Nov 11, 2013
Menu and Meal Panning 101
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Well that sounds rather morose, doesn’t it? But it’s a maxim that I live by and have found to be true. Especially when it comes to meal planning and even more so when I’m helping someone transition to a plant-based diet.
Meal planning takes the frustration out of standing in front of your refrigerator or cupboard with the heart-sinking question of, “What the heck am I going to make to eat today?!” Have you done this? When you’re hungry?? It is so not fun. Planning your meals will save you money as well. Because when you hit the supermarket aisles armed with a shopping list that is specific to your upcoming meals, you won’t be tempted to buy things on a whim… items you won’t use right away or some fancy piece of fruit or produce that will become a science experiment in the back of your fridge.
It’s not really that hard. I ordinarily plan my upcoming weekly menu the day before I do my food shopping. The only tricky part (if you’re wanting to stick to a nutrient-dense eating style) is ensuring that you include at least a cup of beans each day, some mushrooms and onions, a good amount of cooked and raw veggies and some fresh fruit.
|Smoothies are a great way to get a good dose of nutrients in the mornings!|
When creating my weekly menu, I work on one meal at a time. In other words, I do breakfasts first. They’re pretty easy. Lots of smoothies. Some oatmeal and perhaps something fancy on the weekend. Then, I tackle lunches. Also not so hard as I make a lot of soups and/or salads for lunch.
Dinner is sometimes not so easy. I have to juggle different time constraints on different days of the week. But I manage to include a diverse amount of fruits and veggies each week, along with my beans and a few desserts to keep things interesting. And having a food blog on which I post a recipe almost EVERY DAY is challenging, let me tell you! So if I can do it, you can too…
|Remember… the salad is the main dish!|
Here is my actual menu plan from this week so you can get an idea of what I eat and how I plan. As you will see, there are usually beans, raw and cooked veggies (including cruciferous veggies) in each day’s menu. And not more than one cup of whole grains per day. It’s not always perfect, nor do I adhere to my menu 100% of the time, but it’s a fantastic guide and I’ve gotten so accustomed to it, that I can’t imagine not having one…
B – Smoothies
L – OUT (Asheville)
D – Leftover Veggie Soup, Salad
B – Banana Blender Pancakes w/fresh fruit
L – Green Bean Casserole, Hummus w/ veggie sticks
D – Curried Kidney Bean Stew, Salad
B – Baked Stuffed Apples
L – Stuffed Eggplant Parmesan Stacks, Salad
D – 5-Bean Chili, corn muffins, Guacamole
B – Creamy Grits and Shiitake Breakfast Sausage
L – Beans n Greens Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
D – Big Salad w/ Bleu cheeze dressing
B – Super Q Chocolate Smoothies
L – Swedish No-Meatballs w/ Apricot Sauce, Roasted Brussels Sprouts
D – Creamy Cauliflower Leek Soup, Salad
B – Oatmeal w/ fresh fruit
L – Chickpea of the Sea Tuna Salad
D – Bok Choy Asian Stirfry
B – Smoothies
L – Green Mountain Soup, GF dinner rolls
D – Broccoli Pesto Pizza, Salad
Okay, now don’t get frustrated thinking that you couldn’t possibly make all these meals. You just don’t have the time! I know how that is. I was a single mom working two jobs for many years. But the best part about being on the Fuhrman (nutritarian) plan is that your menus don’t have to be as involved as this. I’m a food blogger, don’t forget! I need to come up with interesting recipes. It’s a challenge. But I work at home which makes it much easier to do all this prepping and cooking.
Here is a menu that has just as much nutrient-load and is MUCH quicker and easier to do. You can find the recipes on this blog. Of course, some of the meals are just “a salad” which you can create with whatever greens and veggies you like.
