Weekday Menu Planning │ A Registered Dietitian's Top TipsOct 07, 2021
New to meal planning? Overwhelmed at the prospect of trying to incorporate healthful and manageable meals several days in a row? Our team of Registered Dietitians in Saskatoon are putting their knowledge and experience to work, bringing you 10 beginner tips to get started on your meal planning and prep journey. With these nutritionist-approved tips, you'll save time and money, reduce food waste, and enjoy more satisfying meals throughout the week!
1. AUTOMATE YOUR WEEKDAY BREAKFAST
While nutritional diversity is important, there's no shame in repeating certain meals - especially when they are nutritious and enjoyable! Our Dietitians' favourite meal to keep on replay? Breakfast! Many people genuinely enjoy eating the same breakfast for weeks, months, or even years on end! For example, Dietitian Darian has been eating the same Egg White Oatmeal for breakfast for 5 years and counting! By adopting a weekday breakfast that you love, you can reserve mental energy to focus on planning your other meals throughout the week!
Courtney's Tip: Adopt a weekday breakfast that has at least 20g of protein to keep your blood sugars stable and your appetite satisfied until lunch. Search our breakfast recipe category for inspiration!
2. GROCERY SHOP & PLAN USING OUR F4 FORMULA
The F4 Formula is a menu planning strategy that we teach our Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching clients here at Vitality Nutrition. The F4 Formula is comprised of four food groups that - when combined - ensure that your meal keeps your blood sugar smooth and steady. Stable blood sugars are key to optimizing energy, improving hormone balance, reaching and maintaining your healthy set point weight, and more!
The formula includes protein, fats, carbohydrates, and ‘volume’ foods. You can download your free F4 Grocery List here.
3. PURCHASE QUICK GRAB OPTIONS FOR LUNCH
As Dietitians, we can't emphasize enough the value of purchasing simple and wholesome ingredients that can quickly be thrown together for a satisfying weekday lunch. We call this “ingredient eating” which is our nutritionist-approved method of assembling delicious ingredients that you love into a lunch that can be prepared in <10 minutes the night before or the day of. Some examples of quick “ingredient-based” lunches using the F4 Formula include:
- “Adult Lunchables”
- Protein: deli turkey slices
- Fat: Babybel cheese or hummus
- Carb: Wasa crackers or rice crackers
- Volume: baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, and/or sliced bell pepper
- Satisfying Sandwich
- Protein: tempeh, tuna, or rotisserie chicken
- Fat: sliced avocado, cheese, or a layer of hummus
- Carb: high-fibre sprouted grain bread, wrap, or bun (eg. look for 3g or or more of fibre per serving like Silver Hills or Flat Out wraps)
- Volume: lettuce and tomato on the sandwich or extra raw vegetables on the side
Courtney's Tip: Adding a healthy fat source at lunch is key to keeping blood sugar stable through the afternoon - in other words, to avoid the 3pm slump!
4. COMMIT TO A TRIED-AND-TRUE FAVORITE FOR ONE DINNER MEAL
Most households have at least one tried-and-true favorite recipe that they can enjoy each week. By staying consistent with a meal each week, you’ll expend less mental energy planning and learning how to make a new recipe. You'll have this family favourite to look forward to each week!
Courtney’s Tip: A tried and true favourite recipe in our Saskatoon household are Shrimp Tacos with Quick Coleslaw. The recipe is fast to assemble with the quick cooking shrimp and pre-shredded, bagged coleslaw mix!
5. STICK TO JUST ONE NEW RECIPE PER WEEK
Spending your entire Saturday running around town looking that one elusive ingredient you've never used before? We've all been there! While new recipes are fun and exciting, too many new recipes or ingredients can make it overwhelming to grocery shop, plan, and prep for the coming week. If you’d like to get creative in the kitchen, try committing to no more than one new recipe per week. If you love it, you can integrate it into your weekly dinner rotation!
6. ADOPT A WEEKDAY DINNER THEME NIGHT
Taco Tuesday, Waffle Wednesday, Pita Pizza Friday?! Adopt a dinner theme that you can keep the same on a weekly basis. By having a consistent meal in mind you’ll know exactly what you need to pick up at the grocery store each week! Try making a “build your own” style dinner theme where each family member can assemble their plates based on a collection of simple ingredients. And yes, you heard it here first: our Registered Dietitians just approved 'Waffle Wednesday'.
