Weekly Meal Planning 101

Weekly Meal Planning 101

Meal PlanningMeal planning is one of the best ways to stick to a healthy diet. It might seem overwhelming at first, but you’ll be a pro in a few weeks if you stick with it. Below you will find step-by-step instructions on how to make a meal plan, a sample meal plan for one week, and the matching recipes and shopping list to go with it. The important thing to remember is that you should find a method that works best for you, one that is enjoyable and effective. The first thing you need to do is set aside a little time each week. You schedule in doctor’s appointments, meetings and the kid’s soccer games, so why not schedule in 30 minutes once a week for meal planning? You’ll be thanking yourself the rest of the week if you do, so throw it on the calendar!


1.)  Spend some time collecting recipes that you enjoy. Pinterest! Pinterest! Pinterest! If you don’t have a Pinterest account, I highly recommend getting one. There are countless recipes and it’s so easy to collect them all in one place on a “Healthy Recipes” board. You could also have separate boards for healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. It basically organizes itself! Browse other websites and blogs (eh hem, may I suggest this one?) for other recipes that appeal to you and your taste buds. Pull out your cookbooks, magazines or recipes cards that you haven’t looked at in awhile. You can also check cookbooks out from the library and make copies of your favorite recipes.

2.) Collect your recipes and save them in one place. Creating a “master list” will help speed up the meal planning process. Again, do what works for you. If Pinterest isn’t your thing, you could make a “Recipes” folder in your email account and keep them saved there. If you don’t want to store them electronically, then make your own cookbook with your go-to recipes. Get a simple three ring binder and plastic inserts with tabs and you’re all set. Meal Planning and Pepper Plate are free apps that will help you organize your recipes and plan a menu. Just make sure to keep your master list full of recipes you enjoy. If you tried a new recipe this week that you weren’t a fan of, delete it or remove it from your binder.

3.) Ask your partner, roommates and family what they like to eat. I have a lot of patients who are truly putting forth the effort to lose weight but can’t get their spouse (or whoever it might be) on board. You bring home the chicken and broccoli, and they bring home the chips and ice cream.  The best thing to do is sit down together and have a discussion with the other person about how this makes you feel, then try to meal plan together. If you need another copy of our list of “Whole Foods vs Processed Foods,” please ask at your next visit, or call the office and we’d be happy to email it to you. Have everyone in the house check or highlight the healthy foods they enjoy and base recipes off those items.



1.) Look at your calendar for the upcoming week. Our lives vary week to week depending on work schedules, social events, evening commitments and everything in between. Take a quick glance at your upcoming week’s schedule. Make a mental note of how much time you’ll have to cook and estimate how many meals you’ll need to prepare. If it’s a busy week, you might only be able to cook a couple times. I always say to “cook in bulk” so you have leftovers for the next day. I understand that not everyone is a huge fan of leftovers, but some weeks it’ll be the only way to keep you on track. Otherwise you’ll find yourself in the fast-food drive-thru or ordering a delivery pizza (don’t do it!). And don’t forget about the slow cooker, it will be your best friend. Think soups, chili, casseroles or quinoa salads. These can all be cooked in bulk for dinner and then eaten for lunch during the week. Any extra can be frozen, perfect for that busy week coming up next month. Just thaw, heat and serve!

2.) Check the weather. Sounds silly, right? But weather can play a big role in your “food mood.” Chicago is having a little bit of an identity crisis right now- cold and rainy one day and 70’s the next. A warm bowl of sweet potato chili might sound great on a chilly fall day, but on a warmer day a grilled shrimp and mango salad might be more appealing. Obviously, the weather can change and it’s rarely accurate 7 days out, but it will give you (hopefully) a close estimate.

3.) Do you have a grocery budget? Eating healthy can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be! A few adjustments in your eating plan, such as eating seasonally can save you big bucks. Check out my other blog, “Eating Healthy On a Budget” for additional tips on how to save money while eating healthy. And don’t forget about the sale ads and coupons! Is organic chicken on sale? Buy one, get one on frozen blueberries? Write down or cut out coupons of interest and use recipes that have those ingredients in them.



1.) It’s time to put this puzzle together! Again, you’ll need to find what works best for you here. You might find that you don’t need to plan every meal or snack. Do you eat a healthy breakfast but find yourself ordering lunch with the rest of the office? Or come home tired and eat frozen pizza a few times a week? If so, you might just need to meal plan your lunches and dinners. It might take a couple weeks to find what works best for you. If you want to start with the most detailed, make a chart with 6 columns and 8 rows, like the example below. If  you have a day during the week when you’ll be eating out at a restaurant, write down the name of the restaurant. Then go online and look at their menu (always try to find the nutrition menu first). Pick the healthiest choice and write in it your calendar and stick to the plan! Avoid temptation by keeping your menu closed when you’re there.

2.) Overlap ingredients when planning your meals for the week. Select recipes with common ingredients to minimize the amount you buy and your food prep time. Also, don’t forget to pay attention to how many servings a recipe makes, especially if you have a bigger family to feed.

