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Old 09-22-2008, 03:04 PM   #1  
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Question nutrition for dummies (or just HOW do you plan?)

i realized that i have NO idea how to plan a menu/menus for a week. i do know how to cook and i like to think i am pretty good. but how to plan and shop for a week or two and then have meals that are healthy and dont break the bank.

i have always "been on a diet". dont eat this or only eat that. it is how i always lost weight. now i am looking at this is for the long term. as in "forever". a life style change and not a diet.

so just what IS a healthy meal? and i am asking for input from anyone. doesnt matter what plan you are on. and for me, i havent even gotten to figuring macro/micro nutrients. that is so beyond me right now that it overwhelms me and makes me want to scurry back to the newest diet in "womens world".

what would(or what did ) you teach your kids about how to plan and cook and shop for a decent budget?

i know i am a smart woman but this.....i dont get!
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Old 09-22-2008, 03:21 PM   #2  
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I go different ways. At first, I developed a week's worth of good (and super easy) meals, and repeated every week. I was learning to cook (and to deal with the time it took), and making it as easy as possible was key. Grocery shopping didn't take much planning because it was mostly the same week to week.

But the last couple weeks, I felt the need to try a bunch of new recipes, and so I feel like I'm doing nothing but working, sleeping and cooking! But it means I have to plan each week's shopping trip.

I hope someday to get a CSA vegetable box, and that will be another way of doing it - to get the veggies and then figure out how to use them.
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Old 09-22-2008, 03:41 PM   #3  
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Red face that is a good idea...

my doctor (who is a very thin male) and i had a discussion about diets. i always figured he was a vegetarian. just assumption on my part. i also kinda figured he was a buddhist and gay. i like to make up life stories for people.

now i know....he isnt a vegetarian. (he didnt give up the info on sexuality or religion). but he does have to watch what he eats. he eats the same freaking thing EVERYDAY. same breakfast, same snack, same lunch and then half of what he wants for what is served for dinner.

he doesnt have a weight problem now. and he exercises daily but only about 30 minutes daily. and he definitely recommended weight training as well.

maybe that would be a good starting point? same food everyday?
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Old 09-22-2008, 03:48 PM   #4  
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Everyone is different. For some people, repetition is what makes it possible, because it makes it easy and automatic.

For some people, repetition is death, because they hate it.

I'm fairly repetitive myself. My weekday breakfasts and my snacks are repetitive, until a few weeks or a few months go by and I feel like changing them. Kind of like serial food monogamy .

And I cook for one, so I usually either have leftovers for dinner on the second night (I usually only cook 2 portions at a time), or I use the leftovers for lunch.

I'm the kinda girl that likes routine .
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Old 09-22-2008, 03:58 PM   #5  
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I'm not so good at this either, but maybe start by looking at the food pyramid as a guide. Include lots of vegetables, fruits (the more colorful the better), and whole grains, and lean protein. Some websites have tools you can use to figure out the nutritional content of a recipe (I know dietwatch does, but that's a subscription site). I use FitDay, which doesn't have a recipe feature, but I could easily add up the nutrients from each ingredient, add the recipe as a custom food, and enter the portion. At the end of the day, the program tells me where I'm coming up short or going overboard. I use the program to plan ahead, too, tweaking what I need to to come up with a good meal plan.
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Old 09-22-2008, 04:54 PM   #6  
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you could join sparkpeople. it is free and it will tell you exactly what to eat for each meal and snack if you want it to. for me i eat the same bfast and lunch for a week and then eat dinner with my family. it's just easier and more affordable to eat the same bfast and lunches. sometimes lunch will be leftovers of the night before if i have them. a week is about how long i cna go with the same thing, so i switch it up every week. good luck.
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Old 09-22-2008, 05:06 PM   #7  
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I know what works for me, WW Flex Plan.

* What I always have in my pantry: every spice known to man; cans of stewed tomatoes and tomato paste; yummy vinagres (rosemary, balsamic and rice); good olive oil and canola oil; dried beans of various flavors (I HATE canned beans; blame my mom, she always cooked everything from scratch!) including lentils, red beans, garbanzo beans; yummy carbs of of various flavors (basmati brown rice, sushi rice, quinoa, barley are my staples); veggie and chicken broths; everything I need to bake bread and sweet breads from scratch (baking soda, baking powder, yeast, flours of various kinds, etc.); honey. I also have granola and cold cereal.

* What always I have in my fridge: a jar of diced garlic; a bottle of lemon juice concentrate and another of lime (not the fozen stuff for making lemonade but the concentrate you find usually in the baking section); 2-3 kinds of mustard; an open bottle of red wine; onions, peppers and celery. Plain, non-fat yogurt.

* My work-horse appliances: crock pot, food processor and rice cooker. I also have a blender, mixer, etc. but I cannot live without my crock pot, food processor and rice cooker.

