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A Nutritionist's Guide To ACTUALLY Planning Your Meals For The Week

Mandy King, CNP
Holistic Nutritionist By Mandy King, CNP
Holistic Nutritionist
Holistic Nutritionist and the founder of HEAL.

I’m a nutritionist and I eat healthy every day, but I don’t spend every night in the kitchen. In fact, I hardly cook at all during the week, yet I still eat homecooked meals most of the time.

How do I do it? Meal planning is my secret weapon. It helps me save time and have healthy food in the fridge yet also saves me money because I don’t eat out as much. It can be overwhelming at first to attempt such a feat, but it's easy when you break it all down. Here is my guide to healthy food planning, to make it as simple as possible for you:

Step 1: On Saturday, plan out what meals you want to eat that week. Choose two breakfast recipes, three main course recipes (you’ll use leftover dinners for your lunches), and two snacks. Last time I did this, I picked:

  • Breakfast 1: Flawless Berry Smoothie
  • Breakfast 2: Warming Oatmeal
  • Main 1: Homemade Burgers & Feelin’ Fresh Salad
  • Main 2: Dino Bowl
  • Main 3: Herb-Crusted Salmon & Detox Salad
  • Snack 1: Egg Muffins
  • Snack 2: Pear & Handful of Pumpkin Seeds

Step 2: Create a grocery list for just those recipes and head out shopping. It might feel like a lot, but remember, this is enough food for the whole week! Because I have a lot of these pantry staples already, I find that I spend about $100 a week on groceries. I invest in good-quality animal protein, which does cost more. Here’s everything I needed (this was enough to serve one, but you could double it for two), and a lot of this food you might already have!:

Flawless Berry Smoothie (3 servings):

  • 1½ cup mixed berries (frozen is fine)
  • 1½ tbsp. flax seeds, freshly ground
  • 3 cups almond milk, unsweetened
  • 3 scoops vanilla protein
  • 3 handfuls spinach
  • 1½ tbsp. almond butter
  • 1½ tsp. cinnamon

Warming Oatmeal (2 servings):

  • ⅔ cup uncooked quick-cooking oats (gluten-free if need be)
  • 2-3 cups water or nondairy milk
  • 1 apple, sliced or cubed
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Homemade Burgers (6 servings, so freeze extra burgers):

  • 1 lb. grass-fed ground beef or pasture-raised ground turkey
  • ⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • ½ cup red onion
  • 1 cup cremini mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)

Feelin’ Fresh Salad (3-5 servings):

  • ½ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups packed arugula
  • 1 cup packed spinach
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 gala apple
  • ½ cucumber
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ lemon
  • ¼ tsp. Herbamere seasoning (or salt, pepper, garlic powder)

Dino Bowl (3-4 servings):

  • 2 small heads broccoli and cauliflower
  • 1 package crimini mushrooms
  • 2 14-ounce cans chickpeas
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp. tamari
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne
  • ⅓ cup water

Herb-Crusted Salmon (4 servings):

  • 3 filets salmon
  • ⅛ cup almond meal/flour
  • ½ cup fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/6 medium red onion, roughly chopped

Detox Salad (4-6 servings):

  • ½ head purple cabbage
  • 2 carrots
  • ½ cup packed cilantro
  • 2 small avocados
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp. maple syrup
  • pinch of cayenne pepper

Egg Muffins (4 servings):

  • 1 yam
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning

Pear & Pumpkin Seeds (2 servings):

  • 2 pears
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds

Step 3: On Sunday, set aside two to three hours to prep and cook your mains and snacks, and enlist some help for the time consuming tasks like chopping, if you can. I usually put on a health podcast or watch Netflix to make the time go by more quickly. Remember that with anything new, the first time is the slowest, and it only gets faster with practice!

Helpful hint: The most efficient way to cook is actually to plan out the order you are going to make things. I always start with the items that need to be cooked for the longest or at the highest temperature and get them going.

For example, I know that the roasted veggies for the Dino Bowl and the salmon require the same temperature, so I’d prep both of those first. While those are cooking, I would prep the burgers and the egg muffins, which also require the same temperature. If there are ever items that require the same cooking temperature, always try to do them at the same time in the oven. While those are cooking, I would then start prepping the items that don’t need cooking, like the salads and sauce for the Dino bowl.

You will likely be making breakfast the morning of, so I always choose quick recipes like a smoothie or oatmeal.

Step 4: If you really want to save time during the week, you can invest in some extra Tupperware (glass, not plastic) and have your lunch portions ready to go. Otherwise, just pack your lunches each morning.

Helpful hint: To save time, you can cut some corners in terms of snacks. One way to do so is to grab a healthy protein bar at the health food store, or another way is to do simple combinations like veggies and hummus, or a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts or seeds.

You can, of course, choose when you eat each meal, but here’s how it could work:

graph. monday is breakfast 1, lunch is meal 1, snack is snack 1, and dinner is meal 2. Tuesday's breakfast is breakfast 2, lunch is meal 2, snack is snack 2, and dinner is meal 3. wednesday is breakfast 1, meal 3 for lunch, snack 1, and meal 1 for dinner. thursday is breakfast 2, meal 1 for lunch, snack 2, and meal 2 for dinner. friday is breakfast 1, lunch meal 2, snack 1, and meal 3 for dinner

This is a guide I follow so I don't get sick of any of the foods! I hope you find this helpful and set aside time next Sunday to start your healthy meal prep!

For more tips from nutritionists, check out these stories:

Photo courtesy of the author

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