Healthier Meal Planning

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites. We participate in other affiliate programs as well. For more details, please see our disclosure policy.

Healthier meal planning doesn’t need to be complicated or have to involve weirdly spelled grains and strange vegetables. Check out these five steps to planning better meals for your family.

Healthier Meal Planning | Life as Mom

Now that January is over, you might think that the whole healthy living bruhaha is past. I mean, people only really care about that healthy stuff in January, right?

But, no. I’d like to make the case that healthier living — and healthier meal planning — should have a place in our homes all year long, or at least 11 months out of 12. 😉

However, first, a little back story. I do not grind my own wheat. I don’t drink kombucha. And I don’t think that any particular food group is “bad”. Instead, I am former daily Coke-drinker who has realized that healthier foods make me feel better. They also help my kids feel — and behave – better. So, that’s where I’m coming from. I would love to buy all my food grass-fed, organic, non-GMO, and packed with super powers, but my budget doesn’t always agree.

A few years ago, I spent some time reading Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food and then later Michael Moss’s Salt, Sugar, Fat. The Michaels taught me a thing or two, and I started to change how I was shopping, cooking, and generally feeding my family.

It was such an eye-opening experience about our food industry and some of the crap that passes for “food”, that I knew we need to change. We needed to improve our family’s diet.

Don’t get me wrong. I can pound a bag of Doritos with the best of them. I just think that it’s better to make junk food the exception, not the rule. And this, coming from a girl who used to eat two Big Macs in one sitting!

Healthier Meal Planning | Life as Mom

Healthier Meal Planning

If you’re wanting to feed your family a better diet, then there are some things you can do to make that happen. Meal planning plays a big role in it, but I’d like to suggest some peripheral controls as well.

1. Purge the Pantry.

You know that 12th month? That one where we throw caution to the wind and stock up on all kinds of goodies in the name of Christmas? Well, it did a number on my pantry. So, come January, we purged a lot of the junk via a Pantry Challenge. I’m hoping to keep it at bay, or at least greatly reduced, in the coming months.

If you haven’t recently checked out what lurks in your cupboards, now’s a good time to do so. Consider donating or ditching the items that you honestly don’t want your family to eat.

2. Plan junk food intentionally.

Whether it’s throwing a bag of Doritos in the cart or picking up take-out on the way home, be intentional about the junk food splurges. Better yet, when possible make the junk food yourself.

Healthier Meal Planning | Life as Mom

3. Serve a veggie tray every night.

One thing that most “health experts” agree on is that fruits and veggies are good for us. Stock up on them! And I’m not kidding about the veggie tray! My kids practically inhale cut veggies, with or without the dip.

4. Focus on healthy foods your kids like.

It’s hard to make your kids like quinoa. Or your husband. Over time, I’ve come to love the pseudo-cereal with a weird name, but not everybody does. That’s okay. It’s expensive!

Focus on the healthy foods your family already likes. If their repertoire isn’t as big as you’d like, add a few new items in every few weeks, but be sure to include their favorites. I found out that my picky eater who generally shuns vegetables actually loves sauteed green beans and raw carrots and bell peppers. I make sure that I add those to the cart every week because I know it will save me a few “Eat your vegetables” come dinner time.

5. Take baby steps.

If you’re just starting out at reforming your family’s diet, if Doritos is your middle name, don’t despair. And don’t think you have to change it all overnight. Take baby steps. Start cooking dinner at home. Quit buying chips and buy carrots and cucumbers and hummus instead. Make small changes in the right direction and don’t knock yourself if you lose some ground every once in awhile. We all do.

The point is just to get going in the right direction. Want to do more? Check out my series: How to Improve Your Family’s Diet.

Healthier Meal Planning | Life as Mom

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

Subscribe to Good Cheap Eats
Read Newer Post
Read Older Post


  1. Roberta says

    After my breast cancer diagnosis 18 months ago and the subsequent instruction by my oncologist to “eat a rainbow and avoid soy,” our family’s diet has undergone a significant shift for the better. We try to fill 1/2 to 3/4 of our plate with fruits and vegetables (it really helps when the garden is going full blast). Our son has tried (and even likes) Swiss chard and kale, but Brussels sprouts are still a pretty hard sell. 😉 I make a kale and quinoa stew that the whole family enjoys.

