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Publication #FCS1070

Planning Meals: For Good Nutrition 1

Isabel Valentín-Oquendo and Claudia Peñuela2

Do you ask yourself, “What's for dinner tonight?” Stop adding stress to your life, and try to overcome the temptation of picking up fried chicken at the supermarket or ordering pizza; these options are unhealthy and can be expensive. Instead, start planning your meals ahead of time. Planning meals helps you save time, money, and energy. Also, planning meals helps you prepare healthy meals at home. For example, when you write out your meals, it is easier to see if your family is eating a variety of food choices, nutrient-dense foods, and the right amounts of foods for good nutrition.

Keep These Ideas in Mind as You Plan

Planning healthy meals is important and should be based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid Food Guide recommendations. The following tips will be useful when you are planning your meals.

  • Select more nutrient-dense foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

  • Try to add whole grains to each meal to achieve the daily recommendations.

  • Try to eat fruits, and dark green and orange vegetables, with at least one meal per day.

  • Choose one cup of milk or an equivalent from the milk group, like yogurt, at each meal. Choose fat-free or low-fat versions.

  • Use meat alternatives, such as dried beans and peas, as often as possible.

  • Combine meat or chicken with beans to increase fiber in your diet.

  • Reduce or replace recipes items that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugars.

  • Serve salads with your lunch or your dinner.

  • Substitute fruit salads for a dessert, or add a fruit to each meal.

Be sure to choose foods that are colorful, flavorful, and that have different textures and shapes. This makes the meal more interesting.



This document is FCS1070, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. First published: March 1998. Revised: October 2000, March 2011. Visit the EDIS website at


Isabel Valentín-Oquendo, senior dietician, College of Medicine-OBGYN/WIC program, and Claudia Peñuela, EFNEP nutrition assistant, Department of Family Youth and Community Sciences Department; University of Florida; Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.