Healthy Menu Inspiration: Three-Part Meals

Today's foodie post is more of a concept than a recipe.

Many of us get "stuck" when we're meal-planning. We run out of ideas, or get burned out with the same ol' recipes, or wonder if what we're cooking is "healthy enough."

This is for those of you who are:
1. Trying to lose weight, and you want to eat the same food the rest of your family eats for supper.
2. Trying to consume less processed food as a family.
3. Those of you who have no idea what’s for dinner tonight 😉

If you're working on improving the health score of your meal (I mean, I'm not scoring you but maybe you're scoring yourself), the easiest way to plan a healthy meal is to think in terms of a protein, a carb, and some veggies. Casseroles and soups can be thrown into the mix too, but if you're just learning how to cook in a healthier way, then sticking with the protein/carb/vegetable will be easier for you.

First, make a list of all of the proteins your family enjoys. It doesn't have to be fancy (wrapping your chicken in bacon and topping it with cream sauce might be tasty, but it's not exactly low calorie), but consider different cooking methods to add more options (grill, crockpot, oven, panfry/saute).

Next make a list of healthy carbs (whole grain pasta, brown rice, wild rice, potatoes (yes they are healthy!), red potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa, corn, wraps...but these are just IDEAS, I'm not saying you need to restrict your carbs to these items).

Finally, consider all the vegetables your family enjoys. Again, remember that you can utilize different cooking methods to change it up...oven roast, saute, steam, boil. Don't forget that a side salad is considered a vegetable!

Now, mix and match. You probably have well over a month's worth of meal ideas, such as:

  • crockpot pork chops with baked potatoes and sauteed brussels sprouts

  • grilled turkey tenderloin with grilled purple potatoes and oven-roasted broccoli (pictured above)

  • baked chicken drumsticks with wild rice and steamed green beans

  • turkey taco meat with rice/corn/black beans and oven-roasted cauliflower

  • grilled steak with oven-roasted butternut squash and sauteed asparagus

  • Italian-seasoned chicken breasts in the crockpot, parmesan garlic quinoa, and sauteed zucchini/squash

You can go basic with your seasonings or think about a variety of cuisines to inspire what spices you'll use (Italian, Mexican, Asian). Further, although many of these will be 3-part meals, you can also use this formula to create a stir-fry or one-pot meal.

Finally, a note about fat. I don't include fat as something to plan for or list out when planning your meals, because fat usually just "happens". You'll consume fat in your protein (beef and pork, dark meat poultry, etc.) or you'll cook with it (olive oil, butter) or top with it (cheese, dressing, sour cream). Avoid doing all three of those things (fatty protein + lots of fat in cooking + fatty topping), or you'll end up with a high-calorie meal.

How many mix-and-match options can you come up with?