Balanced Meal Planning:
Easy as 1-2-3

Meal Planning

cartoon chef hat

Wondering how to get a quick meal on the table yet still assure it's nutritionally balanced?

That's where I come in. As your personal nutrition guide, I'm here to share the tricks of the trade with you.

Now, if you're like lots of people, just the thought of planning meals ahead sends you running for the telephone to make dinner reservations.

However, what I'm suggesting is much easier than making a weekly menu plan, so don't worry.

Balanced meal planning simply requires you to keep a few basic nutrition principles in mind...and a few basic foods on hand. You'll see that by thinking about food differently, meal planning becomes a cinch. Quick and easy, perfectly balanced meals practically make themselves when you do!

Meal planning as easy as 1-2-3...

For balanced meal planning, all you have to do is choose a food from each category...

  1. Lean Protein
  2. Low Starch Vegetable
  3. Healthy Fat
  4. (optional) Starch: whole grain, whole grain product or starchy vegetable

Then, add some seasoning or sauce and voila...a healthy quick meal in a flash!

For example, take a

  1. Turkey burger made from ground breast meat (lean protein), top it with
  2. Tomato slices (low starch veggie),
  3. Slices of avocado (healthy fat), and serve on a
  4. Whole wheat bun (whole grain product)

Add catsup or BBQ sauce if you like, and you've got a balanced meal that I, a Registered Dietitian, would approve of.

Here are some examples of the foods in each category:

Lean Protein
Low Starch
Healthy Fat
Skinless Chicken Tomato Avocado Whole Wheat Bun BBQ Sauce
Skinless Turkey Broccoli Canola Oil Brown Rice Low Sodium Teriyaki
Shellfish Snap Peas Cashews Whole Wheat Pasta Marinara
Egg Onions Extra Virgin Olive Oil Whole Wheat Bread Salsa
Lean Meat Spinach Nuts Sweet Potato Balsamic Vinegar
Soy Foods: Tofu, Tempeh, Edamame Green Beans Seeds Barley Fruit Preserves

Lean Protein

  • Poultry: skinless chicken and turkey
  • Fish: salmon, sardines, halibut, cod, tilapia, flounder, and canned light tuna
  • Shellfish: shrimp, scallops, crab, oysters, lobster
  • Eggs: whole eggs and egg whites
  • Meat, Pork, Lamb and Veal: lean beef (round, sirloin, tenderloin, rump), lean ham, Canadian bacon, lamb loin chop, veal chop, veal roast
  • Soy: tofu, tempeh, edamame (soybeans)
  • Lowfat Cheese

Low Starch Vegetables (from A to Z!)

artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, peppers, spinach, summer squash, zucchini

Healthy Fat

avocado, canola oil (organic, expeller pressed), flaxseed oil, extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, peanut oil, pumpkin seed oil, sesame oil, walnut oil, nuts (ex: pecans, walnuts, pistachios, almonds), nut butters (ex: natural peanut butter, almond butter) and seeds (ex: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, ground flaxseeds)

Starch: Whole Grains, Whole Grain Products and Starchy Vegetables

Whole Grains and Whole Grain Products:

barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa, wheat berries, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat couscous, whole wheat tortillas, whole wheat crackers, oatmeal, quinoa flakes, quinoa pasta, brown rice pasta

Starchy Vegetables:

corn, green peas, potatoes (white or sweet), turnips

Some Seasoning and Sauce Suggestions

  • BBQ Sauce
  • Fat-Free Salad Dressings (my favorites: Annie's Naturals, Newman's Own, Spectrum Naturals)
  • Fruit Preserves (my favorites: American Spoon Fruit, Polaner All-Fruit Jam)
  • Low sodium Teriyaki
  • Low sodium Tamari or Soy Sauce
  • Marinaras
  • Mustards (Dijon, Horseradish)
  • Salsa (look for interesting flavors like black bean and corn, mango, pineapple, etc.)
  • Vinegars (balsamic, rice wine, red wine, flavored vinegars)

I told you meal planning was easy! Here are some examples of how you can bring everything together:

Lean Protein
Low Starch
Healthy Fat
Turkey Burger Tomato Slices Avocado Whole Wheat Bun Catsup
(stir fry)
Snow Peas & Scallions Cashews Brown Rice Stir Fry Sauce
(for soft taco)
Sauteed Onions & Peppers Canola Oil to Saute Shrimp & Veggies Whole Wheat or Corn Tortillas Salsa
(cold pasta salad)
Broccoli Sesame Oil Whole Wheat Pasta  
Low Fat Feta Cheese Sun Dried Tomatoes Extra Virgin Olive Oil Brown Rice  
Canned Light Tuna Broccoli & Cherry Tomatoes Low Fat Poppyseed Dressing Spiral Noodles (whole wheat or brown rice pasta  

You know...


A recipe is simply someone's suggestion of what they think goes well together. So you really don't need a "recipe" in order to help you get a meal on the table. You don't need a "recipe" to tell you it's ok to put salsa on chicken, rice and broccoli.

If you like salsa, and you like chicken, rice and broccoli, I bet you would like the resulting meal!

And that's all you really need to know to get a delicious, nutritious meal on the table in a flash.

Bon Appetit!

Use this handy meal planning worksheet to plan your own balanced meals and post it on the refrigerator as a reminder of all the healthy quick meals you know to make.

Back to Personal Nutrition Guide Home.

Back to Quick Meals.