With my kitchen stocked in this way, I go to the market. The shopping list in my hand has those items that need to be replenished in my pantry. For me going to the market is about creativity and what is on sale and looks good. My meals are usually protein, carbs, LOTS of veggies and when I'm in the mood, salad. I start at the veggie section and buy whatever I'm craving that also LOOKS fresh and delicious. As I walk around the produce section picking veggies, I start creating pairings in my head. Then I go and find the complementary protein. The carbs are taken care of as I have plenty of options in the pantry.

For Example: the broccoli looks great! I can make steamed broccoli with lemon pepper and grilled chicken breasts and lentil-quinoa. Or I can make broccoli soup with barley and leeks. Or I can roast brocoli, cawliflower and onions and pair it with salmon and brown basmati rice. I create my menus on the fly as I stroll about the supermarket. When I get some I get home, i have bought the fresh ingredients I need to make my stocked fridge and pantry into meals. My gameplan:

* Marinate the meats (using spices, vinagres, fruit juices, mustards, wine, etc.)

* Prep veggies (this may or may not include cooking)

* Make a pot of rice or quinoa. Or steam potatoes, yams, etc.

Then I cook one meal. Last night I baked some chicken (mustard-wine sauce), made some corn bread, a pot of red beans, a pot of quinoa, and marinated chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and celery in rice vinagre (this is for the salad). The meal I made yesterday fed me for dinner last night and will feed me today for lunch. In my fridge I have chicken marinating in a dry rub of spices, and ground beef marinating in red wine and garlic sauce, more marinated cucumbers and tomatoes for salad, and a chopped onion and some peppers ready for roasting. I have cooked quinoa left. I don't know what I'll eat when I get home tonite, but I know that I have everything ready to get food on the table in 1/2 hour.

Last edited by NuevaVida; 09-22-2008 at 05:09 PM.
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Old 09-22-2008, 05:07 PM   #8  
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I always like the idea of looking at my plate like it's divided into 4 equal parts. When I'm planning a meal, I want 1/2 of the plate to be vegetables, 1/4 of the plate to be a lean protein and 1/4 of the plate to be a healthy carbohydrate.

One of my most simple meals that fits beautifully into this scheme is:

Maple glazed salmon, served over a measured serving of brown rice, big pile of steamed broccoli.

Other meals like this:

Stir fry - lots of vegetables, a little protein (chicken or shrimp or tofu), served over a measured serving of brown rice

Home made pasta sauce - I make my own sauce (very simple!) with canned tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, ground turkey, a splash of red cooking wine, garlic, onions, and serve it over 2 oz of whole wheat pasta. I like spinach (boyfriend doesn't), so I usually add spinach leaves to my plate before I add the pasta for a little more bulk and nutrients.

Spinach quesadillas - I make a great filling with a package of frozen spinach (thawed, drained), half a can of low fat cream of mushroom soup, red onion, garlic, a few pine nuts, diced chicken breast, sun dried tomato, artichoke hearts, I put it in between 2 50 calorie whole wheat tortilla with a little bit of low fat cheddar to hold it all together, grill on both sides

I concentrate on eating plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, low fat dairy, lean protein, healthy fat (nuts, nut butters, avocado, salmon) and complex carbohydrates (brown rice, whole grains, sweet potatoes, beans).
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Old 09-22-2008, 05:29 PM   #9  
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I'm one of those people who repeat somethings, but I have to have variety in others. I'll have the same breakfast and lunch every single day, but very my snacks and always something different for dinner.

Just thinking about it and imagining that I were teaching a kid to start cooking here's what I'd advise:

To start with try to have each meal be a balance of protein, complex carbs, and veggies (or fruit). So for example, a basic nutritious dinner would be: 4 oz of chicken breast (protein), 1/2 cup of brown rice (complex carb), and 1 cup of steamed broccoli (veggies). A basic nutritious breakfast might be: 2 scrambled eggs, 1 piece of wheat toast, a piece of fruit (orange, apple, peach, whatever).

I think that's a fairly basic way to plan meals. Obviously, as you learn about macro nutrients and so forth, you might want to tweak that. For example, I try to include more complex carbs during the day (breakfast and lunch) and limit them with and after dinner - because my body works better that way. I also am trying to increase the amount of protein I consume, so I make sure I have extra protein at every meal (3 eggs, instead of 2, another 2 oz of chicken, etc.).

I am a meat eater, so my protein sources are mostly meat and that's what I structure my meals around. I will look in the freezer and note that I have pork chops, chicken breast, lean ground beef/turkey, and salmon. So that's how my meal planning starts. And I always plan around dinner first, since sometimes my lunches will be based on what's leftover from dinner.

That's kinda where I start.

