Nutrition

A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Planning

Is cooking more meals at home one of your goals for this year?  Great!  Now the next question:  where to start?  Standing in front of the fridge at dinnertime hoping to find some inspiration might work for some, but if cooking at home is new for you it’s probably a good idea to adopt a habit of meal planning.  Essentially, meal planning helps answer the question “what’s for dinner?” for the whole week.  If done regularly, it can help reduce some of the stress of cooking weeknight dinners and save money.  Begin your meal planning practice with these tips:

Plan:  Set aside time to devote to meal planning.  The weekend is usually a good option as you can plan your meals for the following week.  Decide how many meals you will need to prepare, choose your recipes and make a grocery list.

Shop sales/shop in season:  Read through grocery store flyers and plan your menu around what’s on sale.  Fruits and veggies are less expensive (and more flavorful) in season.  Also, look for opportunities to use the same ingredient(s) in more than one recipe.

Stay organized: Get a calendar and fill in the menu for the week.  Keep it someplace you can see it easily (like on your refrigerator).  Save all your recipes in one place so you can find them easily.  If you find recipes online, a Pinterest board may be a good option.

Prep ingredients:  Do as much of the prep work as possible ahead of time.  This is another reason it’s helpful to do your meal planning over the weekend.  Chopping the veggies you need for each recipe or making a big batch of quinoa on Sunday saves time during the week.

Use leftovers:  Practice “cook once, serve twice” when possible.  Make extra servings and bring some for lunch the next day.  Soups and chili can also be frozen for later (just thaw and reheat).

Have a backup plan:  There’s always the chance something unexpected will happen to throw off your plans.  Keep a couple of simple recipes on hand to fall back on in a pinch.

If you’re just starting to cook more at home, start small.  Maybe plan for one or two meals a week.  As you gain more confidence in the kitchen, you’ll be able to do more.  Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do meal planning.  The most important part is finding a system that works for you and that you can stick with.

Post content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE

 

My Story, Nutrition, Uncategorized

My Story: Gaining Confidence in the Kitchen

By Kait

I never used to cook at home. In fact I HATED cooking. I had no confidence in the kitchen and burned everything, even toast. Time was another reason I didn’t cook often. I always thought cooking a meal had to take a ton of time; I really just wanted my food to appear in front of me. At the same time, I wanted to eat healthier but had no idea where to start or what to do with things like vegetables and spices. Then a coworker mentioned she had signed up for Plated [a subscription meal service] and suggested I give it a try. It sounded like an interesting concept, so I went for it.

What I like most is that it saves time and effort. Everything you need to make the dish is included and portioned out for you. Some recipes use ingredients I never would have bought on my own because I didn’t know how to use them, so it’s a great way to try new things. I also discovered that cooking doesn’t take up as much time as I thought. We typically cook at home 3-4 times a week (usually dinner). We’re definitely eating as a family more often, and I enjoy getting to spend time with loved ones while preparing meals.

We’ve been using Plated for about a year now and I feel much better about my cooking skills. I know if I made a recipe once I can do it again. You get to keep the recipe cards, so we’ll usually do a little experimenting the next time we make the dish. I’m eating healthier now, too. Before, I never really ate vegetables (or if I did they were just raw). I’d go into the grocery store and see all these wonderful looking vegetables but feel intimidated not knowing what to do with them. Now that I have a better idea how to cook them, I include vegetables with my meals often.

I recommend signing up for something like Plated if you don’t have much confidence with cooking. The recipes are easy and they tell you about how much time it takes to make. You’ll learn how to cook new things and different types of vegetables. My parents actually signed up for another meal delivery service, Blue Apron, because of my experience with Plated.

 

 

Nutrition

Smart Grocery Shopping Strategies

By Nichole Reed, Dietetic Intern

When you have diabetes, it’s critical to stay on top of what you eat on a day-to-day basis. Cooking meals at home gives you more control over what goes into your food. Of course, this is all easier said than done – so here are some quick tips for meal planning and grocery shopping to help get you started.

Sit down and plan your weekly menu: Taking a moment to plan out your week ultimately saves you time and money. Knowing the answer to What’s for dinner? keeps you from going through the drive-thru or ordering take-out. Pick a few main dishes and rotate them throughout the week. (Use this menu planning tool to make it even easier.) Choose recipes that you will both enjoy and are willing to make! Sites like Pinterest, Eating Well or our own MGH Be Fit page are great resources for recipe ideas.

Make a shopping list: We all make the mental notes of what we need to pick up, but actually writing it down commits you to the list. You can do this on paper or even your phone. Having a list keeps you on a mission. Otherwise, your eye will wander and your cart will end up looking like you bought the whole store.

Shop locally: Farmers market season has arrived! The grocery store can seem chaotic and more like a chore. Buy your produce from local vendors. Enter your zip code on Mass Farmers Markets and see the one closest to you! You’ll get to enjoy some fresh air, beautiful weather, and support your local farmers. Make a day of it and take some family or friends.

