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How to Cook Healthy Meals at Home: 10 Tips for Meal Planning

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

There are a lot of obstacles to healthy eating, but one of the simplest and easiest to overcome is cooking at home. I'm not talking about ordering takeout or using a microwavable meal as a quick and easy solution — I'm talking about cooking real food from scratch.

Our goal today is to help you learn how to cook healthy meals for yourself so that you can start eating healthier meals. You avoid the common pitfalls that people fall into when eating out and get the most flavor out of your food by cooking at home.

A woman happily cooking
Cooking meals at home is way more delightful than you might think!

A lot of cooking is actually very simple. Here are 10 tips to get you started as you start planning your meals for the week:

1. Start with a Quick and Easy Meal Plan:

First things first – make sure that you have a plan or recipe for every meal that you cook. This way, if you forget to do something, such as preparing the meal on time, then you can plan your day around this specific task and not have to worry about it. This is also the best way to make sure that you're making healthy meals.

Planning your meals a week in advance will ensure that you have time for meal preparation and that you'll be able to take into account any food allergies that you or your family members might have. Also, if you're planning to make a lot of dishes from one type of food, then planning will allow you to make enough for everyone so that they won't run out of what they need or prefer.

With meal planning your meals a week in advance as well as taking into account any food allergies, you must use this time wisely and efficiently. You should also plan on stocking your pantry and fridge by making or purchasing a list of what you need for any recipes, such as at the grocery store. You can also use this list as a grocery shopping list, which will save you time and money as you'll be able to purchase the ingredients for the week in advance.

Meal planning graph
Meal Planning is very convenient

2. Make a List of Items You Need:

Create a list of all the items needed for each meal, which can include those from the grocery store, your usual groceries, and anything else (like bread crumbs, spices, herbs). This is a great way to save time and money so that you don't have to go out all the time. Make sure that you add any special ingredients that you use like dairy products or bulk items like rice or flour. If possible, have several lists for different diets (vegetarian, paleo, vegan) so that you're prepared for every meal.

A list to organize and plan your meals
Making lists helps you keep organized

3. Create a Meal Prep Schedule Sheet:

This will help you plan what meals you're going to make and when it's going to be prepared. You should allow time to fix the meal, prepare any sauces or side dishes, and cook the meal. The longer it takes, the more complicated it can get; this is why planning ahead is so important.

You should also plan your meals around how much time you have. You might have more time if you're preparing multiple meals ahead of time, or you might have to cook three separate meals all at once. This can also be affected by what type of diet you're following or how much time you have available in your day. If you're on a different schedule than the rest of your family, then you will need to adjust accordingly so that everyone is happy.

If you're a busy person who needs to prepare meals in a hurry, then think about how much time you will need to prepare each meal. For example, if you're a busy parent or homemaker then some of the other tasks that you need to accomplish each day might take precedence over meal preparation. If this is the case, then plan on making two meals instead of three so that you don't forget about one of them. This will also cut down on prep time as well.

Make a time chart or a calendar to help you plan out your meals, and make sure that the meals are close enough together that you don't have to worry about starving and will have enough energy to work.

Once you have your meal plan, then you can start thinking about which healthy meals you're going to make for yourself and your family.

4. Choose the Healthiest Meal Options:

This is easier than most people think. Many people automatically assume that they're better off with something that comes out of a box or that's frozen than homemade food. But, the truth is that you can often get more flavor and nutrition from home-cooked meals, and that's what we really want to accomplish.

Choose healthy meals that meet any dietary restrictions that you have, such as vegetarian, vegan, paleo, etc. If you're not restricted to any particular diet, then choose the meals that are the most healthy for everyone involved. Keep in mind that this means not only cutting out unhealthy ingredients and foods but also adding in healthier ones. Make sure that you're including many different fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Also, keep in mind that the more ingredients used in a healthy homemade meal, the healthier it will be. Many people think that multiple ingredients are better than a single ingredient, but this isn't necessarily the case.

If you use simple ingredients on their own or with other foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, etc., then they will add up to a more balanced meal and can be very nutritious.

Try to make your meals as healthy as possible by choosing the best combinations of what you have on hand, making more than one meal at a time if possible, and including healthy ingredients in the meals. In addition to these methods, you can also buy organic or non-GMO foods whenever possible.