B – Superfood Blueberry Smoothie
L – Minestrone Soup (make a BIG pot so you’ll have leftovers)
D – Big Salad w/ Walnut Dressing
B – Buckwheat Pancakes
L – Homestyle Lentil Soup (make a BIG pot so you’ll have leftovers)
D – Black Bean Hummus w/ veggie sticks, Salad
L – Leftover Minestrone Soup, Salad
D – Buddha Bowl with Karma Kream (make Overnight Oatmeal)
B – Overnight Oatmeal
L – Leftover Lentil Soup, Carrot Cashew Salad
D – Big Salad w/ Vegan Ranch dressing
B – Superfood Blueberry Smoothie
L – Big Salad with Kidney Beans
D – Fiesta Bean Soup, Sliced Avocado
B – Chopped fresh fruit with vegan yogurt and hemp seeds
L – Cream of Broccoli Soup, Salad
D – Zucchini Pad Thai (make Chickpea of the Sea Tuna Salad)
B – Smoothies
L – Chickpea of the Sea Tuna Salad in green bell peppers, Leftover Fiesta Bean Soup
D – Simple Vegetable Curry, Brown Rice, Citrusy 3-Pea Salad
I ordinarily just type out my menus in MSWord, but there are many free menu planning templates online, like these from Money Saving Mom. Choose a template that you like if you want to use one for your plans. However you plan your weekly menu, when you’re done, print it out and put it on your fridge. I find this helpful as I can look at it the day before to see if I want to prep anything for the next day ahead of time.
|Crunched for time during the week? Then soups are your friends!
Make a big batch on the weekend and have it for lunches.
You didn’t see any desserts on my menu, did you? If you’re a follower of my blog, you KNOW that I make desserts. But I omitted them from the menu. I usually have a separate note on what specialty items I will be making for my blog. And I don’t eat a lot of sweets. About twice per week I will indulge in a small treat, usually after lunch. Everyone loves desserts. At least most people I know. And with the holidays around the corner, many folks are scouring the internet for recipes. But even sweetening desserts with dates or date sugar still gives you a good dose of sugars. I say “sugars” not sugar, because even carrots and apples have a high amount of naturally occurring sugars. And I try to keep my intake of sugars on the low end. Honey, maple syrup, agave… all high in sugar content. All to be eaten in moderation, if at all. I prefer using dates to sweeten as they are a whole food and are high in minerals.
Ideally, we should aim to get our sweets from fruit. Did you know that primates (that’s us… and apes) are the only species that can taste sweets? But most people’s taste buds these days are completely overstimulated by too much concentrated sweeteners and salt. For more information about sugar vs. fruit, see Dr. Fuhrman’s interesting article here: Sugar: Enough is Enough!
Whole food sorbets and quick ice creams are a great way to handle a sweet tooth! Just put some frozen bananas and another frozen fruit of your choice (strawberries, cherries, raspberries, etc.) into a food processor or blender with a little non-dairy milk and blend until puréed. It’s fast, delicious and another good way to get your daily dose of fruits, besides smoothies.
|Date-sweetened pumpkin pie… a popular item on my blog!|
- at least 1 cup of beans
- about 1 pound of fresh veggies (including crucifers!)
- about 1 pound of cooked veggies
- fresh or frozen fruit
- mushrooms and onions at least 3x per week
- 1-2 ounces of raw nuts and/or seeds
That sounds like a lot of food, doesn’t it? That’s one of the best things about a nutritarian eating style. No weighing of foods, no counting of calories. Just EATING nutrient-dense, delicious meals. Smoothies, soups and salads are the basics on this plan. Work around them to make your planning and preparing easier and to ensure you are getting the nutrients your body needs. Make sure to eat a few raw nuts when you have your greens, too. Nuts will help your body to better utilize the nutrients in the green vegetables. And they are your best source of essential fatty acids, which is a vital part of a nutritarian diet.
So how do you decide exactly what dishes to put on your menu? That’s simple. Choose the foods you enjoy! Hunt around online. Look at various, plant-based, whole food blogs and see what looks good to you. Save the ones you want to make. Create a Pinterest account if you don’t have one. This is a great way to organize recipes from other websites to save for future use. On the right panel of this page you will see “my favorite hangouts.” These are some of the sites that I visit to get inspired when I run out of ideas. They’re all great blogs with wonderful recipes. In particular I recommend: Straight Up Food, Carrie on Vegan, Fat-free Vegan Kitchen and Wendy over at Healthy Girl’s Kitchen who is working on a really cool project of making ALL of the recipes from Dr. Fuhrman’s new cookbook, The Eat to Live Cookbook with a new review every day. Go, Wendy!
That pretty much covers it. Be creative and have fun! Send me an email if you have questions or need help. I’d be happy to guide you.