How to meal plan to avoid unhealthy eating, according to our nutrition expert

These pro tips and advice will take the stress out of meal planning

In today’s busy world, planning healthy meals can be difficult. Add to this the challenges of choosing nutritious foods and budgeting amid inflation, and many people are opting for processed or fast foods, which are affordable but lack nutritional value. That’s why we turned to our nutrition expert for advice to help consumers plan meals and eat healthy foods.

Molly Bremer, MS, RD; is a director and nutritionist at Mosaic Nutrition in Burlington, Vermont. We asked them to share their thoughts on some common issues that lead to unhealthy eating. Her meal prep tips and product recommendations will help you improve your diet. The Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Triple Clad 12-Piece Cookware Set, All-Clad Programmable Slow Cooker, and OXO Good Grips POP Container Set are three of the recommended products featured in this article.

Concentrate on the foods you eat

Healthy eating planning begins with evaluating the types of foods to include in your diet. Bremer said eating a variety of healthy foods is essential, but also foods people enjoy eating. “I recommend having a selection from the five food groups (grains, protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables) and having fun foods,” she said. “This may come as a surprise to some people, but it’s just as important for your health to include healthy foods in your diet, such as fruits and vegetables. When we broaden our view of health to take a more holistic approach (physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual), ‘health’ is viewed as more than just physical health.”

Eat healthy while budgeting

When it comes to grocery shopping in 2022, inflation will be a big factor for many people. According to the US Department of Agriculture, food prices are 11.4% higher than in August 2021.

“Due to our current economic situation, many Americans are having to think about how they can continue to eat healthily while staying on a tighter budget,” Bremer said, adding that the planning will help consumers keep costs under control. “I would suggest trying to plan ahead first by assessing what groceries you already have and making a shopping list after that. It’s a helpful strategy for cutting back on unnecessary grocery purchases and ultimately saving money,” she said.

Bremer also suggests that shoppers consider low-cost foods like rice, eggs, bananas, beans, peanut butter, and frozen and canned foods to save money.

“I would also recommend looking into the qualification requirements for nutritional assistance programs such as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; formerly known as Food Stamps), WIC (Women, Infants and Children), or other state and local programs.”

Healthy meal planning and time management

As a nutrition expert, Bremer said she’s often asked for grocery shopping and cooking tips for people with busy lifestyles. “I suggest trying to develop a meal planning system that includes canned and frozen foods, and if you have the resources, outsource as much as possible.” Bremer shared other time-saving tips:

  • “When planning meals, I encourage people to make a list of protein, grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, drinks, and fun foods.”
  • Once you’ve shopped for your groceries, you can save time by preparing everything at once. Meal prep looks different for everyone. For some, it means washing and chopping veggies for easy grab-and-go snacks. For others, it means making lasagna and wild rice soup for a week.
  • Including frozen and canned food can change the game. “I always have a selection of frozen and canned appetizers and sides on hand. Some staples I add are frozen meatballs, canned soup, boxed mac and cheese, frozen veggies, canned beans, and frozen dumplings.”
  • “I would recommend involving other people, such as children, spouses, or babysitters, to help with grocery shopping or cooking if possible to spread responsibility and reduce the task load.”

Plan healthy meals for kids

Cooking for kids presents some challenges, but Bremer made suggestions for preparing meals that they enjoy and are good for.

“My first recommendation for meal planning for families with children is to think of Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility, which simply states: Parents are responsible for what, when, and where food is served, and children are responsible for if and how they are served eat a lot of food,” she explained. The parent who cooks food is often seen as a short-term cook, but this can add a lot of extra stress and limit the variety of foods the children are exposed to. If parents are struggling to feed everyone in the family, I recommend trying to find a meal where there are options and choices.”

Bremen continued. “Like hosting a taco night where family members can decide if/what protein and veggies and amount of cheese and other toppings they want. Or if it’s steak night and one of the kids is vegetarian, use the same marinade on tofu and serve the same side dishes. It can be difficult and nuanced, so I recommend working with a nutritionist who specializes in family nutrition. If that’s not an option, I would look at literature from the Ellyn Satter Institute.”

Snack healthy

“Snacks are a helpful tool for bridging the gap between meals,” said Bremer, who recommends having two to three snacks each day to help prevent blood-sugar drops that can lead to overeating. “I recommend combining protein, fiber, and fat to create filling and filling snacks. Some of my favorite snacks include trail mix (with M&Ms and granola), Greek yogurt parfaits with fruit and granola, apples with peanut butter, or a fruit, veg, ground flaxseed, nut butter, and milk smoothie. If I’m just in the mood for a bag of BBQ chips I’ll eat these chips as they satisfy my mental hunger but I know they probably won’t keep me physically full and I may need to have a meal or two and a snack soon” , she guessed.

Bremer’s product recommendations for healthy meal planning and nutrition

Best Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Triple Clad 12 Piece Cookware Set

Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Triple Clad 12 Piece Cookware Set

Cuisinart’s MultiClad Pro set contains 12 useful pieces for all your cooking needs. The triple skinned construction offers excellent durability and even heat distribution.

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Customizable meals are easy with this popular meal delivery service. The website is easy to use to select healthy foods that suit your dietary needs and preferences. Sold by freshology

Best Modern Shop Magnetic Notepads Pack of 8

Modern Shop Magnetic Notepads Pack of 8

According to Bremer, making a grocery list will help you stay focused and save money when you’re shopping. This pack contains eight notepads with magnetized backs, so you’ll always have them handy until you head to the store.

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Clif Bars Strain Pack

If you enjoy snacking on Clif Bars, chances are you’ll appreciate the variety in this multipack. It includes six different flavors and a total of 16 bars. Each is made with delicious plant-based ingredients that boost energy between meals.

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Best Instant Pot Duo Crisp

Instant Pot Duo Crisp

Offering 11 different functions, this instant pot sets itself apart from other models with its air frying ability. The 8 liter capacity is ideal for serving meals to groups.

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Best Spread the Love Naked Organic Peanut Butter

Spread the Love Naked Organic Peanut Butter

Spread the Love Peanut Butter is a nutrient dense option made with dry roasted peanuts and contains no oils or sugar. It is ideal for snacking and cooking.

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Best Fully Enclosed Programmable Slow Cooker

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Versatile cooking functions, 6.5 liter capacity and sleek design put the All-Clad Programmable Slow Cooker at the top of this list. The ceramic insert is dishwasher safe for quick and easy cleaning.

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Best wild rice grown in Thousand Lakes Minnesota

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Packed with protein and fiber, this wild rice is an excellent option for numerous recipes. We like that the pack contains only wild rice and no salt or preservatives.

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Best OXO Good Grips POP Container Set

OXO Good Grips POP Container Set

The five canisters in this set are designed to keep food fresh so you can save on leftovers and money. It includes different sizes to meet a variety of food storage needs.

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Best Metal Creative Co-Op Cookbook Holder

Creative Co-Op Metal Cookbook Holder

Not only is this stand suitable for cookbooks of various sizes, but it also features a stylish design that looks great on a countertop. It’s a useful accessory that provides easy access to recipes while cooking.

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Jennifer Manfrin writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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