What’s for Dinner?

— Written By and last updated by Patricia Burch

Has anyone ever asked you “well what do you eat” or “what does your fridge look like”? I get this question probably more than most, which makes sense because I am a nutrition educator. I think what is most difficult with this question is the assumption that I eat eccentric foods or drink a shot of wheatgrass when I wake up. Like most others, I eat common foods and every now and then splurge on something a little less than healthy. So this week I decided to share a weekly menu of what I eat. I typically have oatmeal and a piece of fruit for breakfast, last night’s dinner for lunch, and fruit and/or nuts as snacks in between. Dinner is my biggest meal, so that is what’s included below. Here’s a sample of what my menu looked like this week:

Monday night:
Chicken breast pan seared in teriyaki sauce and Dijon mustard. Baked zucchini (cut long ways and baked in oven with a dab of butter and sprinkled with salt and pepper). Cauliflower mashed potatoes (Birds Eye brand, frozen).

Tuesday night:
Salmon over brown rice, sundried tomatoes, and spinach with fresh parsley and chives from my herb garden. This was cooked in my favorite kitchen appliance ever, my pressure cooker (Thanks Mom for the best Christmas gift ever)! This took maybe 10 minutes total to cook, but even without the pressure cooker this meal could be whipped up in about 20 minutes.

Wednesday night:
Lime shrimp and grits. This was another pressure cooker meal. The shrimp was marinated in olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes. While the shrimp marinated, I chopped up a jalapeno and sautéed it in olive oil. I then added some tomato paste and water to the pot and let that come to a boil. I threw in my polenta (also known as coarse grits) and gave a good stir, then pressure cooked the grits for 10 minutes. Once down from pressure, I added my shrimp without the marinade, and let it cook for another 5 minutes. My first time making this and the flavor was so good!

Thursday night:
Spaghetti and a salad. I used whole grain spaghetti, food lion brand traditional sauce, ground turkey and a little garlic powder. I added a green pepper and half an onion to my sauce as well. I always add extra veggies to my spaghetti and it gives it the best flavor! For the salad I just used a bagged salad and added feta cheese, blueberries, and strawberries with light raspberry vinaigrette (Food Lion brand).

Friday night:
PIZZA! This is the one thing I have to have a few times a month. Because of my cravings, I try to make healthier pizza at home, but of course it’s not the same as ordering from a pizza place. My healthy pizza consists of Mama Mia’s Whole Grain pizza crust, pizza sauce, low-fat mozzarella cheese, spinach, ham, fresh chopped garlic, and pineapple.

Saturday night:
Pork carnitas. This is about the closest I get to cooking on the weekends. I used a pork shoulder and made a rub out of oregano, cumin, cayenne pepper, pepper, and cinnamon. I added a little olive oil, onion, and garlic to the crockpot along with the pork shoulder. I added some beef stock, juice from two oranges, and the orange peel to the crockpot. This cooked on low for about eight hours. When done, I put the pork on a baking sheet lightly sprayed with cooking oil and poured some of the crockpot juice over it. I let it broil for about 8 minutes until it began to brown and crisp. For my taco toppings I used avocado, tomato, spinach, and sour cream in whole wheat tortillas.

Sunday night:
This night we went out to eat to celebrate another win for my boyfriend’s baseball team. When eating out, I try to avoid fried foods and get something I don’t typically make at home. From being in the sun all day, a chicken and avocado sandwich with a side of fruit was the only thing that sounded appetizing. It was delicious!

Dinner can be one of the easiest or most difficult decisions. I find the less I plan, the harder dinner decisions can be. The best way to plan is to look at what you currently have in your fridge or freezer. I did this for the meals above and had a pork shoulder, frozen shrimp, and salmon in my freezer. From there, I looked through some of my recipe books to see if there was anything new that I wanted to try. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday’s meals were from a cookbook my mother got me for Christmas called Fast Favorites Under Pressure by Meredith Laurence. These recipes seemed easy enough and many of the items needed for the recipe I had in my pantry. I also checked what was on sale at the store to see if there was anything I could put together with some of the sale items. This is where Thursday night’s dinner came from. Taking a moment to figure out your dinner for the week can save you a lot of time in the long run, and help out your health too by decreasing your chances of eating out.

Trying to eat healthy doesn’t always have to be hard, and an unhealthy meal here or there is OK. What is most important is having balance in your diet. Try to include as many vegetables into your meals as you can and choose whole grains when you are able. If you have trouble choosing healthy foods, finding healthy recipes, or if you need planning and shopping tips, I am just a call away.