A healthy diet protects you against weight gain, heart disease and diabetes. In addition, it can help you feel more energized and experience a better quality of life. Many ways of creating a healthy diet exist, as no single diet is perfect for everyone. Choose foods you like that also fit your lifestyle needs to create a seven-day menu plan that works for you.
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A vegetarian plan involves eating no animal flesh. Some vegetarians still consume eggs and dairy, while vegans eat no animal products at all. When well planned, a vegetarian diet can offer all the nutrients you need while helping you maintain a healthy weight. Your seven-day menu plan might feature a revolving selection of breakfasts including whole-grain cereal with low-fat cow's or soy milk and berries, scrambled eggs or soft tofu with spinach and feta with whole-wheat toast on the side, as well as oatmeal with low-fat milk, peaches, bananas and pecans. Your lunches could include pasta with fresh vegetables, a salad made with leafy greens, canned beans and avocado, a hummus and grilled vegetable sandwich, a veggie burger with tomato on a whole-grain bun, quinoa with black beans and salsa, low-fat cottage cheese with fresh fruit and whole-grain crackers, as well as lentil soup with grilled cheese. For dinners, enjoy lentil stew with brown rice, pasta with marinara, broccoli and mozzarella cheese, stir-fried tofu and vegetables, pinto bean tacos, baked potatoes with nonfat yogurt and steamed vegetables, white bean chili with steamed millet, as well as veggie pizza.
A balanced, healthy diet can still include meat. Fish and poultry are the best choices if you choose to eat animal proteins, says the Harvard School of Public Health. Your breakfast options include hot cereal with berries and milk, poached eggs with a whole-grain English muffin and orange juice, uncured turkey bacon with light cream cheese and a whole grain bagel, as well as whole-wheat pancakes with berries and yogurt. For each of your seven lunches, make a sandwich on whole-wheat bread with all-natural turkey, ham or roast beef, mustard and vegetables -- and have it with whole-grain pretzels or crackers, a piece of fruit and a glass of skim milk. For dinner, fill half your plate with leafy, watery vegetables such as spinach, broccoli or cauliflower. Reserve a quarter of the plate for a broiled, roasted or grilled piece of meat, fish or poultry and another quarter for 1/2 to 1 cup of grains such as brown rice, quinoa or whole-wheat pasta. Choose fish, especially fatty types like salmon and mackerel, at least twice per week to enhance your heart health. When you do choose red meat, opt for healthy cuts, such as flank steak, tenderloin or 97-percent lean ground beef. You should also try to have a meat-free lunch and dinner once a week at minimum.
If you like the idea of a vegetarian plan, but cannot give up meat altogether, you can create a healthy seven-day flexitarian plan. Many of your meals are vegetarian, but you can eat meat several times per week. For this plan, you might follow the vegetarian plan’s breakfasts, lunches and dinners, but substitute one to five meat-based dinners weekly such as grilled chicken with brown rice and roasted asparagus, lemon-pepper tilapia with baked sweet potatoes and steamed spinach, and a buffalo burger on a whole-wheat roll with a large green salad.
The Mediterranean diet is a healthy eating plan that emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, potatoes, nuts, beans, seeds and olive oil. Red meat is rarely included, but you may eat fish and poultry a few times a week. Moderate amounts of dairy, eggs and red wine may also be part of a seven-day menu plan. Seven days of Mediterranean breakfasts might include toast with olive oil spread, fresh fruit and yogurt, hot buckwheat cereal with nuts and skim milk, a two-egg omelet with tomatoes and peppers, almond butter on whole-grain bread and fruit salad with honey and part-skim ricotta cheese. Each day for lunch, you might have a salad made with dark leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes and bell peppers topped with white or red beans and olive oil dressing, or hearty vegetable and bean soups with crusty bread, pasta with white beans, broccoli and olive oil, mozzarella and basil leaves melted over whole-grain bread, tuna with green beans and roasted potatoes, hummus with grilled eggplants, peppers and whole-wheat pita bread, or minestrone soup with a green salad topped with chopped walnuts and grapes. A healthy seven-day Mediterranean menu plan for dinner might include broiled cod with olives and tomatoes with brown rice, roasted sweet potatoes with grilled chicken and broccoli, chickpeas cooked with diced tomatoes, garlic and onions with whole-grain rolls, vegetable lasagna made with olive oil and low-fat cheese, polenta with spinach and butter beans, cabbage leaves stuffed with couscous, olives and feta, or grilled shrimp over a white bean salad.