Looking for Healthy Meals?

— Written By and last updated by Cindy Nance

This is something a lot of you ladies may be able to identify with me. Recently, I prepared dinner for my husband and myself. I made a quick salad with lettuce, apples, some frozen berries, grilled chicken and low-fat dressing. As we sat down to eat my husband commented, “It’s amazing that when you look in the refrigerator you see fixings for a salad, when I look in the refrigerator I just see soda.” All of this seems to capture a common sentiment in a nutshell. How do people plan menus and think about making them healthy meals? Is this something that we can learn – sure it is!

All home management experts say that planning meals ahead of time is the number one way to save time, have a balanced meal, control the food budget, avoid food waste, and reduce trips to the grocery store. However, I’m realistic enough to know that most families don’t do this, but we should.

Here are just a few of the ideas I have read about and tried that might help you:

  1. Try planning just a few meals a week instead of setting up a program for all seven days. If this works, then perhaps you could develop a menu rotation.
  2. Have everyone in the family contribute their menu ideas and meal likes and dislikes.
  3. If other members of your family are just learning to cook or don’t yet have a wide recipe repertoire, having menus posted can help them learn and develop their cooking and menu-planning skills.
  4. Keep MY Plate in mind as you go. We all know the concept of trying to fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal, so now it’s time to put it into action. Remember to fill the other half of the plate with lean protein and a whole grain, then add low-fat dairy on the side to round out the meal.
  5. Post your planned menus. That way, everyone in the family knows what’s for dinner. This could help the first one home to get dinner started.
  6. Make sure that the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry are stocked with the foods that you need for these menus. It’s especially important to have a variety of fruits and vegetables available for meals and snacks. After all, how can you fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables if there aren’t any fruits and vegetables in the house?

If you try these simple steps who knows? Maybe the next time your family looks into the fridge, they’ll see dinner! Good luck.

For more information, contact Lethia Lee, EFNEP Assistant with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service at 910-592-7161.