7. SEPARATE YOUR GROCERY SHOPPING AND MEAL PREP DAY
Even Dietitians get overwhelmed at the prospect of building out a grocery list, grocery shopping, unloading groceries, and meal prepping all in one day! If you are meal prepping for the week, we highly recommend separating your grocery shopping day from your meal prep day if at all possible. For example, arrange a grocery delivery Friday or make time to go to the grocery store on Saturday. With your ingredients ready-to-go in the fridge you’ll have more energy to wash, chop, and meal prep your ingredients on Sunday!
8. INVEST IN THE RIGHT TOOLS
It's easy to go wild with appliances. Rice cookers, slow cookers, one-pots, stand mixers, toasters, pressure cookers, air-fryers, and sous-vide, the list can go on and on. There's an appliance for almost every possible cooking method or dish out there! While all of these appliances have their merit, if we're trying to stay minimal or if we're just starting out, then these three appliances are the ones we as nutritionists find the most useful.
- Pressure cooker: Prepare proteins quickly in the pressure cooker (eg. salsa chicken to add to tacos).
- Air-fryer: Prepare potatoes in the air-fryer for an easy and nutritious side dish and reserve space in your oven or BBQ for other dishes!
- Food processor: Can be used to prepare quick dips to enhance your meal (eg. avocado creama or hummus!)
Courtney’s Tip: You can even use a food processor to prepare our creamy, whipped smoothie bowl recipe.
9. EMBRACE NUTRITIOUS 'CONVENIENCE FOODS'
Ready-made foods can be a convenient and nutritious way to prepare quick meals! While convenient ingredients can be more expensive, they are still more affordable (and often healthier) than eating out! Here is an example of how “convenience foods" can be collected for a quick and nutritious weekday burger meal:
STEP 1: Pick out a pre-made, frozen burger from the store like lean beef burgers, chicken burgers, or bean burgers.
STEP 2: Stock high fibre buns in your freezer like the PC thin buns, Bakestone Thin buns from Costco, or Silver Hills burger buns from Superstore.
STEP 3: Top your burger with a ready-made fat source like cheese slices or avocado. You might even choose hummus as a dip for vegetables!
STEP 4: Pick up raw vegetables that require no chopping like baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, mini-cucumbers, or snap peas. Enjoy these as a filling and nutritious side dish!
STEP 5: Add some flavour by loading the burgers with condiments you already have stocked in your fridge like mustard, ketchup, and pickles.
Viola! Take-out who?
10. PLAN FOR AN AFTERNOON SNACK
Have you ever found yourself arriving home from work and scrounging through the pantry for anything you can get your hands on!? It’s challenging to prepare a nutritious dinner if you are feeling famished when you get home from work! Most people benefit from having a meal or snack at least every 5 hours. So if you had lunch at 12pm, you’ll likely feel hungry by 5pm or so! If you know your family eats later, plan a high-protein snack in the afternoon to satisfy you until dinner. This snack will ensure you arrive home satisfied and calm so you can enjoy the experience of preparing dinner for yourself or your family!
Courtney's Tip: One of my favourite afternoon snacks is our high-protein Greek yogurt prepared with a cup of frozen berries and a couple tablespoons of pumpkin seeds!
By adopting one or more of our menu planning tips, we hope you find confidence and ease when it comes to building satisfying (and nutritious) week day meals! We'd love to hear which tip you plan on trying out first, so share your feedback with our team of Registered Dietitians by commenting below!
NEED HELP MENU PLANNING?
In our F4 Formula online course we teach you how to plan simple and balanced recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The course is loaded with easy and delicious meal ideas to jump-start your nutrition journey! However, if you have special nutrition considerations or specific goals, we highly recommend working one-on-one with a Dietitian inside of our Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching program to help you navigate menu planning and the specific food choices that will help you reach your personal goals!
Ready to bring the evidence-based nutrition support of our Registered Dietitians into your kitchen?
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