Building Nutritious Meals

Happy 2020! Regardless on whether you chose to make a bunch of unrealistic resolutions or a few attainable changes, I think we can all agree that incorporating more nutritious foods to our diet is a win/win.

***If you missed my last post on “Ditching New Years Resolutions”, go take a look so you can set healthy, measurable, and attainable goals this year.

In 2018, I became more of  “meal planner” but not so much a “meal prepper”….mainly because I did not want to get stuck eating the same thing 3 days in a row. A goal of mine is to prep a bit more so I have foods easily accessible on the go or when I am in a bind.

So, how do you build a good, nutrient-dense meal??


First, you must plan the meal.

  • In building a meal, you want to make sure there is a balance of protein, carbs, and fat. Below are some good ideas of each category (note: this is just a brief list of items I use most often but there are many more options!)

Lean Protein

Complex Carb

Healthy Fat

Boneless, skinless chicken Quinoa/Brown Rice Avocado
Turkey (breast, tenderloin, ground) Banza Pasta (made from chickpeas) or 100% Whole Grain Pasta Salad dressings with olive oil base (pay attention to added sugars)
Fish (Tuna, Salmon, Mahi Mahi, etc.) 100% Whole Grain Bread or tortilla (I love Dave’s or Ezekiel brand) Cheese (feta, cheddar, blue cheese, etc.)
Tofu Sweet Potato/Butternut Squash/Pumpkin Flax seeds/Nuts (cashews, walnuts, almonds)
Eggs Red Skin/Golden Potato with skin Peanut Butter
Beef (tenderloin, ground [85/15% fat]) Oatmeal Oils: Canola, olive, avocado
Beans, Legumes Beans/Lentils *note: fish is considered a healthy fat as well
Plain Greek Yogurt Beets
Peanut Butter Corn
  • Start by choosing 1 item in each category.


Protein Complex Carb Healthy Fat
Boneless, skinless chicken Brown Rice Avocado
  • Now that you’ve decided on what protein, carb, and fat you want, pick your veggies! For me, the more veggies the merrier–and if you are feeling even more spunky, you could forgo the complex carb and just have extra veggies. The list below are ideas of non-starchy vegetables, again, not limited to these veggies–there are so many to choose from!

Non-Starchy Vegetables







Leafy Greens (spinach, arugula, romaine, kale)

Collards/Swiss Chard


Brussels Sprouts

Bamboo Shoots

Green/Wax Beans

Bell Peppers


Zucchini/Yellow Squash


  • The next order of business is deciding your cooking method. There are many options here, but my favorites include steamed, baked, stir fried, grilled and sauteed. You can even use a variety of cooking methods at one meal. Let’s say you want to have baked chicken and sweet potatoes…all of that takes time in the oven, so while that is baking, you can saute some broccoli and green beans for some fiber and veggie action.
  • Make a grocery list and head to the store! I do my grocery shopping typically on Friday’s–but I only like to make 1 trip per week, so make sure you make a list! See my blog on The Grocery Haul  for more grocery shopping tips.
  • The best part about planning your meals is that you can make some extra for your lunches the next day! Get your spouse involved, too! We all can benefit from home cooked healthful meals.

Below are some sample meal ideas.

  1. Grilled lightly seasoned tuna, roasted red potatoes, and sauteed asparagus-veggies sauteed in canola oil or oil/fat of choice.
  2. Baked Tofu nuggets, quinoa, and sauteed mixed veggies (broccoli, mushrooms and zucchini go well together)-veggies sauteed in canola oil or oil/fat of choice.
  3. Smoked salmon, whole grain bread, avocado and spinach–open faced or as a full sandwich depending on hunger ques.
  4. Black beans, corn, sauteed zucchini, onions, spinach with avocado.
  5. Peanut butter, cooked oatmeal, walnuts, mashed banana with blueberries
  6. Greek yogurt, slivered almonds, and berries.
  7. Eggs or egg whites veggie omelette with sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and asparagus with avocado on the side.
  8. Browned, seasoned ground turkey, banza pasta, feta cheese, sauteed bell peppers, onions, and zucchini. You could add some pesto or no sugar added pasta sauce of choice.
  9. Grilled steak, baked sweet potato, and mixed greens salad with shredded carrots, raw onions, diced cucumber and 1-2 tablespoons of salad dressing of choice.
  10. Shredded chicken, brown rice, avocado and baked Brussels sprouts and steamed broccoli.
  11. Shredded chicken, avocado, BIG mixed greens salad with spinach, romaine, feta cheese, cucumbers, olives, onions, and shredded carrots.


Tip #1: Make half of your plate veggies.

Vegetables are full of fiber that promote satiety (feeling full) so you won’t be tempted to take in more calories that you need at one meal. More fiber will also likely improve digestion, too–just make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. Vegetables also contain vital vitamins and minerals needed for physiological processes in the body, so make sure you’re eating those veggies!

Tip #2: When choosing a fat, you do not have to only choose one.

You can choose multiple fats–just be mindful of serving sizes. For example, if I want avocado and cheese on my salad, I will only use about 1/4 of the avocado and maybe 1 ounce of cheese to satisfy.

Tip #3: In prepping for the week, you do not need to cook everything on Sunday and pack it in cutesy little containers…

That can promote meal boredom and frankly may not taste as good 3 days later…my tip is to use the weekend as a food prep day instead-chop up your veggies and store them properly so they stay as fresh as possible until you’re ready to cook them. You could even place chicken breasts in a slow cooker on low for 4 hours so you have easily accessible shredded chicken to throw on salads or sandwiches for the week.

Tip #4: When cooking in bulk, make your food plain.

Let’s say you do decide to cook in bulk on Sunday for the week…cook your food plain initially, and when you add your food to your lunch containers, add in flavor of choice. For example, if I have chicken, quinoa, and broccoli for 3 lunches this week, I will cook it all at once and add different sauces to each container. Some of my favorites include coconut aminos teriyaki sauce, buffalo sauce, and pesto. This will help me fight meal boredom.

Tip #5: I already touched on this a little, but be sure to cook extra food for easy lunches for the next day.

You’re already cooking, so may as well make enough for you and your significant other to have lunch covered for the next day. Not only will it likely be a more nutrient dense option, but you will also save money by not going out to eat.


Hopefully you are feeling inspired and have some new ideas on meal planning and food prepping. I am going to challenge myself to do better in that department–and I challenge you too!

Do you have any meal planning or food prepping tips? Feel free to share!


Until Next Time,

Happy Chewing!
Katrina Detter, RD, LDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

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