3.) Write your grocery list as you fill in your calendar. Write down every ingredient and the quantity needed from each recipe. See which ingredients you already have at home and cross those off the list before you go to the grocery store. Most people have a collection of spices so you shouldn’t need to buy many. But if you don’t, this is a great time to start one. Remember, variety is the spice of life!

4.) Always ask yourself if this is a good recipe to freeze. It’s surprising how many things can be frozen with good results. If you aren’t sure if it’d be good or not, test a small amount and give it a try in one month. If it’s just as good as it is fresh, “future you” will be thanking yourself later for the time saved.



1.) This is best done as soon as you get home from the grocery store.

2.) Scrub any produce that you brought home (potatoes, squash, cucumbers, apples).

3.) Wash and dry your leafy greens.

4.) Chop onions, bell peppers or any veggie that needs chopping for the recipes in your week’s meal plan.

5.) Measure out nuts or seeds and put into snack size bags for appropriate portion sizes (1/4 cup a day).

6.) Hard boil and peel eggs. Gently pat eggs with a paper towel to dry and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.






  • Apples- 3 small
  • Bananas- 3-4
  • Lemon- 1
  • Limes- 3
  • Spinach- one 5 oz bag
  • Kale- 2 medium bunches
  • Romaine lettuce- 3 heads
  • Cilantro- 1 bunch
  • Broccoli- 1 large or 2 medium heads (enough for 4 cups)
  • Asparagus- 1 bunch
  • Mushrooms- 1 carton (need 1 cup)
  • Cucumbers- 4
  • Red bell peppers- 2
  • Green bell peppers- 3
  • Avocados- 2
  • Roma tomatoes- 6
  • Red onions- 2 medium
  • Yellow onions- 4 medium
  • Garlic- 1-2 heads
  • Sweet potatoes- 1 lb
  • Butternut squash- 1 large


  • Tuna- two 5 oz cans (in water)
  • Salmon- 1 lb
  • Chicken breasts- 6
  • Roasted turkey- 6 slices
  • Eggs- 1 dozen


  • Paprika- 1/2 tsp+
  • Black pepper- 1/2 tsp+
  • Salt- 1 tsp+
  • Ground cumin- 1 1/2 tsp
  • Onion powder- 1/2 tsp
  • Chili powder- 3 1/4 tsp
  • Nutmeg- 1 1/2 tsp
  • Dried oregano- 1 tsp
  • Cayenne pepper- 1/4 tsp
  • Cinnamon- sprinkling
  • Dijon mustard- 1 tbsp
  • White wine vinegar- 1/4 cup
  • Apple cider vinegar- 1/4 cup
  • Honey- 2 tsp
  • Olive oil- 1 3/4 cup


  • Natural creamy peanut butter- 3/4 cup
  • Raw almonds- 3/4 cup
  • Almond flour- 1/3 cup
  • Chia seeds- 3 tbsp
  • Quinoa- 1/2 cup
  • Kalamata olives- 1/4 cup
  • Hummus- 10 tbsp
  • Goat cheese crumbles- 1/4 cup
  • Light coconut milk- 3 1/2 cups
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes- 1/2 cup
  • Chicken broth, low sodium- 8 cups (2 cartons)
  • Diced tomatoes with chiles- 2 cans
  • Black beans- 3 cans


BREAKFAST RECIPES- most recipes make 2 servings 

Veggie Omelet

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1.) Prepare all vegetables, chop spinach, bell peppers and red onion. Mix together and set aside.

2.) Beat eggs together until well blended, add chopped veggies and mix well.

3.) In a medium size skillet over medium heat, pour eggs into pan and cook until edges are slightly brown, approximately 2-3 minutes. Flip half over and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

4.) Salt and pepper, to taste and enjoy!

Breakfast Quinoa

  • 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup sliced banana

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2.) Combine qunioa, coconut milk and water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil.

3.) Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Stir mixture constantly during the last 2 minutes of cooking.

4.) While quinoa cooks, spread flaked coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly.

5.) Divide quinoa mixture between two bowls. Top each serving with banana slices and toasted coconut. Serve warm.

Banana Peanut Butter Chia Pudding

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 3/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chia seeds

1.) In a blender, puree the banana, coconut milk and peanut butter. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in the chia seeds.

2.) Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight.

3.) Stir the mixture before serving. Pudding can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 1 week. Makes 2-3 servings.


Turkey Lettuce Wraps

  • 4 leaves romaine lettuce
  • 6 slices of roasted turkey
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons hummus (red pepper works great)
  • sprinkle of paprika

1.) Top a lettuce leaf with 3 slices of turkey, cucumber, 2 tablespoons of hummus and paprika.

2.) Top with another lettuce leaf and roll wrap up, secure with a toothpick.

3.) Repeat with the remaining ingredients, makes 2 wraps.

Chicken Greek Salad

  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
  • 5 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • black pepper, to taste

Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon

1.) To make the vinaigrette, whisk together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, honey, lemon zest and lemon juice in a small bowl; set aside.

2.) To assemble the salad, place romaine lettuce in a large bowl, top with red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, goat cheese and pepper, to taste.

