Menu Planning Tips and Tricks

5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet

Sticking to your budget while eating healthy is possible! Planning is the first step. Menu planning helps you save time, save money, and make healthier choices.

You can personalize your menu by choosing nutrient-dense foods you enjoy. Nutrient-dense foods are high in vitamins and minerals without much saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium.

Start with these tips below:

  • Check what you have on hand. Check your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator for foods that will soon expire or need to be used up. Make a note of how to use those ingredients in your planner. This can save you money at the grocery store and decrease food waste.
  • Don’t throw that away! Plan for leftovers. For example, if you make a spinach salad on Monday, use the leftover spinach to make a smoothie for breakfast. Another idea is if you make grilled chicken for dinner, use the leftovers in chicken salad.
  • Use MyPlate. Healthy meals can be simple and tasty. Plan a meal that has something from at least three MyPlate food groups. This is an easy way to make sure your meals are healthy and nutrient-dense.
  • Think ahead to your family’s schedules. Do you need quick and easy meals? Are you hosting company? Do you need to harvest your garden? Using a five-day meal planning worksheet can help you plan a menu based on your weekly needs.

Source: MyPlate, myplate.gov

Meatless Meals

Quesadilla

Eating plant-based meals improves your heart health by lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Eating meatless meals may also save you money at the grocery store. According to the American Heart Association, “People who eat less meat tend to consume fewer calories, and foods such as beans are one of the most cost-effective sources of protein available.”

Follow MyPlate, myplate.gov, to plan healthy meatless meals that include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, unsalted nuts, and/or lower fat or fat-free dairy foods. Eating one meatless meal a week is a great way to start. Visit the American Heart Association, www.heart.org, for more tips on keeping your heart healthy.

Easy meatless meal ideas include the following:

  • vegetable quesadillas
  • spaghetti with tomato sauce
  • macaroni and cheese
  • bean burritos
  • vegetable stir-fry with tofu
  • lentil tacos
  • stuffed potatoes

Source: American Heart Association, www.heart.org, and Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.

Eat Protein for Good Health

FoodServing SizeProtein (grams)
Steak/Fish/Chicken 3 oz.21
Eggs1 large6
Milk1 cup8
Cheese1.5 oz.7
Yogurt1 cup11
Almonds1 oz.6
Beans1/2 cup8

Protein is essential to building our skin, hair, blood, bones, and so much more.

How much do you need? MyPlate, www.myplate.gov/, recommends eating about 5 to 6.5 ounces (~66 to 80 grams) of protein foods daily for adults ages 18 years and older.

Where do you get protein? Protein is found in meat, poultry, pork, fish/seafood, dairy products, nuts, beans, legumes, and some fortified grains. These foods provide B vitamins (immunity, eyesight), iron (blood health), zinc (immunity), and magnesium (muscle and bone health).

Do you need a protein supplement? Most healthy adults do not need a protein supplement. Those who may need a protein supplement are those with health conditions (e.g., cancer or major wounds [bed sores, broken bones, surgery]), that prevent their bodies from using the proteins they eat. When choosing a supplement, consider its purpose. If wanted for muscle development, try whey protein after exercising. If needed to prevent muscle loss, use casein protein before bedtime.

Before increasing your protein intake, be sure to talk with your health care provider.

To learn more, visit Stay Independent: A healthy aging series, www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/stay-independent.

Sources: The Scoop on Protein Powder, bit.ly/3EMmGvz.
Protein Supplements…Are They for You?, bit.ly/3bDUwGt.

Start Simple with MyPlate

The newly updated MyPlate website can help you put the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025 into practice. To get started, go to MyPlate, www.myplate. gov. Find out if you are making every bite count by taking the MyPlate Quiz. You will receive the following free, personalized resources:

  1. Start Simple with MyPlate app will help you build healthier eating habits by setting goals. You can also sync your quiz results with the app.
  2. MyPlate Plan provides a personalized plan for what and how much to eat from each food group. Join challenges, track your progress, and earn badges to celebrate successes.
  3. MyPlate Kitchen puts your MyPlate plan into action using healthy, budget-friendly recipes.

Make Every Bite Count and Start Simple with MyPlate at MyPlate, www.myplate.gov.

Source: MyPlate, www.myplate.gov

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