Remember, keep it simple. You don’t have to be five-star chef to make delicious meals. Getting organized makes grocery shopping a breeze and gets you one step closer to taking control of your diet.

Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services
recipes

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Is a long day at work leaving you with little time left to make a healthy meal?  Let your crock pot do the cooking.

Ingredients:
3 pounds boneless pork loin roast, cut in half with fat trimmed
1 cup water
1-18 oz bottle barbecue sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar, unpacked
2 tbsp hot sauce
½ tsp black pepper
2 cups shredded cabbage and carrot coleslaw, pre-packaged mix if available
10 whole wheat hamburger buns (try Pepperidge Farms®100% whole wheat)

Directions:
Place pork and water in a 4-quart crock pot/electric slow cooker. Cover with lid and cook on high heat for 7 hours, or until meat becomes tender. Drain and discard liquid from pork. Return pork to cooker and shred with a fork. Reduce to low-heat and add remaining ingredients (minus the shredded cabbage and carrots) and cook 1 hour more. Serve pork on a whole wheat hamburger bun and top with shredded cabbage and carrots.

Yield: Approximately 10-1/2 cup servings of pulled pork

Nutrition Information per Serving (bun and cabbage mix included):
Calories: 421 • Protein: 36g • Sodium: 691mg • Carbohydrate: 42g Fiber: 2g
Fat: 11g • Sat Fat: 3g

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light
Nutrition, recipes

Cajun Salmon Cakes

This recipe comes together quickly and makes for an easy, nutritious entree. Canned salmon is low in mercury and is a fairly inexpensive dietary source of vitamin D and healthy omega-3 fats.  Tip: Canned salmon comes in varieties with or without bones; purchasing canned salmon with bones is a good option if you are looking for ways to increase your calcium intake.

Ingredients:
3-6 ounce cans canned salmon, drained
¼ cup green onions, chopped
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp dry breadcrumbs
1 tsp Cajun seasoning blend
2 tsp Dijon mustard
½ cup cornmeal
1 tbsp canola oil

Instructions:
Combine salmon, green onions, mayonnaise, breadcrumbs, Cajun seasoning and Dijon mustard together in bowl. Divide mixture into 6 equal portions and shape into patties. Dredge patties in cornmeal and shake off any excess. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp canola oil and place patties in pan. Cook patties about 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Yield: 6 cakes or patties (1 per serving)

Nutrition Information per Serving:
Calories: 230 • Protein: 32g • Sodium: 840mg • Carbohydrate: 21g • Fiber: 3g •
Fat: 15g • Sat Fat: 2g

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light
recipes

Pumpkin Soup

It just wouldn’t be fall without pumpkins and (pumpkin-flavored) dishes.  Make a satisfying meal that is light on calories, but heavy on flavor with this recipe from the MGH Be Fit program.

Ingredients:

1½ tablespoon canola oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tbsp flour
4 cups chicken broth, low sodium
3 cups (~25 oz) pumpkin puree
1 clove, minced
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup 2% Greek Yogurt (Try FAGE) ®
Pinch of nutmeg (ground or freshly grated)

Instructions:

Sauté onions in saucepan until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring for approximately 2 minutes or until it thickens. Add remaining ingredients, except for yogurt. Bring soup to a simmer, whisking occasionally. Ladle soup into bowls and top with 1 tbsp yogurt per bowl and a dusting of nutmeg.

Yield: 4-2/3 cup servings

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING:
CALORIES: 193 • PROTEIN: 9g • SODIUM: 294mg • CARBOHYDRATE: 25g • FIBER: 6.5g •      FAT: 7g • Sat Fat: 1.5g

(Recipe adapted from Volumetrics, by Barbara Rolls)
recipes

Breaded Honey Mustard Shrimp

Instead of being fried, these shrimp are baked and served with homemade
honey mustard dipping sauce. Compared to similar restaurant appetizers, you’ll save over 50% of the calories of both the shrimp and sauce by making them yourself.

Ingredients:
Small amount of olive or canola oil to grease baking sheet
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
Pinch of salt
1 large egg white, beaten
12 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp orange juice
Pinch red pepper flakes

Instructions:
Lightly coat a baking sheet with canola or olive oil. Place pan in 400 degree oven while you
prepare the shrimp (this will shorten the cooking time). Meanwhile, combine breadcrumbs,
garlic and onion powder, and salt in a small bowl and stir to combine. Place egg whites in another small bowl. Dip shrimp in egg whites and then in breadcrumb mixture. Place on preheated baking sheet and bake for about 5-8 minutes, until shrimp is opaque if cut with a knife. While shrimp is baking, combine mustard, honey, orange juice and red pepper flakes. Serve honey mustard as a dipping sauce, alongside of shrimp.

Yield: About 2 servings (serving size: about 6 shrimp and 1 tbsp sauce)

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING:
CALORIES: 160 calories • PROTEIN: 8 g • SODIUM: 305 mg • CARBOHYDRATE: 26 g FIBER: 1 g • FAT: 3 g • Sat Fat: 0 g

(Recipe adapted from Cooking Light)