How do you get all the nutrition you need in a day while still being mindful of calories and carbs? The secret is to plan ahead.
Meal planning depends on lots of things, like your taste preferences, medications, and activity level, says Jill Weisenberger, RDN, CDE, author of Diabetes Weight Loss -- Week by Week.
But good general advice to follow is to keep your carbs consistent -- eat the same amount at breakfast, lunch, and dinner to keep blood sugar from spiking or dipping too low. Weisenberger recommends 45 grams as a target for the three main meals of the day. "If you go lower than 30 grams at a meal, it's going to be really hard to get all the nutrients you need, such as fiber and phytochemicals," the health-boosting nutrients in fruits and vegetables.
This sample meal plan provides 1,400 calories. Supplement with healthy snacks to reach your personal calorie goals.
If you're rushed in the mornings, make breakfast a snap with mix-and-match prepared items such as hardboiled eggs, nuts or seeds, a part-skim cheese stick, peanut butter, or yogurt for protein; toast, crispbread, or unsweetened instant oatmeal for whole grains; plus any kind of fruit -- dried fruit, a banana, an apple.
Avocado Toast and Egg
Café au lait made with a half cup 1% milk
Avocado Toast and Egg
This has to be one of the most satisfying, easy breakfasts around, thanks to a helping of fiber from the avocado and whole-grain bread. For an extra flavor kick, sprinkle with Cajun seasoning or smoked paprika.
Makes 1 serving.
1 slice 100% whole grain bread
salt and pepper
1. Toast bread. Scoop out avocado and mash onto toast. Top with a poached or soft-boiled egg and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Per serving: 235 calories, 10 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 14 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 164 mg cholesterol, 7 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 194 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 52%
Getting out of the two-slices-of-bread sandwich rut can be an easy way to control carbs. Stick to a small whole wheat pita or enjoy some rye crispbreads alongside a protein- and veggie-loaded salad or soup for a satisfying midday meal.
Whole wheat pita stuffed with Curried Tempeh Waldorf Salad and watercress
Curried Tempeh Waldorf Salad
Tempeh stands in for chicken in this fruit- and nut-studded salad. Look for a 100% whole wheat pita that has between 70 and 90 calories per serving (either a mini pita or half of a large one).
Makes 3 servings
8 oz tempeh
½ cup water
⅜ cup vegan mayonnaise or light mayo
1 tsp tamari
1 tbsp curry powder
1 apple, cored and diced
¼ cup chopped cashews
2 stalks celery, diced
2 tbsp golden raisins
3 cups watercress
1½ 100% whole wheat pitas, cut in half
1. Place tempeh in a microwave-safe bowl and drizzle with water. Cover with a lid and microwave 5 minutes. Drain water and break apart tempeh with a fork. Tempeh should be chunky or crumbly.
2. In a separate bowl, mix mayo, tamari, and curry powder. Add tempeh, apple, cashews, celery, and raisins and mix. Pile into pita halves with watercress.
Per serving: 433 calories, 21 g protein, 43 g carbohydrate, 22 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 6 g fiber, 11 g sugar, 453 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 45%
Pack a Snack
Use snacks to fill nutritional gaps in your main meals (hint: that usually means fruits and vegetables), Weisenberger says.
Here are some of her favorite snacks:
- Cottage cheese with diced tomatoes, basil, and black pepper.
- Portobello pizza: Take a large mushroom, clean it, then fill with tomato sauce and low-fat cheese. Roast in the oven 20 minutes.
- Apple and peanut butter: The classic combo delivers fiber plus protein and fat -- a winning combination to curb hunger.
- Edamame and nuts
- V-8 juice: It takes the edge off your hunger while prepping a meal. Make your own reduced-sodium V-8 by blending the regular juice with the no-salt-added variety.
Find a few great one-pot recipes that are heavy on veggies to add to your repertoire. Then cook a big batch when you have time and freeze it for a quick weeknight meal. A serving of this soup (about two cups) is very filling.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Seltzer with lime
Chicken Tortilla Soup
This is a great one-pot meal that's perfect for chilly nights. It freezes well, too, so make a double batch or freeze half.
Makes 8 servings (2 cups per serving)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1¼ lbs skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
4 tbsp green chiles
32-oz reduced-sodium chicken stock
2 cups hot water
1 15-oz can no-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
5 corn tortillas, sliced into strips
½ inch wide
2 avocados, cut into cubes
8 oz shredded light cheddar cheese
2 limes, cut in wedges
1 cup chopped cilantro
1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, and garlic and cook until they start to soften. Add chicken breasts, chili powder, cumin, and salt and stir until all ingredients are coated in spices. Add tomatoes, chiles, stock, and hot water and simmer 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
2. Remove chicken breasts to a plate until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, use an immersion blender to purée part of the soup (just enough to thicken a bit). Shred chicken using a fork and return to the pot along with black beans. Simmer another 20 minutes.
3. To serve, divide tortilla strips, avocados, and cheese among bowls and ladle the soup over. Garnish with a squeeze of lime and cilantro.
Per serving: 466 calories, 30 g protein, 43 g carbohydrate, 22 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 56 mg cholesterol, 14 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 432 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 42%
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