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It’s four o’clock in the afternoon and, once again, you’re thinking about what to make for dinner tonight. A few brilliant ideas pop into your head but then you realize that you’re missing an ingredient or two. Instead, you opt for the last-minute standards: maybe chicken from your local chain restaurant or a meal prepared using quick convenience items. But rather than spending time trying to come up with fast and nutritious options every day, why not plan a menu for a week or two? Especially since, if you think about it, when we do cook, most of us tend to have the same four or five dishes regularly, with maybe a few variations as the seasons change.

Plus, if you go with how you feel at the end of the day, without having a menu plan, chances are you won’t end up with the most wholesome offerings. If you’re single, it’s easy to simply graze your way through the evening without actually having a meal. Your carbohydrate totals could add up very quickly and lead to higher-than-desired blood sugar readings.

For families, last-minute meals can also have their challenges, especially when family members have different needs. Joanne Lewis, a registered dietitian, and healthcare provider education & engagement director at Diabetes Canada, suggests planning meals that the whole family will enjoy. “There’s no sense in cooking two different meals when healthy eating for diabetes is the same as healthy eating for everyone else in the family,” she says.

Whether you’re single, are part of a couple, or have a family, meal planning is key for healthy eating as well as diabetes prevention and management. Lewis says,

Plan for variety and be sure to include foods, especially vegetables, of different colours in your meal plan. In addition, try to have a meatless meal at least once a week.

Besides helping ensure you eat an assortment of nutrients and making it easier to regulate your blood sugar levels, a meal plan can also help you save money. In part 1, we look at how to plan versatile meals.

Plan: A one- or two-week menu

Here are nine tips for you to keep in mind as you draft your healthy-eating plan.

Start with the basics

1. Include a variety of foods, incorporating at least three out of the four food groups (grains and starches, fruits and vegetables, milk and alternatives, meat and alternatives).

2. Choose basics for each day; for instance, a chicken dish for Monday, fish for Wednesday, and so on.

3. Keep your schedule in mind. For example, on the nights when food prep time may be short, you could have leftovers or create your own fast-food dishes.

4. Fill in the actual dishes and complete the menu over a period of a few weeks.

Go for yummy eats

5. Make your meals more appealing. If your regular choices are boring, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in the frozen-food aisle of the supermarket or getting takeout instead of cooking.

6. If you’re a food lover, use a variety of sources to come up with tempting meals. For example, invest in a cookbook or two, or an app.

7. Love a certain dish at your local eatery? Why not create a homemade version using online recipe sites? Then visit Healthy Eating Tips for more information.

Maximize your meals

8. Get more than one meal out of your cooking. For instance, if you’re making roast chicken or chicken breasts for one dinner, cook double the amount so you can include the extras for lunch or dinner the next day.

9. Make the most of a meat dish by adding it to a stir-fry, salad, sandwich, or soup. The same goes for vegetables and whole grains. If you’re steaming cauliflower or green beans, use the leftovers in a marinated salad. Cooked grains can be frozen for use later in a quick salad or pilaf.

Did you know?

Diabetes Canada offers a range of healthy meal plans, including vegetarian, gluten-free, low-carb, cultural, and more, in our Nutrition & Fitness section where you’ll also find delicious recipes.

This adapted article originally appeared in Diabetes Dialogue.

Author: Rosie Schwartz, RD, FDC

Category Tags: Healthy Living;

Region: National

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