Meal planning: how to plan healthy meals
A meal plan helps make sure you eat balanced and varied meals even when life gets stressful. It also avoids food waste and saves you time and money. Find out here how you can plan healthy meals by following four simple steps.
You can find delicious recipes for healthy meals not just in cookbooks, but also on recipe apps, food blogs, social media platforms and in magazines. Focus on finding recipes that use a variety of ingredients and cooking methods. With vegetables in particular, include a mix of raw, steamed and oven cooked veg. For climate-friendly eating, you should also choose recipes that use seasonal fruit and vegetables. Take a look at our seasonal calendar to find out which foods are currently in season, as this will ensure your food is both sustainable and wonderfully fresh.
When you're thinking about what to eat it's worth taking a look in your fridge and store cupboard. Is there anything that needs to be eaten soon? If there is you can look for a recipe to use it up.
The following foods should feature particularly often on your healthy meal plan:
- Fruit and vegetables
- Wholegrain products
- Vegetarian protein sources (e.g. tofu, quark, egg, yoghurt)
- Pulses (e.g. lentils, beans, peas)
- Rapeseed, walnut, linseed and olive oils
- Nuts and seeds
The following foods shouldn't feature too often on your healthy meal plan:
- Refined flour products
- Hard fats (e.g. butter or coconut oil)
- Extra sugar (e.g. refined sugar, honey, agave syrup or syrup)
- Breaded foods
- Fried foods
Keep all your recipes together in a folder or a digital cookbook (e.g. in the FOOBY app) Did you know there's a large selection of recipes on coop.ch? While you're on there you can put the ingredients you need straight into your online shopping trolley.
Schedule about half an hour each week to write your meal plan down. Plan all your meals for the week using your newly discovered recipes and your old favourites.
When you're writing your healthy meal plan, make sure you:
- Don't plan a meal every single day
Consciously leave one or two days of your meal plan empty. That way you'll be prepared if you get a dinner invitation or need to use up leftovers from the day before.
- Don't give yourself too much to do
If you won't have much time to cook on stressful working days, make sure you take that into account. For days that are stressful choose easy, quick recipes with as few ingredients as possible. Leave more challenging recipes for your days off.
- Double up on meals
If you double the quantity of a recipe then you can plan to use the second half of what you've prepared the day after. You could also prepare double of just a part of your meal. For example, if you cook double the amount of oven-roasted vegetables then the next day you can make a Mediterranean pasta salad by adding pasta and feta cheese.
- Choose time-saving alternatives
If you don't have time to prepare fresh fruit and vegetables, use frozen ones instead. They're just as good. And instead of using dried lentils, peas and beans you can buy pre-cooked pulses. If you like salad, you can make salad dressing in bulk each week using a dressing shaker. That way you'll always have a delicious dressing in your fridge, ready to use.
With some simple tips and tricks you can optimize your meal plan to make it balanced and healthy. Plan your intake of these foods as follows:
Fruit and vegetables: Five a day
You should eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, three of which should be vegetables. A portion is a handful. Not managed to include enough? Optimize your meal plan by:
- Adding fruit or vegetables to your main meals, e.g. by putting rocket or vegetables on a pizza, serving vegetable soup as a starter, adding berries to muesli or serving fruit salad for dessert.
- Planning in fruit and vegetables as snacks, e.g. carrot sticks or a pear.
Meat and sausages: No more than three times a week
If you have planned to eat meat more than three times, think about whether you could use a vegetarian alternative instead. For example, tofu is a great alternative to meat in a curry.
Prioritize whole grains
You can easily swap many refined products for wholegrain varieties. Examples include:
- Wholegrain spaghetti instead of regular spaghetti
- Wholemeal bread instead of white bread
- Wholegrain rice instead of basmati rice
- When baking you can replace about half the flour you are using with wholemeal flour. You may need to add a little more liquid to the mixture.
Pulses: Several times a week
Peas, lentils and beans are not just climate-friendly options, they are also a source of dietary fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. So try to eat pulses frequently. Lentils make a good side dish in place of potatoes or pasta.
As soon as you've done your healthy meal plan, put all the ingredients you need on your shopping list, whether it's paper or digital. Check your store cupboard as you do it, because you might already have some of the ingredients.
Tip: Write the ingredients on your list in the order you'll come across them in the shop. That will save you time when you're shopping.
If you shop online at coop.ch you can save your basket as a shopping list. You can find the lists you've already made under "My lists". You can add to or change your lists at any time, or add the whole list to your shopping basket. All of this makes planning meals even easier.