You have good intentions about healthy meal planning, but at the end of a long day, a box of macaroni and cheese is the path of least resistance. Before you can adopt new eating habits, it may help to visualize a healthy meal and learn about the recommendations compiled by nutrition experts. Learning how to mix and match food groups in a way that enhances naturally flavorful ingredients will take the trepidation out of trips to the kitchen.
Visualize Good Health
Before you get busy in the kitchen, start with the MyPlate graphic designed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. MyPlate makes it simple to visualize a healthy meal. Divide your plate in half and fill one side with fruits and vegetables. The remaining two quarters should be grains and a lean protein. You should also have a serving of dairy on the side. The USDA advises that you make half your grains whole-grains, switch to skim or low-fat dairy and vary your protein sources to include beans and fish twice per week. Limit your consumption of solid fats, such as butter, sugar and salt.
Good Morning Meal
With the USDA's guidelines in mind, it's easy to put together a healthy, filling breakfast. Make an omelet with egg whites, low-fat shredded cheese and plenty of diced, colorful vegetables. Have a slice of whole-grain toast and a piece of fruit too. If you are in a hurry, throw all the food groups in a blender to make a smoothie. Fruit and yogurt are obvious ingredients, but a handful of oats, a tablespoon of flax seed and leaves of baby spinach will make the beverage extra nutritious.
Lunch hour is the perfect opportunity to sneak fish into your diet. Fatty fish -- including albacore tuna and salmon -- is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids which lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Make an open-faced tuna fish sandwich on whole-grain bread and top it with sliced tomato, avocado and low-fat cheese. Mix drained, canned salmon with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and other fresh vegetables for a light salad. Have a cup of yogurt and an apple on the side.
A healthy dinner can be simple or elaborate. A bowl of whole-grain pasta topped with turkey meat balls, vegetable marinara sauce and low-fat Parmesan is one easy option. Spoon chicken stir-fry over brown rice. Have a bowl of fruit and yogurt for dessert. If you are in the mood to make something a bit more fancy, marinate and grill a tuna steak and enjoy your fish with a side of roasted root vegetables, fruit chutney and wild rice pilaf.