    Since changing our diet, my husband and I have each lost about 30 lbs. (without particularly trying), we don’t seem to catch colds as easily, and as of my last round of bloodwork all of my numbers were “perfect.” Our son is a healthy, active, growing 11 year old.

    I don’t consider our dietary pattern a panacea (I still take my meds), but it has certainly been beneficial for our whole family. We’re not perfect: We eat dessert (mostly homemade) and too much bread (homemade ’cause I can’t find commercially made bread that doesn’t contain soy), and we eat out too often (although in general home-cooked meals are tastier; I’m just lazy). We don’t prohibit our son from eating junk food when he’s with friends, at Scouts, etc. We just don’t buy much “junk” for home. Like Jessica, I’d love to eat only organic, grass-fed, etc., but the budget won’t allow it at this point in time, so we just do our best. I’m so thankful for websites and cookbooks that provide lots of inspiration. (Here’s looking at you, Jessica. :))

    • Alison says

      Have you tried roasting brussels sprouts? My sons both love them this way. High heat (450-500) tossed in a little fat of your choice with some salt (pepper if you like). Watch them closely but let them get browned nicely. They are delicious. Cauliflower is also wonderful this way.

      • Roberta says

        Hi, Alison,

        Thanks for the suggestion. I actually do have a wonderful recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts (it includes orange juice, honey, and dried cranberries as well as EVOO, etc.). I love them; hubs is OK with them; son . . . . I tell him they’re an acquired taste and maybe someday he’ll acquire the taste. He’s really pretty good with most everything else, so it’s not something to go to battle over. I just make sure there is some other veggie or fruit as well as the sprouts when I serve them. (That also means there’s more for me.) I’ll have to try roasting cauliflower; I have to admit that none of us are particularly fond of that particular veggie. :}

        • Tricia says

          I would also try adding some bacon or pancetta to the Brussels sprouts. Something about that smoky meatiness always seems to bring people into the fold. And, try adding some onions as well. Your guys may not like their sprouts sweet and may prefer them savoury. Good luck!

          • Roberta says

            Now that autumn has arrived, the Brussels sprouts should be hitting the stores. I plan to try adding bacon the next time I make them. Both Hubs and son think “everything’s better with bacon.” Ha! 🙂

      • Love roasted veggies. Yum!

    • Love to hear how such a hard thing has brought such good fruit to your lives. Thank you for sharing your story so freely with us!

  2. Diana says

    Love all of these ideas!

    One thing I’ve done is buy plain chips and make a flavorful dip to go with them. It at least cuts out a lot of the flavoring agents or colors. For sour cream and onion, I use sour cream plus salt, garlic, onion, basil, oregano, pepper, and/or dill (all dried). For salt and vinegar, an oil/white vinegar vinaigrette works great. Haven’t figure out a bbq replacement, though… 🙂

    I really like that you focus on how foods make you feel, not just what so-and-so says is healthy, and that you make a place for intentional splurges. It’s easy to feel guilt about food and we just shouldn’t!

    • What a great idea. I’m thinking that these kinds of dips would be delicious on quick oven fries or baked potatoes too. As for a BBQ chip replacement–BBQ ranch! BBQ sauce + sour cream + mayo + a little garlic powder and dried dill. You can thin it out to make a dressing with milk or buttermilk too.

    • That dip sounds very yummy!

  3. Janet says

    We struggle with weight and both Type I and Type II diabetes in our family. Improving our diet is a work in progress. Some of the adults are not as on board as I would like. I have been successful at getting my children to eat at least one serving of fruit with every meal. Vegetables are more difficult. They have what I think is a small list that they will eat. To address that, I have been reworking my recipes to up the amount of vegetables. For example, any time I brown ground beef I add fresh onions and garlic and either green peppers or shredded carrots depending on the recipe. Our pediatrician also told us to view beans and peas as a vegetable — low in calories and carbs, but high in fiber and nutrients. Of course, one child will only eat baked beans drowned in brown sugar. Sigh. Meat and dairy are not problem areas for us. Likewise, we do not drink sugar drinks — milk, water and occasionally orange juice are our choices. Then there is dessert and junk food. Where to start?

    • Tastycook says

      A long time ago when our son was a little guy, I would run onions, peppers and carrots thru the food processor before adding them to a pot of chilli or even spaghetti sauce. He ate them both without realising he was eating some veggies he wasn’t keen on!

Share Your Thoughts