3.) Pour dressing on top of 1/2 the salad and gently toss to combine. Save the other half for tomorrow’s lunch.

Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa

  • 1 lb salmon, cut into 2 pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Avocado Salsa

  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 small red onion, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • salt, to taste

1.) Mix the salt, chili powder, cumin, paprika, onion and black pepper together.

2.) Rub the salmon fillets with olive oil and the seasoning mix.

3.) Preheat the grill.

4.) Combine the avocado, onion, cilantro, lime juice and salt in a bowl and mix well. Chill until ready to use.

5.) Grill the salmon to desired doneness (about 5 minutes).

6.) Top with avocado salsa and enjoy with a grilled veggie medley (recipe below).

Grilled Veggie Medley

  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1.) Place the vegetables on a double layer of heavy duty foil (about 18 in x 15 in). Drizzle with olive oil.

2.) Fold foil around vegetables and seal tightly.

3.) Grill, covered over medium heat, for 5-7 minutes on each side or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Kale Chips

  • 1 medium bunch of kale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1.) Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.) Wash kale leaves and dry with a paper towel.

3.) Using a paring knife or kitchen scissors, trim out the ribs and discard. Cut the remaining kale into approximately two-inch pieces.

4.) Place kale in a large bowl and toss gently but thoroughly, making sure that every last bit of kale leaf is coated with olive oil.

5.) Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Lay kale in a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.

6.) Bake for 8-12 minutes, just until crisp. Start checking at 8 minutes- don’t overcook!

7.) Remove from oven and let cool for a minute or two, then serve.

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a casserole pan with half the olive oil and set aside.

2.) Steam the broccoli until just barely cooked and set aside, uncovered.

3.) In a saucepan, heat the olive oil, brown the onions and season with salt and pepper.

4.) Add the mushrooms, saute until cooked and remove pan from heat.

5.) Transfer the broccoli, onions, mushrooms and shredded chicken to the casserole pan and distribute evenly.

6.) In a bowl, mix the bone broth, coconut milk, eggs and nutmeg with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk and pour over the contents of the casserole dish.

7.) Make sure the mixture is spread evenly and all the contents are covered. Place the casserole in the oven and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, or until done in the middle.

8.) Remove from the oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Try freezing the extra servings and thaw in a couple weeks.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, adjust to taste
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with chiles, not drained
  • 2 cans (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2-3 cups chicken broth

1.) In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat.

2.) Add sweet potato, onion and bell pepper. Saute until onion softens, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3.) Stir in garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano and cayenne. Saute for 1 minute, or until garlic is fragrant.

4.) Add diced tomatoes, black beans and broth; stir until combined.

5.) Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender. Enjoy!

Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2-3 juicy limes)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, stems removed
  • 1 cup olive oil

1.) Prepare all ingredients for the salad. In a large bowl, combine ingredients and toss together.

2.) For the dressing, combine lime juice, vinegar, garlic and salt in a blender. Blend until ingredients are completely combined.

3.) With the blender running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream.

4.) Add cilantro and blend until the cilantro has broken down but still maintains some of its texture.

5.) Add dressing to half of the salad, store the other half for lunch tomorrow.

Tuna Cakes with Fresh Tomato Salsa

  •  2 five ounce cans of tuna (in water), drained and fluffed
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Jalapeno Tabasco (or other hot sauce), optional

Fresh Tomato Salsa

  • 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the Tuna Cakes:

1.) In a large bowl, mix together tuna, onion, almond flour, garlic, lime juice, mustard, and hot sauce (if using).

2.) Add a little salt and pepper, stirring while taste testing. Once you have reached your desired seasonings, stir in the egg.

3.) Pat tuna mixture into 4 patties, using about 1/2 cup of tuna mixture for each patty. Set on wax paper.

4.) To freeze: flash freeze tuna cakes for 30 minutes on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Then wrap each cake individually with plastic wrap and place in a ziplock bag. Freeze for up to 1 month. To thaw, place tuna cakes in fridge a day before you plan to use them. Once thawed, follow the instructions below.

5.) Add 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick saute pan, over medium heat.

6.) Add two tuna cakes to the pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.

7.) Remove from pan and set on a paper towel covered plate. Repeat entire process (including adding a second tablespoon of olive oil) to cook the remaining tuna cakes.

For the Fresh Tomato Salsa:

1.) Toss together tomatoes, yellow onions, red onions, lime juice, salt and pepper.

2.) Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for 2 hours before eating to allow the flavors to develop.

3.) Top tuna cakes with fresh tomato salsa. Serve with a side of fresh asparagus. Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and seeds removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp nutmeg, grated
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2.) In a large bowl, toss the squash and onions with olive oil, then toss with minced garlic, salt and pepper

3.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and empty the bowl of veggies onto it, making sure they are in an even layer.

4.) Roast for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through, until veggies are tender and golden brown.

5.) Transfer the roasted squash and onions to a large pot. Add the chicken broth and nutmeg. Simmer 25-30 minutes.

6.) Puree the soup using an immersion blender or working in batches with a blender or food processor until you have a silky smooth soup.

7.) Adjust seasonings to taste. Ladle into bowls and enjoy!









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