Healthy & Easy Meal Planning Tips for 2021

Healthy & Easy Meal Planning Tips image is a high angle view of a meal plan for a week on a white table among products for cooking - a selection of pasta, basil, vegetab les, lime, seeds, nuts, and spices.

Beauty Buzz/Blog Biz | Health & Wellness

Editor’s Note:

Hi Everyone, today we are excited to introduce you to the third newest Bold Blind Beauty contributor, Alicia Connor, creator of the YouTube channel Quick & Delish by Alicia Connor. Alicia is a legally-blind dietitian & chef who is passionate about helping folks (Blind and sighted) increase their confidence in the kitchen. Meal planning doesn’t have to be an overwhelming chore and the tips in this article will help anyone interested in this health topic. Welcome to our contributor team, Alicia! ~Steph

What are your health plans for 2021?

High angle view of a wooden table with  small portion sized meals in to-go containers, flatware, mugs of coffee, spiral tablet and pen , an electronic tablet
Portion Sized Meals

The beginning of the year is a great time to start new habits and keep up what worked for you in 2020. Try to use 2021 to build a positive mindset for health! 

This means setting yourself up for success. The goal? To feel good every day, or as much as we can. There are so many uncontrollable aspects of our lives during a pandemic, but amidst it all, we have to try to stay centered and take care of ourselves. 

There are things that are in our control, like taking care of our bodies. Try to hold onto a balanced routine by eating well, hydrating, getting enough sleep, and exercising in a way that works for you. This will help to manage anxiety and nourish your body and mind throughout the day. 

As a low-vision registered dietitian nutritionist and chef, I’m a big believer in systems. I create useful systems for people to break down overwhelming cooking tasks into small, actionable steps. Healthy eating and meal planning can be overwhelming! But having a system in place can help reduce the overwhelm. There are a variety of ways to break down these challenges for folks who would rather not spend hours in the kitchen. 

Creating a system starts with organizing all the aspects of healthy eating and meal planning more frequently. Again, plan for success! The goal is to be able to go to the kitchen and make (or reheat) for yourself a delicious, healthy meal before the hunger pangs start. When you get too hungry, it can be “game over” for kitchen decision-making. 

Planning, shopping, meal prep, cooking, inventory management… these are all different elements of meal planning that can easily feel overwhelming. Especially if you think you have to accomplish all of these tasks in one session! 

Here’s how you can start to break down the challenge of planning your meals:

  1. To begin, take some time to sit down at your kitchen table and think about the types of foods you enjoy. Do you have the recipes to make them? Where can you find those recipes if you don’t already have them? Now you’re off and running!
  2. Organize your kitchen inventory. What do you have on hand? What would you like to have in stock? This will be your grocery list of (shelf-stable) pantry items and fresh (perishable) items and produce. 
  3. With planning, you won’t have to cook every day. Cooking in larger quantities and saving/freezing meals in serving-size containers will save you time. Then you can reheat the fruits of your labor and enjoy! 
Meal prep. stack of home cooked  roast chicken dinners in containers ready to be frozen for later use.
Meal Prep

How do you choose or create recipes?

When I’m creating recipes, I think like a problem solver. If I’m taking a relatively complex recipe like quiche or chicken salsa verde, I ask myself how I can modify it to include fewer ingredients (which means less work), fewer steps, and still ensure deliciousness. Plus, I enjoy the challenge of squeezing in vegetables whenever I can!

While you’re doing that critical step (#1) of deciding what meals and recipes you want to eat, make sure you’re thinking in terms of balanced meals and snacks. This way, you’ll end up with enough components on hand to build a satisfying meal, no matter what recipes you start with.

The components of a balanced meal or snack:

  • #1 Non-Starchy Vegetables 
  • #2 Plant or Animal Protein 
  • #3 Carbohydrates with Energy and Fiber 

Fill about half of your plate with non-starchy veggies and about a quarter with protein. And in the final quarter, ensure energy and fiber from complex carbohydrates which include beans, lentils, peas, sweet potatoes, potatoes, corn, winter squash, quinoa, oats, wild rice, barley, farro, etc.

Using the “balanced meal” concept, your favorite recipes, and your kitchen inventory, you can start planning out your new meals. Good habits take time to build, so be kind to yourself, hydrate, and keep trying! 
What works and doesn’t work for you in the kitchen? I’d love to hear from you in this survey so that I can answer your questions about cooking and nutrition: https://forms.gle/yeJ3vuSBHVGNAtij8 Thank you!

Links to socials: 

Author Bio:

Alicia Connor a pretty brunette with short cropped hair wearing a denim jacket with a white tee.
Alicia Connor

Alicia Connor is a registered dietitian nutritionist and chef who lives in San Francisco. She is passionate about healthy cooking, with a focus on simplifying meal planning and making healthy eating easier. Alicia built a successful career as a chef, working at one of the top restaurants in San Francisco. But as her vision declined due to a hereditary condition, she decided to focus on a career with longevity and returned to school to become a dietitian.

In her current role as registered dietitian nutritionist and chef, she is always passionately working towards peoples’ health. In February 2019, she founded Quick & Delish, a video cooking series on YouTube, where she presents easy recipes with minimal steps, for flavorful, balanced meals. She’s writing an e-cookbook, and gives virtual meal planning workshops year-round. And she works with clients one-on-one to build good habits, simplify meal planning, and create an actionable plan to meet their health goals. You can read more about her passion for health in Today’s Dietitian. 

Image Descriptions:

  • Header – A high angle view of a meal plan for a week on a white table among products for cooking – a selection of pasta, basil, vegetables, lime, seeds, nuts, and spices.
  • Portion sized meals – high angle view of a wooden table with small portion sized meals in to-go containers, flatware, mugs of coffee, spiral tablet and pen, an electronic tablet.
  • Author bio photo – Alicia Connor a pretty brunette with short-cropped hair wearing a denim jacket with a white tee.
  • Meal Prep – a stack of home-cooked roast chicken dinners in containers ready to be frozen for later use.

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