Resolutions that work, part 4: Plan ahead to eat well


Satisfying, healthy fare takes planning--not a lot, but at least some.

Satisfying, healthy fare takes planning--not a lot, but at least some.

Sometimes you get lucky and you’re able to improvise a tasty, healthy meal. But for the most part, eating well takes at least a little planning.  But life is busy, and it’s all too easy to overlook that key planning step. 

“I’m going to be more dilligent about planning and preparing healthy meals,” says Sara Floor Miller, communications manager for the Dairy Council of California. That’s a goal many of us share.

Planning is also a core tenet of eating cheaply, since it enables you to make use of everything you buy. I attended a seminar at the Culinary Institute of America’s Northern California campus last fall, where Chef Adam Busby  (he’s one of just 62 Certified Master Chefs in the States) discussed the virtues of “planovers.” This is not the same thing as making a massive amount of one recipe and eating the leftovers throughout the week. Instead, it’s  a matter of choosing recipes with similar elements to make your shopping and cooking more efficient. For example, on Wednesday, I made a batch of Pantry Pasta Sauce, which I used on homemade pizza that night and planned to serve over pasta on Friday. When I make roast a pork tenderloin, we’ll enjoy it sliced with veggie and grain sides that night; we’ll have again in quesadillas later in the week.

“Planovers” are not the same thing as making a massive amount of one recipe and eating the leftovers throughout the week. Instead, they’re  a matter of choosing recipes with similar elements so your shopping and cooking are more efficient. 

Here are ways to create your own planovers:

Designate a half-dozen or so dinnertime meals as your go-to recipes. We all have family favorites that we prepare in a more or less formal rotation. The more often you make them, the easier it will be to plan and shop efficiently. You’ll also become more comfortable with substituting different ingredients so you don’t get bored and more confident working in a new recipe every week or so to expand your repertoire. Free, online resources like Meals Matter offer meal planning tools, recipe storage, and shopping lists to make it easy.

Keep the pantry stocked with basics for your favorites. These might include chicken broth, pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, olive oil–whatever you use regularly. That way, you can pull together a good meal on the fly if you need to.

Plan your meals for the week, and create a shopping list. Be sure to check the pantry and fridge to see what you already have on hand so you don’t buy duplicates at the store.

When you’re cooking one night, do work for the next. Stretch prep work by cleaning and chopping extra vegetables for recipes later in the week. You can even cook extra food with little extra effort. Let’s say you’re fixing rice for a side dish. Double the amount, refrigerate the extra, and use it to make stir-fried rice another evening. If you have the grilled fired up, use all the space to cook extra food for another meal. Cooking Light‘s “Grill Once, Eat Twice” guide is a perfect example of this strategy. 

Previous posts in the Resolutions That Work Series:

Fruit of the Day

Pay Attention to What You Eat

Eat Your Greens

Resolutions that work, part 1: Fruit of the day


Meyer lemons and satsuma oranges

One a day: enjoying seasonal fruit like Meyer lemons and satsuma oranges is a resolution that's easy to keep.

We all do it: After an indulgent holiday season, we crawl into the new year with promises to do it better this time. Lose a few pounds, hit the gym regularly, revamp our diet. We set resolutions with all the hopefulness of the newborn year, but we’re barely into the first week of 2009, and I know some friends’ resolve is already wavering.

I’m a big believer in small, positive changes. It’s easier to embrace an enjoyable behavior than it is to break a bad habit. So in that spirit, I’ve asked friends and colleagues to share their food-related resolutions for 2009. I’ll focus on one a day for the next week or so, with tips to help them stick.

The first one up is courtesy of Cooking Light contributing editor and founder  Lia Huber: Eat one piece of seasonal fruit a day. “I’m not much of a fruit person, so I tend to just skip over them,” she confesses. “But when I do finally bite into an apple or peel an orange, it makes me feel so grounded and good and vibrant.”

I’m in the same boat; fruit isn’t the first thing I reach for when I’m hungry, and I have to make a point of eating the stuff. Which is odd, because I have an impressive sweet tooth that fruit can satisfy. 

Lia’s resolution to focus on seasonal fruit is a smart way to expand your palate and enjoy a terrific variety throughout the year. 

This time of year, I love citrus fruit, and especially satusma oranges. Once you start focusing a bit of attention on seasonal fruit, you’ll realize that there are many ways to incorporate it in your diet Here are three simple strategies:

Expand your fruit vocabulary. If you see something that looks interesting at the farmer’s market, or even the supermarket, pick it up. You can always ask the farmer or store produce manager for ideas on how to enjoy unfamiliar fruits. Or check out the produce distributor Melissa’s Web site. It has a helpful tool that allows you to search for fruit and other produce by season, with tips to buy, store, and cook with it.

Incorporate fruit into recipes. Of course, you can always enjoy a piece of fruit out of hand as a snack, but fruit can play many roles in sweet and savory recipes. This time of year, sectioned citrus pairs wonderfully with salad greens. You can use different fruits in salsa (depending on the season, try pineapple, mango, or peach), or in a smooth sauce (try tart cherries in summer) to pair with roasted meat or chicken. Fruit-based desserts can satisfy a sweet tooth and boost your nutritional profile; the Culinary Institute of America has some great tips for putting fruit front and center in desserts.  Melissa’s site has  plenty of recipes, too, from big-name chefs, as well as from Melissa’s test kitchen. (I want to try their Meyer Lemon Custard to use up some sweet lil’ Meyers I picked up the other day.)

avotrioDiscover the range of flavors and textures. Many of us associate fruit with sweet flavors, but that isn’t always the case. Consider the avocado. It’s a fruit that boasts creamy texture and mellow vegetal flavor. And I’m always happy to eat one.