Your Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Healthy Meal Planning

 

Photo credit: Farmview Market

Photo credit: Farmview Market

“Could you just give me a meal plan?”

I can’t. Don’t hate me just yet! Because I can give you something even better. I think of it as a cheat sheet. So that you can make it easier to plan your meals and get on with your life. If you’re just here for the meals, scroll down to grab the PDF. But you’ll miss by big, juicy tips if you do that. Hang with me for a minute here. 

First, as I described in the article “Just tell me what to eat,” I’m not a big fan of meal plans. But I really do empathize with people who want one. Read that for a primer on the building blocks of healthy meals. 

It would take me all day to write a customized plan for each of my online nutrition clients. That’s because you are a unicorn. 

photo credit: teepublic

photo credit: teepublic

  • You have unique calorie requirements. 
  • You like certain flavors but not others.
  • You may love to cook, or you may hate it. Or just not have time to do it.
  • You may live alone or you may have to feed a huge family. 
  • Maybe you don’t even eat breakfast. That’s cool too. 

That all impacts the kinds of meals you’ll make at your house. 

While my former article lays out what a healthy meal looks like, I’d like to give you a little more of a head start for planning. Because when you’ve had a long week and are trying to change something big, nobody wants to spend three hours figuring out what they’re going to eat for the next week. 

It’s still worth planning out, don’t get me wrong. As I have talked about many times, making a menu, prepping some grab-and-go foods, and avoiding constant trips to the store saves you time, money, and ultimately calories. 

inabutter

Instead of a plan, I’m going to share the go to meals that my clients and I often use on a regular basis.

I won’t assume you’re Ina Garten here. Most of my ideas can be made in 20 minutes or less – many of them in less time than that. I’ll also link up the cheat sheet at the end of this to a PDF that you can keep on hand. 

photo credit: Precision Nutrition

photo credit: Precision Nutrition

Precision Nutrition does a good job of visually explaining what most of your plates will look like. Mine don’t always fit this perfectly, but I try to make them come close. Once in awhile, mama just needs a donut. 

But in general, you’ll want plenty of nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables, around 20-40 grams of lean protein per meal, and smaller amounts of healthy fats and starchy carbs.

Most of the time, 3 meals and 1-2 snacks that fit those guidelines should keep your belly satisfied and reduce your overall hunger if you’re trying to lose fat. 

How to use the cheat sheet.
If you want to get going without counting calories, cook each meal and let hunger be your guide. You may need a bigger portion or feel full before you ever finish your meal. That’s fine. Slow down when you eat. Stop eating when you’re not quite full. You likely got just enough. 

You may be someone who likes to snack – or never snacks. There isn’t one correct way to eat. But my online coaching clients often report that when they eat larger meals they are satisfied longer, often able to skip snacks, and think about food less often during the day. So play around there. 

Counting calories?
That’s fine too. You’ll adjust your portions to fit your own needs. I am sharing ideas that have recipes that tell you calories per serving size or are otherwise easily trackable. 

Badass Breakfasts
Eggs on everything.

Egg + egg whites plus greens tucked inside.

Egg + egg whites + greens tucked inside.

Scrambled, fried in nonstick spray, or poached. I eat eggs in some form nearly every day. I often put a runny egg on salad greens, sprinkle on some cherry tomatoes, and drizzle sherry vinegar over the top.  But some days it’s a mix of scrambled eggs, egg whites, and a piece of fruit. That’s not even a recipe. But it’s fast and filling. 

Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash with Eggs

photo credit: clean eating

Get the recipe from Clean Eating

Make it faster: use veggies that you cut on the weekend and pre-cooked chicken or turkey sausage or even a little bacon to boost flavor. 

High Protein Cinnabon Oatmeal

Get the recipe here.

Get the recipe here.

Blueberry nectarine overnight oats. 

Get the recipe here.

Get the recipe here.

Overnight oats are the ultimate custom breakfast. Just tinker with the base recipe and you’ll have insta-breakfast. 

Banana Blueberry Protein Pancakes 

Get my recipe here.

Get my recipe here.

Protein pancakes are so easy to play with. I usually advise people to use sugar free syrup to shave down overall calories unless it’s a special occasion. In that case, hit up a little maple syrup. 

A high protein green smoothie.

Get the recipe from The Brewer and the Baker.

Get the recipe from The Brewer and the Baker.

Yogurt Parfait
berry parfait
No recipe needed: just plain Greek yogurt -I like 2% because it’s more satisfying. Add your favorite fruit and a sprinkle of healthy fat like chia seeds or a small portion of nuts. My kids like cereal or oats sprinkled on theirs. 

Lunches to Love

Also one of our favorite dinners.

Also one of our favorite dinners.

90% of my lunches are leftovers. I usually repurpose meat from dinner and toss it into a a big salad. “Chipotle bowls” are another way I squeeze in extra greens, along with a small serving of beans, meat, salsa, and avocado.

Just dumping a jar of salsa and chicken breasts into your slow cooker or an oven will yield meat that’s fairly flavor neutral, which makes it perfect for repurposing during the week. 

Not a meat lover? Try doing the same thing with pots of chickpeas or lentils. And keep tempeh and tofu on hand for your protein source. They’ll both keep for some time in the fridge. 

