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Are you using this secret weapon in the kitchen?

Last Modified: September 15, 2020

Nutrition & Recipes

Meal planning

This post was written by Jenna Walker, MS, RDN, LD, bariatric coordinator, PPG – Weight Management & Bariatric Surgery.

When it comes to finding success in the kitchen, meal planning is the ultimate Swiss army knife for home cooks. Whether your goal is weight loss, saving money, easing stress, reducing food waste or simply eating a healthier diet, taking the time to map out the week ahead is a great place to start.

Finding what works

Meal planning and preparation look a little different for everyone. Some choose to cook individual portions of meals for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner throughout the week. Some choose to cook just enough for two to three days of lunches and dinners. While some opt to cook all the meals for their family in one day for the whole week, and others prefer batch cooking. Experiment with what works for you.

Getting started

It’s helpful to get organized. Use a calendar to write out your meals for the week. Once you have your meal choices ready, make a grocery list. Utilize food storage containers and zipper-lock bags for convenience. A slow cooker, instant pot and air fryer can all be handy appliances to use for quick, easy, healthy meals. Remember, the recipes don’t have to be elaborate; some can be very quick and easy. Think about cooking double and freezing some of your meals for later use. You will thank yourself when the time comes to grab something quickly!

One and done

Making one-pot meals or focusing on one main dish for the week is a good place to start. If you’re just getting off the ground with meal prepping, it can be tempting to spend a whole day cooking different meals. Too many recipes can complicate the process and create so much work that you don’t want to do it again. Become comfortable with the process and then start incorporating new and different dishes.  

If you get tired of eating the same meal over and over, make small tweaks to your meal prep to make each dish a little different. For example, swap in a different vegetable, sauce or garnish to each container to change it up. 

The menu

There are countless combinations of meals and snacks you can make ahead. There are also so many different diets that people follow. Some ideas for easy, convenient-yet-healthy ideas include …


  • eggs (hardboiled, egg muffins, microwaved, made ahead egg burritos with a low carbohydrate whole wheat tortilla)
  • low fat yogurt
  • string cheese
  • cottage cheese
  • fruit
  • meal replacement shake or bar
  • whole wheat peanut butter toast (2 tablespoons)

Lunch and Dinner

  • a meat with vegetables in a slow cooker
  • add salsa to chicken in the crock pot for a flavorful main dish
  • rotisserie chicken to put on top of salads
  • grilled meats to add to recipes, use in soups
  • chili or a vegetable soup with a lean ground meat
  • spaghetti squash served with turkey/chicken meatballs (can buy frozen) and marinara sauce
  • deli meat roll-ups with low fat cheese and low carbohydrate whole wheat wraps
  • frozen vegetables are always good to have on hand to add to meals


  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • low fat yogurt
  • low fat cottage cheese
  • hard boiled eggs
  • a serving size of almonds
  • meal replacement bar/shake

There are endless, healthy ideas out there. Find a method and a lineup that works best for you and your family. Pick one day a week as your planning day, one as your shopping day and one as your prepping day, and just do the best you can. The more you do it, the easier it will get. Have patience and enjoy the process.  

Follow Parkview Health on Pinterest for more great recipe ideas!


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