5. Make a Healthy Meal Plan:

If you're on a budget, then think about what type of diet(s) are allowed in your budget. Don't forget about some meals that are vegetarian, vegan, or paleo. Add some variety to your meals as well. This will make it easier to stick to a healthier diet and will provide you with a much more enjoyable eating experience as well. Many people find that their healthy meal plans don't always turn out the way they originally planned.

This is because once they're in the kitchen and start cooking, many times there are unexpected ingredients in the pantry or on hand that aren't on the shopping list.

6. Shop the Best and Healthiest Food:

One of the best things in life is to have healthy food that you can afford and that you enjoy. The best foods are fresh, whole foods, which will provide a lot of energy if eaten properly and are very nutritious. The fresher your food, the more energy it will provide, and the more nutrients it will contain.

This will make you feel great and help you to lose weight in the process. People tend to push their healthier food options aside when they're trying to save money, but if you stick with a healthy diet then you'll save a lot of money in the long run. You might not be able to afford something special at every single meal, but that's okay because you don't have to.

If you're planning to have a special meal at some point, then plan on having a healthy meal the rest of the time. You can also save money by buying healthy food from the bulk bins and getting just what you need. Make sure that any food that's in your pantry and freezer is labeled so that it's easy to find and easy to identify because it makes shopping easier.

A basket of healthy food products
Next time you go shopping choose only healthy options

7. Plan for Success:

Once you have your healthy meal plan, shop for ingredients and make your meals as planned. Don't go to the store and buy ingredients that you can't afford or that you don't need. Thinking in advance about what you will need can help with this problem.

The same goes for any ingredients that are on sale at a certain time of the year. When you plan for success, then your healthy meal plan also becomes a reality.

Whether or not you have a special healthy meal plan for certain holidays and events, plan so that you don't forget to include these meals in your diet. You will feel much better if you can stick to your healthy meal plans when special occasions arise.

8. Don't Be Afraid of Cookbooks:

Many healthy cookbooks are out there, including some with recipes that are gluten, dairy, and soy-free. If you're having trouble finding a healthy meal plan and idea book that suits your needs, then try to find one that fits your situation.

You can also find many delicious recipes on the Internet for free. The best healthy recipe websites have pictures of the completed dishes so you can get an idea of how they will look before attempting to make them yourself.

If you're not sure, then you can also try out some of the superfood recipes. These are healthy recipes that many people use, such as avocado toast, smoothies, etc., to get an idea of what you want to eat in general.

9. Don't make Your Meals Too Complicated:

Making your meals too complicated is what makes many people give up on their healthy meal plans because they're not as interesting and fun. When you're trying to find great recipes for your healthy meal plan, make sure that they're easy to make and don't have too many ingredients.

This is one of the reasons that a lot of people struggle to prepare a healthy dinner because it's usually just them in the kitchen and they aren't used to cooking. If you know you don't have a lot of time to prepare your meals, then choose some of the most simple recipes that are available.

Most people don't need to use a lot of ingredients to prepare healthy meals, so if you can find some great recipes with fewer than 10 ingredients then you'll be happy with your results. If your meal is always going to be complicated or has a lot of different ingredients, then consider making it once and using the same recipe over and over again until you find one that works for you.

A plate of healthy home food
Healthy and simple can also be delicious!

10. Don't Go Too Hungry:

Many people think that if they skip a meal then they'll go hungry, thereby making them eat more and gain weight. The truth is that you probably won't go hungry with a healthy meal plan. When you're eating healthy foods, you should be full after your meals so that not as much energy is being consumed and so that your metabolism burns more calories throughout the day instead of just on one particular meal.

If you're hungry after a meal, then it means that the food wasn't nutritious enough, and you should adjust the meal plan. If your metabolism is really slow then you might need to eat better foods more frequently to get full.

What mistakes to avoid?

  • Avoid eating too fast. When you eat fast, you tend to overeat and consume more calories than necessary. Even if you have a smaller meal, it's still important that you slow down when eating so that you can savor your meal and enjoy it.

  • Don't put your fork or spoon down after every bite as this makes the meal seem longer. Chew slowly to allow more time for digestion so that you can feel full faster without over-eating.

  • Preparation is the key to success. If you're used to cooking meals at home, then make sure that you spend a little time preparing every meal so that you can enjoy it more.