Here are a few more simple solutions if your leftovers left the building. 

Mediterranean Chicken Skewers from Costco
costcochickenskewer
They’re precooked. Heat them up if you like. Put them into a lower-carb wrap (I like Flatout) with veggies and some guacamole or another small serving of dressing. Or create an easy salad with greens and whatever other toppings you like. I like to add a bit of feta and sunflower seeds to mine. 

Morningstar Chipotle Black Bean Burger

photo credit: Iowa Girl Eats

photo credit: Iowa Girl Eats

Try using these on a salad some time too. They work well. I like to saute them in a pan but you can microwave them too. 

Baked sweet potato +. 

Get the recipe for a vegetarian loaded sweet potato from SkinnyTaste.

Get the recipe for a vegetarian loaded sweet potato from Skinnytaste.

Nuke a sweet potato. Or a regular potato (they’re good for you too). Top with reheated pre-cooked meat or other lean protein that you like, along with salsa, black beans, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. 

Lower-Fat Tuna Salad. 

Get a recipe from organize yourself skinny.

Get a recipe from Organize Yourself Skinny. 

Make a bigger batch of this ahead of time for a few extra meals. I mix tuna with only a bit of mayo or avocado for flavor and then round it out with Greek yogurt, a squeeze of lemon juice, and add celery and onion for crunch. Wrap it up with salad greens and a low-carb tortilla. Throw in a piece of fruit and you’re lunch is done. 

Winner Winner, All the Dinners
I use websites like Cooking Light and SkinnyTaste for inspiration on the daily. But here are a few super easy staples that my kids barely complain about. 

Chicken sausages and fire roasted peppers. 

Get the details from @green_kale on Instagram

Get the details from @green_kale on Instagram

Two ingredients. That’s it. The peppers work well for easy breakfast veggies too. 

Slow Cooker Mu Shu Chicken Wraps

Get the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens.

Get the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens.

Save time by slow cooking your chicken with bottled stir fry sauce. Just save a bit for the end, stir in broccoli slaw, and fold it into a lower calorie tortilla. 

P.F. Chang style lettuce and chicken wraps. 

Get the recipe from Iowa Girl Eats.

Get the recipe from Iowa Girl Eats.

I use ground turkey or ground chicken for these. They take very little time to prepare – make extra meat mix to stick in your freezer. 

Weight Watchers Taco Soup

Get the recipe from Kitchme.

Get the recipe from Kitchme.

I make double batches to freeze. I choose lower-sodium canned goods, because there’s quite a bit of them in here. But it’s lightning fast, low calorie, and my family loves it. I often add zucchini or chopped bell peppers to this soup too. The serving size is 1 cup. Try it with lean ground beef or turkey. 

Mango Peanut Tempeh Tacos

Get the recipe from Love and Lemons.

Get the recipe from Love and Lemons.

If you’re craving a plant-based meal, you’ve got to try the mango peanut tempeh tacos. I pick up tempeh at the grocery store and keep it in the fridge. If I’m out of meat or just so over eating other protein sources, I like to mix it up by going meatless for a meal. These tacos are fairly fast to throw together and are completely delicious. 

Curried Tuna Burgers

tunaburge

Get the recipe here.

I call my version cakes, because I’m fancy and serve them on greens. But use a sandwich thin if you’ve got a craving for a burger. These come together really fast and the protein to calorie ratio is good. 

Chicken Zucchini Noodle Caprese

chickenzoodle

Get the recipe from Skinnytaste.

Zucchini noodles or “zoodles” make a good stand-in for pasta and increase your veggie intake. No, they don’t taste like pasta. I’d never sell you that lie. But they’re tasty. You can now buy them pre-packaged at the supermarket if you don’t own your own spiralizer. Or just chop some zucchini and ditch the zoodles. Warning: if you buy one, you may become obsessed with creating spiral veggies of all sorts. This can lead to excessive Instagram photography. #instayum. 

Snack Attacks

snack
Still hungry? I always keep a few healthy go-to snacks in my fridge or pantry. Check out these ideas. 

  • Plain Greek yogurt + half a banana or half cup berries. 
  • String cheese + apple
  • Turkey jerky + clementine. 
  • Boomchickapop lightly sweet popcorn (for crunchy needs). 
  • Roasted veggies with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and sea salt. 
  • Apple slices + a serving of cheddar cheese. 
  • A smaller protein shake.
  • Hardboiled egg + bell pepper strips. 
  • Lean turkey or ham with dijon mustard wrapped in romaine lettuce leaves. 
  • Greek yogurt cream cheese and deli ham wrapped around a dill pickle. (Midwest sushi, am I right?) 
  • Cottage cheese + fruit.
  • “Proyo” – plain Greek yogurt, 1 TBSP of PB2, 1 teaspoon of chocolate chips or low sugar jam. Freeze for 15 minutes. 
  • Halo Top ice cream. 
  • Egg white crepe – egg whites whisked with stevia, a splash of vanilla and cinnamon. Cooked in a pan. Top with berries. 
  • Guacamole + salsa + celery or mini peppers to dip. 

Take it with you. 
Here’s a nifty pdf version to keep on hand for reference. Remember, there’s no one right way to do your meals. But I hope my ideas help you get started.  

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