The Art of Meal Planning

by Ashley Bade Cronin RD, LDN, CSP, Metrowest Nutrition (

logo combo barrett and metrowest nutrition_ no text_whitePlease note that Ashley is now available at Barrett in Northborough on Fridays.  To set up an appointment with her, please contact her directly at or by calling 617-332-2282.

We’ve all been there, the week is getting busy, you get home after a long day and making a healthy, balanced dinner is the last thing on our mind. It’s these nights that we pick up the phone to dial for high calorie take-out or we grab some less than nutritious convenience foods.  Sure, this can happen to anyone from time to time, but with some simple meal planning and prep before the week starts, we can stick with our healthy goals for ourselves and our families.

Go in with a Plan: Before the week starts, sit down and take a look at the family schedule- plan for quicker meals or leftovers on the busier evenings.  Also this is a great time to look at your health goals. If you’re trying to eat more veggies, plan this into your meals to have more success during the week.

Family Fun: Don’t overlook a valuable source of ideas when it comes to planning meals- include your little ones! Ask for ideas of what they may like during the week. If you’re getting answers like “ice cream sundaes” from your children, make it a bit more specific i.e. what fruit or veggie do you want with this meal? Do you want this cereal or English muffins for breakfast? Getting input from kids can help to generate some different ideas and can also get them invested in planning healthy choices.

Convenience: These days there are so many ways to keep your meals easy AND healthy. Take advantage of the variety of frozen microwavable steam vegetables, quick cooking sides like couscous (cooks in 5 minutes!) or even microwave brown rice mixes, I like Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice Whole Grain Brown Rice- cooks in 90 seconds.

Sunday Prep Day: I like to take some spare time on Sundays to start some prep work for the week to make after work dinners a bit easier. I recommend washing, slicing & dicing any fruits or veggies to make them easy to grab-and-go during the week.  I also tend to make a more work-intensive/time consuming meal on Sundays in a bigger batch so we can have them as leftovers on a busier night during the week or have as packed lunches. If you have the time on your prep day, it can also be helpful to cook a few items ahead of time (no more than 3 – 4 days ahead to avoid spoilage).

Bring it to the Snacks: Why leave snacks out of the planning process? It can be a great opportunity to plan healthy options into the week by planning your daily snacks. Talk with your kiddos as well and have them choose 2 different, healthy snack options to have for after school. This can help to avoid the afternoon pantry raid and steer your kids towards the healthier options they agreed on.


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