare and make something I can’t have at work or on the go. This is usually over easy eggs, an english muffin, or a bagel.
One breakfast favorite of mine is yogurt. I love to combine it with fruit and whole grains like oats. Plus, the protein is a must for me since I work out in the morning and am usually dead without it.
I also love muffins for breakfast! They are great because they are handheld, super portable, and you can make them a million different ways. Below you’ll see my blueberry muffins, oatmeal muffins, and double chocolate zucchini muffins.
Also, who doesn’t love cereal? These days I stick to any whole grain cereal with low sugar and high fiber with 1% milk.
And finally, I’ve become really good at on-the-go breakfasts whether it’s in the car or something I need to stash in my bag to have before an early morning meeting. I can’t give up my tea so I’ll usually bring some cold brew from home. Also, fruit travels so easily as does granola bars, cereal, and brown rice cakes.
I usually stick to a handful of lunch categories and make variations on a theme. The various ingredients change up a lot, but the meals themselves stay pretty standard. This is great for work-week lunches because I can keep it interesting while packing something healthy and filling every day. I am not one of those people that buys lunch out every day (the thought of it kills me!) so making my lunch, even if it’s something really basic, is a must. Here are my go-to lunch categories and a bunch of examples:
Sandwiches: A classic with endless options. I love turkey and cheese, BLTs, tuna, and peanut butter and jelly. I’m trying to get away from double carbing (which you’ll see a bunch of here – e.g. chips + sandwich, pretzels + sandwich, etc) and have more salad, nuts, veggies, and fruit on the side instead.
Salads: Another option with countless variations. I will put literally anything and everything in a salad. Here is my go-to salad ingredient list: mixed greens, spinach, avocado, cucumber, bell pepper, banana peppers, peppadew peppers, marinated red onion, beets, carrots, edamame, corn, bacon, chicken, tuna, hardboiled eggs, rice, lentils, quinoa, chickpeas, black beans, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, goat cheese, and on and on. My favorite salad dressings are balsamic vinaigrette and honey mustard.
I love homemade panzanella salad. And sometimes storebought can be pretty good too in a pinch. I got the salad on the left at Crema Cafe in Harvard Square and the salad on the right at Bob’s Italian Foods in Medford.
Soup: I tend to not make soup in the spring/summer at all but when I make it in fall/winter I really go all out. Below are soups I came up with on the fly – 1: chicken, rice, corn, 2: kale, chicken, chick peas, rice, and 3: veggie soup with spaghetti squash, zucchini, summer squash, carrots, and onion.
Sometimes when I’m in a bind or pressed for time, I have Whole Foods brand freezer burritos on stand by that I spruce up with fresh veggies, greek yogurt, and hot sauce.
Finally, sometimes a hodgepodge lunch of what’s in the fridge will do.
From L to R – 1: brown rice/salad/chicken/tomato/plum, 2: turkey tips/spaghetti squash/salad, 3: baked potato/chicken drumsticks/spaghetti squash/pear, 4: baked potato/carrots/hummus/apple/brie, and 5: quinoa/refried beans/chicken/avocado/hot sauce/tomato.
Dinner is my favorite because I don’t have to make sure it’s compact and portable, it can take as long to prepare as my free time allows, and I can really keep it varied and interesting. Here is a collection of my favorite at-home dinners this year!
Tacos: Anything from pulled pork to chicken to ground turkey – taco night is my favorite dinner option! You can load on any topping you like (my favorites are greek yogurt, shredded carrots, and crunchy romaine) and it’s always delicious.
Bowls: I’m a big fan of random bowls full of goodness for dinner. From L to R – 1: freezer burrito and beans over salad, 2: sausage and butternut squash over wild rice and kale, and 3: chicken, black beans, and rice with avocado, tomato, greek yogurt, and queso.
Stir fry: Stir fry is a once-a-month dinner for us. I really dig how many veggies you can cram into stir fry without it being overkill. I prefer stir fry over soba or rice noodles but you can have it over any kind of rice too. I usually top it with just soy sauce but when I have the time I really like to make a sweet and spicy sauce.
Summer Supper: We ate this for dinner this summer too many times to count – sausage and corn with random other summer sides. Super tasty and really filling.
Eggs & veggies: I’m a fan of a simple egg & veggie supper. I have this a lot when John isn’t home since he is a man who loves meat.
A whole bunch of my miscellaneous dinner favorites. From L to R: turkey burgers and sweet potato fries, latkes, spaghetti squash and chicken parm, spaghetti squash with bacon/spinach/goat cheese, asian lettuce wraps, chicken with veggies and salad, buffalo chicken wrap with avocado, spaghetti squash and veggie burgers, and buffalo chicken quinoa cakes and veggies.
Bonus round: favorite go-to place for a healthy meal out – the Whole Foods hot bar. We all want to not cook sometimes after a long day or not turn on the stove or spend time with a loved one rather than in the kitchen. The Whole Foods hot bar is perfect for all of those situations, and more. There are tons of options and you can still make very healthy choices. It can get pricey which is the only drawback. Still, in comparison to any other take out or fast casual dining, I prefer Whole Foods because I actually know what goes into this food (there are little cards above each item that list the ingredients).
Snacks are a must for me – whether it’s mid-morning, mid-afternoon, on the road, in my bag, in the car, on the train, or anywhere in between. Having easy and healthy snacks really helps keep me on track and away from vending machines and pricey trips to the cafeteria/coffee shop. My favorite snack is a crackers/cheese/fruit combo, which I wrote about extensively here. Here are some more examples of my favorite go-to snacks (fruit, pretzels, cheese, veggies, turkey & cheese, crackers, pretzels, nuts, protein bars).
Last but not least, I’m still loving my Graze box subscription and integrate it into my snack combos a few times a week.
I hope this post has been helpful and inspiring. Stay tuned for next year!