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smart meals start with planning

Meals and snacks that are nutritious, delicious and affordable begin with planning—and end with enjoyable eating. Simple meals and snacks, quickly prepared, can be as nourishing and flavorful as those that take more time.

Whatever your goal—from everyday suppers to packed lunches or satisfying snacks and party fare— plan ahead and manage well. Check out our one day sample menu for ideas to get you started.

  • Plan menus to match your "food prep" resources ...
  • time, energy, cooking skills
  • food budget
  • kitchen equipment
  • Tip: For quick, easy meals, use partly-prepared or ready-to-eat foods, perhaps shredded cheese, pre-washed greens, boxed macaroni and cheese or grill-ready chicken kebobs.
  • Plan menus for good nutrition, with ...
  • different foods from different food groups for essential nutrients
  • mostly nutrient-rich foods (include vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat/fat-free milk products, which often come up short)
  • sensible portions, with enough food energy (calories), without overdoing
  • Tip: Plan menus that fill three-quarters of the plate with vegetables, fruit and grain products—the rest with lean meat, poultry or fish, or beans, nuts or eggs. Offer low-fat milk or water as a beverage often.
  • Plan menus that match family and guests' needs ...
  • food preferences
  • schedules, lifestyles
  • special food needs (Examples: food allergies or dental braces)
  • ages (Examples: bigger portions for teens and physically-active adults; simpler foods and smaller portions for young children)
  • Tips: Make menus flexible: easy substitutions for less-favorite ingredients; assemble-your-own salads and sandwiches; re-heatable foods for unpredictable schedules. Plan snacks to fill in food-group gaps.
  • Plan snacks to fill food-group gaps. (Example: this is a great time to fit in a needed serving of fruit or a dairy food.)
  • Tip: Read Nutrition Facts labels to find snacks that fill nutrition gaps. For many people, vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and fiber come up short.
  • Plan ahead. A shopping list helps save time and money. You'll buy what's needed for your menus and limit what you don't need.
  • Tip: Plan a week's menus at a time. Keep food-group foods on hand, so it's easier to prepare nourishing meals when you're busy.
Smart Meals Start with Planning
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