Tag Archives: meal planning

All my best food tips (so far) for easy healthy meals!

tips for easy healthy meals

So New Year, new you? Thinking of quitting sugar, quitting processed food, eating more real food, trying gluten-free, grain-free, or going Paleo? I’ve done all of those, and while I’ve landed on a real foods, mostly-veggies-and-meat formula, I’ve collected quite a few tips that work for a wide variety of healthy diets.

Making the switch from convenience food — whether from restaurants or frozen meals — to a whole-foods/real food/homecooked lifestyle does have a learning curve, but once you learn a few tricks and practice them until they become habits, it’ll be a breeze!

Set yourself up for success by trying a few kitchen stocking and ingredient tricks. Here are all my best “tips for eating healthier” and “meal plan” posts:

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20-day diet prep plan: Day 6 – Plan your first week’s meals (and my flexible meal plan approach)

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Today’s basic task: Plan your meals and snacks for the first week.

And if you haven’t already, you might want to start eating protein with every meal. Just a suggestion.

For meal-planning-haters

Some people love to meal plan; some hate it. If you’re in the second camp, hang with me! I’ve tried having a detailed meal plan in the past, but I love my last-minute flexibility too much to conform to it all the time, so I’ve come up with a method that relieves me of some of the forethought, but leaves day-to-day options open.

NOT like this:

meal planning reality check

Nor can I handle meal prep like this…

#mealprep - lunches

I admire people who can, but that just ain’t me! I need something more flexible.

My sort-of, flexible meal plan

The way I plan my meals provides a balance between me having to figure out what to cook every single day, and providing some flexibility for day-before or day-of adjustments. My weeknight dinner plans look something like this:

Monday: Cook’s choice. I make whatever sounds good or easy that day, or something to use up any weekend leftovers. If I were going to make this more specific on a week-to-week basis, I would say — soup in the winter, salad in the summer

Tuesday: Chicken or pork. This is usually something that just gets stuck in the oven to roast — often with veggies on the same pan. If I were a crockpot kinda girl, I’d use the crockpot, too.

Wednesday: Salmon for me, steak for my husband. He’s happy to grill himself a steak once a week, and I have several easy salmon recipes that I prefer, so this is easier than it sounds!  Video and serving options > How to pan-sear salmon, perfectly!

Thursday: Burgers – usually with sauteed onions and/or mushrooms on top. But sometimes with bacon and guac. Or marinara and Parmesan. Minimal dish clean-up! (Because Thursday is the day I get tired of doing dishes.)

Friday: Stir-fry – get it? Stir-Fry-Day? Sometimes this is Asian, sometimes more like fajitas without the tortillas. Might be chicken, steak, pork, or shrimp. If I were working full time, I would probably grab my veggies pre-sliced from the store.

This way, my “what’s for dinner” dilemma is narrowed down, eliminating dozens of options to sift through, but it still leaves me room for adapting to what I have on hand, what’s on sale, or whether I feel more like American, Mexican, or Asian that day.

Of course, you can adapt this to your style. Does your family do meatless Mondays or fish on Fridays? Move salmon to that day of the week. Is Wednesday night extra crazy for you? Make that your soup or burger night, prepping everything the night before.

You can swap out other dish types or themes that suit you: Taco Tuesday, hot dog bar, noodle (or zoodle) night, etc.

I’ve found this approach very easy to live with. Meal planning can be a huge help to sticking with your new way of eating, but it doesn’t have to be restrictive or labor intensive, so I hope you’ll try this out and find it helpful, too!

12 of my favorite easy main dish recipes:

Easy pork tenderloin

Ancho-crusted salmon

Balsamic-glazed salmon

Adaptable fish tacos

Low(er) carb chili

Caesar salad – & 30-second Caesar salad *

Tex-Mex salad*

Quick easy buffalo chicken quesadillas *

One-pan chicken with veggies

Sloppy Joe-tatoes

Brat and cabbage soup – great to make the day or night before!

Salsa verde chicken* – seriously: dump a few things in a pan and put it in the oven!

*Contains cheese and/or beans: forbidden for those on Whole30, but okay if you’re just focusing on eating real food, and/or eliminating sugar and refined carbs.


The Meal Plan for People Who Hate to Meal Plan

>>>HEY! WANT MORE DETAIL? I’ve expanded and modified this post, turning it into a six-night plan with links to over 30 easy real-food recipes. I’ve also included tips for adapting meals for people on different diets. Get it for free when you sign up for my mailing list!

Learn more.

 


Featured image source: Anne Taintor

20-day diet prep plan: Day 11 – Plan your lunch strategy

meal prep: freezer burritos

Next step in your ready-for-new-year-and-new-diet: Figure out now what your lunch plan will be.

storytime coffee seattle

If you eat out for lunch:

  • Research the online menus at your favorite restaurants and figure out what you can eat that’s as healthy as possible. Things to avoid:  sweet salad dressings (Caesar, blue cheese and, to some extent, Ranch are usually safe — unless you’re avoiding dairy — and Greek is usually low sugar or no sugar), anything “glazed” (will have sugar), anything breaded and/or deep fried (wheat and trans fats), fries, chips, an excess of bread or pasta, anything smothered in cheese or cheese sauce. And, of course, dessert and sweet drinks.
  • Chain restaurants with generally healthy choices: Chipotle, Jason’s Deli, Panera
  • See my post on eating Paleo when eating out. Even if you’re not doing strict Paleo, there are still good tips here for avoiding sugar and carb overload.

