Menu Planning

General Guidelines

The food you eat is your body’s source of the building blocks required to make energy and perform every action you do, both the physical ones that you can see and the biochemical ones that you can’t see. If the food you eat is not providing your body with important nutrients, your body cannot function optimally. That can affect the way you look, feel, and perform, not to mention your long-term health. So how can you fill your plate to ensure you are getting what your body needs? Follow these basic guidelines to develop meals that are satisfying to your taste buds and your body.


Step 1

Begin by choosing foods with the most nutrients in them. These foods are whole, natural foods that look the same in the grocery store as they do growing in nature. For example, think of a head of lettuce, an apple, nuts and seeds, or a whole chicken. These foods have been minimally processed. You can learn much more about a natural foods diet in the article Natural Foods for Optimal Health. This article also discusses the importance of knowing how the foods you choose are grown and raised. Higher quality foods, including organically-grown produce and grass-fed or pastured animal products, also tend to be more nutrient dense.

Step 2:

Next, combine natural foods to create meals that support hormone balance. The ratio of the macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrate) in the meals we eat, to a large extent determines the release of metabolic hormones such as insulin. When we balance the protein, fats, and carbohydrates on our plate, we support healthy blood sugar levels, which then support healthy levels of insulin and other metabolic hormones. The handout shown here presents a picture of what happens to blood sugar when we eat either unbalanced or balanced meals.

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Building meals

Building meals that support healthy blood sugar will support steady energy and overall health. Our Healthy Meal Wheel portrays how to fill your plate at each meal.  Following this diagram and using the “eyeball method”, fill about ½ of your plate with high-fiber vegetables, about a third of your plate with quality protein, and then select a healthy source of fat to end up with a balanced meal. Each section of the plate has lists of options for each category so you will know which foods count as vegetables, proteins, fats, fruits, and additional carbohydrates. Once you learn how to plan your meals for healthy blood sugar balance, you can begin to experiment with how much, and what type of complex carbohydrates you need to meet your energy requirements based on your physical activity. As you experiment, see how you feel when you add some root vegetable, winter squash, whole grain or beans to your meal. Keep in mind that these healthy foods can also taste great! Adding a healthy fat, such as pastured butter, to your cooked vegetables helps to make them deliciously satisfying and at the same time provides nutrients your body needs!

To give you some inspiration for creating balanced meals, we have lists of breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner ideas with links to delicious recipes on our Meal Ideas page.

Remember, planning ahead is the key to success when it comes to healthy eating.  Use the Healthy Meal Wheel and delicious recipes to write out a plan for your breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. Make a shopping list to make sure you have the ingredients on hand for making nutritious meals.  With your menu plan and your pantry stocked, you are on the road to eating well and feeling great.



Because each of us is unique, there is no one right way to eat. You can fine-tune your diet to meet your individual needs by paying attention to which foods work well for your body and noticing which ones appear to cause harm to your body. Any foods that you are allergic or sensitive to and foods that increase inflammation in your body are foods you will want to limit or eliminate from your diet.  For many people, grains (especially those containing gluten), industrial vegetable oils like corn and soy oil, dairy products, and sugar are foods that trigger inflammation or sensitivity. The best way to determine which foods work well for your body is to keep a food journal where you record the foods you eat and how you feel after eating them. If you are concerned that you may have a food sensitivity, you can use our handout describing an Elimination Diet to learn more about determining which foods do not work for you.

This information should help you get started, but if you need more information or support to adopt healthy eating, please come to one of our complementary in-store nutrition education classes or schedule a complementary one-on-one nutrition coaching session with the Nutritional Health Coach in the store nearest you.

We hope this information inspires you to adopt a healthy, balanced diet for life!

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