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Old 09-22-2008, 05:46 PM   #10  
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Talking i "think" i am getting it.

first i need to start from scratch.

i am NOT on a diet.

and i am going to make up menus for 2 weeks ahead. meat/protein, carb (good ones) and veggies/fruit at each meal.

i will use the same menus for a month at a time. i shop every 2 weeks so i can repeat menus and will help with shopping. then i will make grocery list and then go to store. if one type of vegs or fruit is not available, i can substitute.

and i will read the label and write down calories and measusre what i am eating.

and i am will revaluate after first 2 weeks.

and i love the staple list! i have most of things on it.


keep the ideas coming!
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Old 09-22-2008, 07:27 PM   #11  
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I buy what looks good at the farmer's market and what is on sale at the store. If it's a really good deal on something I can store then I buy lots and either freeze or store in the pantry (such as chicken or canned salmon.)

I don't plan my meals more then a day ahead. I find that if I pick out recipes and shop according to a set meal plan then I spend more on groceries because I can't take advantage of deals. This method won't work for everyone. It works for me because I keep many staples in the pantry (whole grains, dried beans, lentils, canned fish, whole wheat pasta, spices, condiments, oils, vinegars, whole grain flours, etc.) I mostly just buy produce and basics that I'm out of on my weekly trips. In the evening I check the fridge to see what needs to be used and I plan a meal for the next day around that.

I focus on eating lots of veggies, whole grains (I don't even bake with white flour anymore), and lean protein in moderation. For instance, tonight we are having millet (trying it for the first time ) and 4oz of chicken breast sauteed with green beans, onions, and garlic, plus half a baked sweet potato. I might make a spinach salad to go with it too.

Oh and I am not one of those people who can eat the same thing everyday. I do eat a lot of oatmeal, but I vary the toppings. There are also dishes that I make quite frequently, but not every day or even every week. I can't eat on autopilot, I love food and get bored easily.

Last edited by zenor77; 09-22-2008 at 07:29 PM.
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Old 09-23-2008, 10:19 PM   #12  
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Lots of good ideas here already I like Glory's basic plate idea a lot!

First I think it's really great that you are asking the question. So many people jump into the latest fad without ever really thinking about their food choices and never learn what a healthy diet looks like.

For me it's pretty simple - whole foods as much as possible, more plant than animal products, and local whenever it's reasonable. I eat a lot of beans purchased dry and cook in the crockpot when the weather allows it. It's almost impossible not to have leftovers with crockpot cooking! I have also started playing with baking my own bread and making my own yogurt. I can get good yogurt but I love Greek yogurt and I can make it a lot cheaper than I can buy it We look at our budget and make concessions in other areas to purchase fresh produce when we can get it. I do think it takes more work and planning to eat healthy foods but it becomes second nature after awhile and you will wonder how you ever ate all that crap before.
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Old 09-26-2008, 12:03 PM   #13  
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I plan for a week for dinner and lunch- one veggie dish, one protein based dish, carbs - usually brown rice or whole wheat tortillas for each meal. This makes it easy to buy groceries, prep food, and cook during the weekend.

For snacks -- I stock up on yogurt, seasonal fruits, veggie and dip, whole wheat crackers with cheese etc. and rotate them. For breakfast I rotate between- whole wheat toast, oatmeal, whole wheat mini bagesl with hummus, cereal with fruit, multigrain frozen waffles.

I like variety and cannot eat the same thing every day. So I have a few options that I can easily choose from to inject some variety.
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Old 11-12-2008, 12:05 AM   #14  
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Originally Posted by gahundy View Post
you could join sparkpeople. it is free and it will tell you exactly what to eat for each meal and snack if you want it to. for me i eat the same bfast and lunch for a week and then eat dinner with my family. it's just easier and more affordable to eat the same bfast and lunches. sometimes lunch will be leftovers of the night before if i have them. a week is about how long i cna go with the same thing, so i switch it up every week. good luck.
i just looked at that sparkpeople website. those meal plans seem like i would be staaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarving. 2 celery stalks and a pb sandwich for lunch?? i'd rather eat much lower calorie dense foods and more of them. like a whole apple instead of a handful of raisins. or yogurt instead of a glass of milk.
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Old 11-16-2008, 04:39 PM   #15  
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I hate repetition day after day, but i do eat basically the same set of things. My grocery list is almost always the same and varies each season with produce but i like to keep it simple as possible.
My favorite things to buy are ground turkey - can be used in chili, tacos, hamburgers, etc.
Popcorn - Easy to make, filling, takes care of my munchies, and healthy
rice - brown, wild ,whatever is on sale
canned beans - can be used for so many things
and frozen veggies - Very easy to make, and no prep.
A good idea is to stick to the outsides of the store. Produce, lean meats, whole grain breads, low fat dairy, and then on the insides, rice and beans, frozen vegetables and fruits. Make it as easy as possible at first. I've never counted carb/protein/fat ratios, macronutrients or whatever, its way too confusing for me.

And btw at Sparkpeople you don't have to follow their meal plans. There is an option to just enter in your own food. it can help give you an idea of how much you are eating, it also tracks certain nutrients like sodium or folate, too if your interested.
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