When healthy eating is more of a requirement than a goal, meal planning can seem like a chore. For seniors, proper nutrition is one of the most important elements of staving off the diseases associated with advanced age, so it’s more important than ever to check off all the boxes. One of the best ways to achieve this is to create a weekly meal plan—while it may seem more daunting than taking things day by day, planning in advance actually saves time, money, and can make dining in fun again. I recently wrote about eating for your age, and creating a weekly meal plan is a great way to make sure that you’re getting the nutrients you need and still eating the foods you enjoy.
Make a body budget – Most meal plans start with a budget and this one is no different, but before you think about money, think about fuel. Are you looking to pump iron with fresh greens, or boost your antioxidants with one superfood a day? Increase your calories or cut down? Think about your health goals, and create a list of ingredients to fulfill them. A stockpile of fresh, easy to prepare foods will make your refrigerator a much friendlier place to visit.
Try this for breakfast: Whole wheat French Toast. Whole wheat bread is soaked in an egg and milk mixture seasoned with cinnamon and vanilla, and grilled. Pair your toast with a grapefruit and fat-free milk for a dose of fiber, vitamin C and calcium.
Stockpile your ingredients – Cutting down on emergency grocery store trips is a huge plus of meal planning. Think about what types of foods are staples—while fresh ingredients should be obtained week to week, basics like canned or frozen vegetables, meat, and dried fruit can be kept on hand longer. Come up with a few ‘emergency meals’ that can be whipped up quickly with things that are always in the pantry.
Try this for lunch: Black Bean Chili. Hit the pantry for canned black beans and diced tomatoes. Simmer with onion, garlic, and chili powder for a quick and easy chili to warm the winter days. This meal is rich in fiber, and black beans and garlic are great for bringing down blood pressure.
Think ahead – Frozen food doesn’t have to come out of a box—there are plenty of great meal options that can be prepared ahead of time and frozen. Doubling a recipe is the perfect way to build a stockpile of home-cooked frozen meals. Making a lasagna? Make two, and pop one in the freezer. Serving chicken? Save the bones to make stock that can be frozen in cubes for when you want to whip up a quick and delicious soup.
Try this for dinner: Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups. Get a cup of whole-wheat lasagna noodles cooking while you are mixing cooked spinach and low-fat ricotta. Drain your pasta and add a layer of the ricotta mixture to each strip. Roll, and set in a lasagna pan. Bake with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. This meal provides iron, calcium, and fiber, so make sure you make a spare batch and pop it in the freezer!