#mealprep - lunches

If you pack lunches:

If you’re up for some weekend meal prep, take notes from this guy.

antipasto salad

If you eat lunch at home:

Figure out a few lunch templates you can work from. I tend to develop two or three favorites and rotate them till I get tired of them, or the season changes. Lots of salads in summer (especially this mayo-less tuna), lots of soup and hash in winter. But there are endless variations! Here’s some inspiration:

Told you these days would be short and sweet!

Follow me on Instagram for more quick, easy healthy food ideas.

15 tips to make eating healthy easier

tips for success on Paleo, Whole30, keto, or any new diet

I recently read a “30 Tips” post on Rubies and Radishes that had some great suggestions to make eating Paleo easier.Most of them will apply to any real-food diet. Just substitute the name of your diet wherever you see the word “Paleo.”

But… compulsive editor that I am, I edited it down to what I thought were the best 15 tips for eating Paleo/real food, and add a few helpful items and notes of my own. Here you go!

1. When you’re just starting, plan out meals and snacks several days in advance. This keeps you from caving in on busy days. Once you get the hang of cooking and eating this new way, it will be easier to throw together meals from your well-stocked kitchen. (You might want to read about how I stock my kitchen for easy meals.)

2. If planning all your meals seems overwhelming, try it in phases. Most people don’t need a lot of variety in breakfast, so find one or two healthy breakfasts that work for you and get those nailed down. Figure out how to prep your breakfast so it’s a no-brainer in the morning. (Here are some no-brainer breakfast options.) Then find a few lunches that work for you. (If you eat out for lunch, check out my Eating Paleo/Whole30 When Eating Out post.) Then move on to planning dinners.

3. For encouragement and inspiration, join Paleo Facebook pages. Here are a few:

Also, if you’re on Instagram, follow me at @jana.realfood: I often post easy lunches and dinners there, as well as Paleo-friendly restaurant dishes.

For example, here’s a tip from my Instagram pages: a breadless BLT kit using romaine leaves as a wrap makes an easy summer lunch!

Paleo made easier - breadless BLT

4. Cook meat in bulk, but don’t freeze it in a huge chub: portion it out into easy-to-thaw portions before putting it in the freezer. Hamburger, pulled pork, chicken, and your favorite kinds of sausage are all handy to have ready to deploy. You can also cook bacon in big batches and keep it in the fridge or freezer. Have you tried cooking it in the oven? So easy!

5. Dedicate time to prep ingredients every week. Or, if it works better for you, every evening after dinner, prep what you’ll need for tomorrow’s meal(s). Thaw anything that’s frozen. Chop up ingredients. Pre-mix seasonings or sauces. I’ve collected a few tips on ingredient prep, too.

6. Paleo eating and meal planning takes time to adjust to. Give yourself time and grace. Keep at it — it will get easier! It’s only hard until it’s routine.

7. Read labels. Learn to recognize sugar in all its disguises. Yeah, it’s overwhelming and kind of depressing at first, but it’s a necessary education.

cool-whip-lies-480

8. Don’t spend too much time trying to figure out how to substitute or recreate the unhealthy food you once ate. Instead of mourning the loss of food that makes you feel yucky, celebrate new food discoveries that make you feel great! As you stick with this, your taste buds will change and junk food will become less and less appealing.

9. Explore Paleo blogs and books. The more Paleo knowledge you have, the easier it is to stick with your new lifestyle! (Check out my books page.)

10. When you make dinner, make extra. Enjoy it for breakfast (yes, you can!) or lunch the next day, or pack it in the freezer for an easy future meal.

11. One of the hardest things about eating Paleo (or your personal version of it) is the social pressure to eat junk. Always have a plan before going to social gatherings. And focus on how that food is going to make you feel tomorrow! Tell yourself, “When I eat crap, I feel like crap.”

Can you eat that? I can, but I feel better if I don't.

12. Eat a satisfying meal before you go to parties so you won’t be tempted by unhealthy choices. Drink plenty of water while you’re there. Focus on enjoying the people, not the food.

13. If it’s a pot luck, bring your own Paleo dish (or two), because that might be your only healthy choice!

14. Likewise, have a plan for how you’ll eat when meeting friends at restaurants. Study up on tips for Eating Paleo/Whole30 When Eating Out.

15. Remember to get the sleep you need every night, and drink plenty of water. And several times a week, if not every day, try to get a little sunshine and gentle exercise.

BONUS TIP: Expect ups and downs! Give yourself grace if you slip up. As Melissa Hartwig says in Food Freedom Forever, “Insulting yourself over your food choices is perhaps the most damaging behavior of all.”

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Want to cook more healthy at home, but daunted by the meal planning?

Check out my “Meal Plan for People Who Hate to Meal Plan

It’s FREE when you sign up for my monthly newsletter!

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* (Read the original Rubies and Radishes post here, if you have a few minutes.)

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Tips to make eating Paleo easier