Menu planning is key to a healthy dietary pattern, but many folks don’t give it much thought, think it’s too hard, or don’t know where to start.
The tools in our Heart Healthy Menu Planning theme can help you teach the basics of meal planning to just about anyone – students, parents, employees, or clients.
It starts with the Heart Healthy Menu Planning Dry-Erase Poster. Planning meals is a breeze when you have the steps right in front of you. Pick a heart healthy protein, vegetable, whole grain, fruit, and dairy product – voila!
Here’s a fun activity to do with groups or individuals:
There’s something about September that makes people feel refreshed and ready to start something new. This makes it the perfect time to talk about menu planning. Use our Menu Planning handout to show your clients the benefits of planning ahead.
Here are the benefits of planning meals ahead of time:
Your healthy eating plan is in writing, so you won’t “forget” your intentions halfway through the week.
Your written menu plan makes food shopping easy because you know exactly what you need to buy.
Instead of shopping, why not write a menu with 4-5 dinner ideas (like this one) then use a meal delivery app like Instacart, Amazon, or any online local delivery service to have your grocery list delivered to your door!
By shopping online you can find store specials for an ingredient (sort), stick to your list, and use the extra time to plan your menu, clean your kitchen, cook, and get organized for another week. A little experimentation shows it can save money because you are not adding “extras” from store aisle temptations!
Great ideas for fall meals include winter squash, beans, lentils, chickpea stews, chili, and delicious meals that cook or roast for a while to add aroma and warmth to a kitchen. These types of meals can be served over several days in one week.
123 method of meal planning:
Think flavor instead of meat! Do you like spicy, roasted, thick and hearty? Plan meals around beans and lean protein and focus on flavors instead of meat as the centerpiece. Think about seasonal veggies and use them as the centerpiece. Here are a few examples: spicy bean chili, roasted winter squash, creamy corn chowder, and thick lentil-vegetable soup. If you use meat or poultry or fish, use it in smaller amounts and as a flavoring agent.
Include a fiberystarch like whole grains, beans, potatoes, yams, peas or winter squash.
Include a seasonal, non-starchy vegetable like greens, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, peppers, etc. Salad counts!
Remember MyPlate’s lesson to make half of your plate veggies or fruits and veggies.
If planning a week’s worth of meals is overwhelming, we have some suggestions to make it easier:
Pick one or two food groups to plan, such as fruits and/or vegetables.
Plan for 3-4 days instead of the week.
Choose one meal to focus on and plan that for the week.
Help your clients say goodbye to summer and hello to healthy meal planning!
My team and I have created tons of posters over the years, and some of my very favorite ones teach lessons that are important to showcase in the workplace.
We have posters that are designed to bring “better numbers like blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI” or to motivate in a fun way like the food art posters. There are also ones that teach great nutrition lessons and promote positive reinforcement and education.
Let’s take a tour through some of the best options, shall we?