  • Don't try to completely overhaul your diet overnight. This is one of the biggest mistakes that you can make in your healthy meal plan. You'll fail as soon as you start to feel bad about what you're eating and how much you're eating. Many people will change their diets overnight and then feel like they failed because it wasn't what they planned for or expected. Your diet should be adjusted gradually over time until you've reached your goal so that it's a long-term lifestyle rather than a short-term fix.

Prepare Healthy Meals The Old-Fashioned Way

You may be thinking that the old-fashioned way of eating doesn't apply to you because you have a busy lifestyle and you don't have time to prepare healthy meals. But the truth is that by following these steps, you can still prepare healthy meals so it doesn't need to take up too much of your time at all.

Prepare your ingredients ahead. If you're planning to make a healthy meal, then prepare the ingredients ahead of time. For example, if you want to make chicken stir fry, then go out ahead of time and buy the necessary ingredients.

The best part about preparing your ingredients ahead is that you can use them to make healthy meals throughout the week. You won't need to worry about not being able to find the ingredients or having them at home, which will save you a lot of time.

Prepare your meals in bulk. This isn't something that you will be able to do every day, but if you have a lot of ingredients available then you can prepare a large meal at once and then store it in the refrigerator until needed. This will make it much easier to prepare healthy meals when you're at work or away from home. It also saves time because you won't need to worry about going out to buy ingredients.

If you want to try this way of eating, then make sure that your meals are healthy. For example, if you make a large chicken meal then include as many vegetables and spices as possible. If you're able to prepare your meals in bulk, then they should be healthy.

Tips for Making Healthy Meals

Below, I've listed some tips for making healthy meals that will help you to create the perfect diet for yourself. You will be able to use these tips no matter what kind of diet you're following, whether it's the old-fashioned way or with a smart kitchen machine.

Make sure that your meals are as nutritious as possible. The best way to do this is by adding a variety of vegetables and fruits into your meals. You can also add lean meats, grains, beans, and other high-protein foods. If you want to make a healthy meal plan, then be sure that your meals contain foods found on the USDA's food pyramid.

If you don't know what foods are acceptable to eat with your diet then check out this infographic. The infographic provides a list of foods that are best for making healthy meals so that you won't have any trouble finding recipes or ingredients that fit into your diet.

Focus on eating lean meats. Many of us don't eat enough protein so that we can build muscle, which is why a lot of people don't see the results that they want from their workouts. If you have lean meat with every meal, then it will help to boost your metabolism and give you more energy throughout the day.

Use spices for flavor. You don't need to use a bunch of unhealthy cooking oils and seasonings when cooking your healthy meals at home.

A person chopping vegetables
Chop-chop - make your healthy meal ready!

Here is a healthy meal recipe that you can cook at home:

Take the rice and beans and add a little bit of soy sauce, lemon juice, cumin, fresh chopped parsley, and garlic. Make it into a small bowl so that you can enjoy it as a side dish.

If you want to taste the meal more like a traditional dish then add ground turkey or chicken. If you want to make something more health-conscious without sacrificing flavor then use tofu instead of meat. This will make a great substitute for meat while still giving you the same texture and taste.

Don't be afraid to try new foods. If you want to build a healthy meal plan and get the best results from your meals, then don't be afraid to try new foods that you've never had before. This is how we expand our horizons to enjoy all of the different types of food that are available in this world.

Different dishes cooked at home
The possibilities of what you can cook at home are endless!

Try cooking with coconut milk, which is full of healthy fats and protein. It also contains many nutrients that are good for you so you may want to try adding it to your diet so that you can get all of the benefits. If you don't have coconut milk at home then try using unsweetened almond or soy milk instead. You can use the milk as a substitute for regular dairy products or make dishes using it.

Coconut milk is also great for making soups and curries. If you're feeling like you're not enjoying your meals then try cooking an entirely new meal because this will make things more interesting.

Many people will stick to the same recipes every single week, which is why they don't see the results that they want. If you want to see positive changes in your body then you need to try new things so that you can keep your meals fresh and exciting.

Our vision is to encourage everyone in adopting a healthy, sustainable lifestyle without breaking the bank or consuming all their time. Check out the following articles and find out more about healthy home-cooked meals, their benefits, and their impact on our daily eating habits:

5 more simple dishes to cook at home (with products from your own garden)

The Benefits of a Home Cooked Meal: 5 Reasons Why You Should Consider Eating Them More Often

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