“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Once a week, I am going to start sharing a tip, trick, or some interesting information about meal planning. I believe meal planning is critical to any long term and effective healthy living or weight loss goals. For me it was the single thing that finally made permanent weight loss achievable. The quote stood true, when I failed to plan, I failed, and I don’t want that to happen to others.
Additionally, I believe that meal planning is a skill that takes time to master and we can all use some help! When I first started meal planning it took up countless hours pouring over recipes, calculating nutritional info and/or points, and creating elaborate calendars. It was painful. Anything I can do to ease that pain for someone else is a win-win in my book.
Finally, I hope by sharing meal planning strategies, it will help you find a system that works for you. Whether it’s using our meal plans, scratching one into your weekly planner, or creating your own meal planning system – I hope this feature inspires you to start planning at least a few meals every week. It will save you time, money, and it truly will help you reach your weight loss and healthy living goals. So with that, on to this week’s tip!
Meal Planning Made Easy: Quick and Easy Sides
Surprisingly, side dishes can actually be one of the hardest things to come up with when you are meal planning. Not only can it be tricky to come up with a new side dish, it can be hard to align the timing of your side dishes and main course. Sometimes one takes much longer than the other, needs to be cooked at a different temperature, or requires just as much attention as your main course. To make meal planning easier, have a few simple side dish recipes that you can easily spice up to match any main course. Here’s a few examples:
- Roasted vegetables: Vegetable are surprisingly forgiving and can be roasted at a variety of temperatures ranging from 350-450. The key to roasting vegetables is choosing vegetables that have similar cooking times if you are using more than one. As you might expect, vegetables like zucchini, summer squash, asparagus, or tomatoes roast rather quickly while things like potatoes, turnips, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or hearty squashes take longer. To flavor your veggies, toss with 1 tbsp. oil, salt, pepper, and any spices you like. Store bought spice blends are great for this.
- Whole Grains: Learn to make a variety of whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat couscous, farro, or barley that you can buy in the bulk bins. These can be made ahead of time on Sunday to speed up prep midweek. They can easily be flavored by adding garlic to the cooking liquid, adding a squeeze of lemon or lime after cooking, and tossing in fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, dill, or basil. Three of my favorite combinations are adding fresh lime juice and cilantro, fresh lemon juice and basil, or orange juice and soy sauce.
- Steamed vegetables: Much like roasted vegetables, steamed vegetables are a quick and easy option. You can take the ultimate shortcut and buy steam ready fresh or frozen veggies. If you want to prepare them at home, use this easy cheat sheet for microwave steam cooking. Once they are cooked, add dried or fresh herbs to kick up the flavor. Soy sauce or balsamic vinegar also add great flavor.
- Potatoes: Sweet potatoes and regular potatoes make quick and easy sides. You can served them mashed, roasted, baked, or cut into fries. Season them up with your favorite store bought seasoning blends to match the flavors in your meal.
- Salads: Green salads are a healthy, low calorie side option that can be made in minutes. Build your salad around whatever fresh vegetables you have and think about including fruit, crumbled cheeses, nuts, or seeds to keep it exciting. Then make a quick homemade vinegar based dressing or use a low sugar store bought dressing.
- What are your favorite sides?
Love the idea of meal planning but don’t want to do all the work? Since I know that many people simply don’t have the time to create their own healthy meal plans, we provide delicious and healthy meal plans at Slender Kitchen.
Here are some highlights from this week’s healthy meal plans:
- Slow Cooker Barbecue Turkey Breast
- One Pot Caprese Pasta
- Caprese Spaghetti Squash Bake with Chicken Sausage(low carb plan)
- Baked Peaches and Pecan Oatmeal
- Blackened Chicken Salad
- Canadian Bacon Quiche Cupcakes
- Leek and Sundried Tomato Quiche Cupcakes (vegetarian plan)
- Chicken and Broccoli Stir-fry
- Cashew and Coconut Crusted Fish with Pineapple Salsa
- Grilled Lemon Thyme Chicken
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie (low carb plan)
- Sesame Quinoa with Vegetables and Mango (vegetarian plan)
Each healthy weekly meal plan comes full of delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The meal plans come in regular, vegetarian, and low carb options. All feature complete nutritional information, Weight Watchers PointsPlus®, and categorized shopping lists! There are also two bonus fallback recipes weekly and the option for either a complete meal plan or a Dinner Only plan. All that for less the cost of one cup of coffee per month with the yearly plan.