10 Meal Planning Shortcuts Dietitians Take

by Lindsey McGregor
Meal Planning Shortcuts

Eating well keeps us healthy and energetic. With our busy lives, it can be tough to plan interesting, affordable, and easy meals.  Dietitians are here to help with their meal planning shortcuts.

1. Frozen Fruit and Vegetables

Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones! I like to keep a variety on hand to reduce the amount of prep work involved. Some of my favourites include pre-cubed butternut squash to throw in the pasta, Brussels sprouts for roasting, and chopped peppers and onions for soups, stews and stir-fries!  Andrea Hardy, R.D., specializes in gut nutrition, PCOS and food relationships. Further information about Andrea Hardy, R.D., and  Ignite Nutrition Inc. can be found by visiting her website www.ignitenutrition.ca 

2. Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

Using slow cooker freezer meals helps families on busy days with school and activities. 10 Quick and Healthy Slow Cooker Freezer Meals is one of my favourite meal collections because it contains a mix of chicken, pork, beef and plant-based meals. I have prepped these frozen meals in 3 hours on a weekend day and then I put one in the slow cooker before I leave for work in the morning. This way all family members that come home at different times have something ready to eat!  Melissa Conniff, R.D., owns her own business Calgary Family Nutrition, specializing in pediatric and family nutrition. 

3. Pre-Cooked Meat

To make meals quick during the week, I like to bake a full tray of plain chicken breasts at the beginning of the week and slice them up. Add the cut chicken to stir-frys, quesadillas, salads, pasta dishes, sandwiches, or more! By having the protein portion of the meal prepared, you will save a lot of cooking time each night. This can also be done with ground beef, sliced steak or even legumes like lentils. Jennifer House, R.D., is a Calgary Based Dietitian specializing in pediatrics, baby-led weaning, picky eating, and meal planning. To learn more about her practice, visit her website https://www.firststepnutrition.com

4. Washed and Go Vegetables

At my house, I might just wash full baby cucumbers, or cherry tomatoes, or snap peas and put them out before the rest of the meal is ready, and they will disappear. This is how we get our “half our plate vegetables,” at our house. Cheryl Strachan, R.D., is a Calgary Based Dietitian specializing in cardiac nutrition and wellness. More information can be found about her practice, Sweet Spot Nutrition, at  http://sweetspotnutrition.ca/.

5. Smoothie Packs

In freezer bags, assemble frozen fruit, greens, and flaxseeds, and a protein like a yogurt. Freeze for later use. Mix with ice and a liquid of your choice (milk or juice) in the morning. Andrea Clarke, R.D., specializes in food relationships and wellness. To learn more about her work, visit her website at https://www.nourishedfreedom.com/.

6. Shop with Convenience in Mind

  • I like to make sure I have boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the house. They are a great source of protein that I can cook into fast fajitas or just roast with some chicken spice.
  • Soups and chilis can be super-fast to make and are a great way to use what you have in your kitchen. I routinely buy onions, carrots, celery, soup broth and canned legumes for quick soup or chili making on a busy weeknight. This recipe for Chicken Pot Pie Soup is a family favourite. This recipe for Lunch Box Chili allows you to cook once, and eat twice (once for dinner and once for lunch).
  • This Crustless Quiche can be made in 5 minutes. It is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Kristyn Hall MSc, R.D., Dietitian, Nutritionist and Certified Health and Wellness Coach(R), runs her own business Energize Nutrition specializing in nutrition for people 40 years and beyond. 

7. Have a Back-Up Plan

In a best-case scenario, I would recommend booking some time in your calendar to plan meals for the week, make a grocery shopping list and go shopping.  But we all know that life isn’t perfect or predictable and planning or executing a plan doesn’t always happen. It is also likely that you can have an amazing plan but something in your work or family life is bound to happen that steals away your precious time and makes it difficult to execute the plan you had in place. We teach our clients to have a BACK-UP PLAN to ensure they are successful no matter what happens says Andrea Holwegner “The Chocoholic Nutritionist” and Registered Dietitian Practice Director from The Health Stand Nutrition Dietitian Team at www.HealthStandNutrition.com

8. Engage with Family

Get your kids to pick the meal and helping in the kitchen. Children as young as 2 years old can help in the kitchen washing fruits and vegetables, mixing foods or setting the table. Buy them a plastic knife (see here) and have them cut softer foods. School-age children can help plan their lunches for the week. This way they have some ownership and they are more likely to eat it if they are hungry. Melissa Conniff, R.D., owns her own business Calgary Family Nutrition, specializing in pediatric and family nutrition. 

9. Big Batch Cooking and Freezing

I LOVE batch cooking and freezing, especially in individual portions for grab and go lunches! One of my favorite recipes to batch cook is stirfry! We have a great, simple low FODMAP stir-fry on our blog. I simply whip that and rice up, and freeze in individual portions. Don’t forget to label what you cooked and put the date on it! This stays very well in the freezer for 3 months. – Andrea Hardy, R.D., specializes in gut nutrition, PCOS and food relationship. Further information about Andrea Hardy, R.D., and  Ignite Nutrition Inc. can be found by visiting her website www.ignitenutrition.ca 

10. Online Grocery Ordering

I often order my groceries online. I open one internet browser window to Canadian Living’s Recipe Collection and the other browser to Superstore’s Click and Collect. I order ingredients for 3 larger recipes, plus my other pantry staples. With this method, meal planning and shopping take less than 30 minutes once per week.  Save on Foods and Walmart also have online grocery service in Calgary. Lindsey McGregor, R.D., is a Calgary Based Dietitian who runs Calgary Dietitians. Please visit www.calgarydietitians.com for more information.