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6 Steps to Meal Planning Success

Being prepared for healthy home cooking is the key to your success. Stock up on healthy shelf-stable items for your pantry, plan out your grocery list and enjoy heart-healthy and flavorful meals.

Step 1: Take Stock

Check your pantry and fridge for staples you have on hand and like as well as items that need to be used. Make a grocery list of remaining items you need!

Pack Your Pantry

Pantry staples like beans, canned meats and low-sodium spices help bring variety and flavor to your weekly meal plan!

Canned foods: canned meats, pasta sauces, salsa

Grains and beans: quinoa, brown rice, oats, couscous, whole grain pasta, quick cooking barley, yellow cornmeal, panko breadcrumbs, dried lentils, canned beans (no salt added)

Nuts and seeds: walnuts, almonds, cashews, pepitas, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, peanut or almond butter

Spices, seasonings and flavor boosters: canned tomatoes, low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock, fish sauce, olives, dried onions, garlic, honey

Oils and vinegars: red wine, balsamic, and rice wine vinegar. extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, sesame oil

Step 2: Map Your Meals

Map out your meals - outline meals to use for the week and use it as your guide. It can be helpful to have a theme for each day (Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Leftovers Wednesday, Crockpot  Thursday, etc.). 

Plan for Freshness

Get the most from your fresh food items by eating them within a window of peak freshness! 
Follow our quick guide below: 

2 Days: fish, ground meat, raspberries, fresh peas, avocado, corn, tomatoes

5 Days: fresh beef, lamb or pork. greens, asparagus, green beans, eggplant, banana, summer squash, mango, pineapples, apricots, grapes, strawberries, blackberries, broccoli, fennel, basil, dill, radish

1 Week: plums, peaches, hot peppers, cauliflower, pear, melon, brussel sprouts, cucumber, leeks, cilantro, mint

1 Week +: fresh eggs (refrigerated), apples, bell peppers, onion, citrus, pomegranate, beet, celery, sweet potato, carrot, cabbage, winter squash, rosemary, oregano

Weekly Meal Plan


Step 3: Focus on Fresh

Incorporate fresh fruits and a variety of veggies! Look for new recipes and vary your favorite fruits and vegetables throughout the week to hit all of your food groups throughout each day! As the seasons change, be on the lookout for seasonal items at their peak! 

Step 4: Pack in Protein 

Tired of chicken? Mix up your protein sources—beans or tofu for a meatless meal, chicken the 
next day, and round out the week with beef and fish to create variety in your meals! 

Step 5: Love Your Leftovers

Make a plan for leftovers! Grilled chicken breast can be sliced and top a salad, leftover meat and vegetables can become the base for a soup or rice bowl. Leftovers can be great for busy days!

Step 6: Plan Ahead

Consider devoting a couple of hours on a weekend or evening to cook and prepare ingredients for meals for the week. This can include healthy snacks like grapes or celery sticks. 


See your hard work come together when you start to plate your meals! Personalize the USDA’s MyPlate to balance your plate and portions to match your dietary needs. 

Visualize Your Plate

Your largest portions should be vegetables and healthy grains with the remainder of your plate filled with fruit and protein.

  • Make half your plate whole fruits and a variety of vegetables.
  • Make at least half your grains portion whole-grains.
  • Think of your proteins differently. Incorporate more fish and beans into your meals.

Build the Right Mix

  • Focus on variety of ingredients, portion size and nutritional value of each item on your plate.
  • Choose foods and drinks with less saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
  • Aim to include veggies, dairy, protein, fruit and grains throughout your day to cover all 5 food groups.

Start Small

Create an eating style that can improve your health now and in the future by making small changes over time. Start by focusing on increasing your vegetables at one meal a day, or switching to whole-grain bread.

Make It Work For You

Use the tools available on the USDA Choose MyPlate website to explore different plans-and plates-for a variety of dietary needs. These resources can help you determine the portion sizes that work best for your age, weight and activity level.

To make an appointment with a dietitian at Missouri Baptist, call 314-996-5170.

Download this guide: Prep Plan Plate Handout

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