Start the new year off right by creating a dinner planning routine that supports overall health and helps to boost brain function.
A few years back, I adopted a dinner planning routine that now is second nature and extremely helpful to me in so many ways. By planning ahead on a weekly basis and having the ingredients on hand, that age-old, nagging “What’s for dinner?” question is already answered, which lowers stress levels and takes the guesswork out of the evening routine.
I have found that dinner planning is a cornerstone of a healthier cooking lifestyle – providing support in preparing better dinners for myself and my family. And, super bonus – it benefits our food budget and saves time!
DINNER PLANNING TIP: SET ASIDE TIME
It may sound simple, but truly for best success, it’s important to have dedicated time each week to plan the weekly meals. For me, 30 – 60 minutes on Monday works well.
- Choose a time that will work the most consistently for you. It may take a few tries to land on what works.
- When “life happens” (because it’s going to!), do your best to find an alternate time. Sunday is my alternate day.
- Make it fun – pour a glass of a favorite beverage, put on some light music, pull out a favorite or new cookbook (or recipe file), and let your creative and curious culinary side emerge.
What do I mean by health and brain-boosting dinner planning?
Keep in mind that we, as individuals, have our own dietary needs. In general, research shows that following a Mediterranean style of eating offers the most value not only for overall good health but also for better brain function. Since it’s all about the ingredients, my dinner planning involves using a wide range of nutrient-dense components that tickle the tastebuds AND help us to feel and function at our best.
I plan dinners and choose recipes that capitalize specifically on the following types of nutrient-dense, less or non-processed, and low-added sugar and sodium ingredients. Not only are these types of ingredients good for our health and well-being, but they simply make wonderful meals.
- dark, leafy greens
- omega 3-rich foods, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, halibut, oysters, shrimp, and certain plant-based foods
- whole grains
- spices and herbs, such as turmeric, cinnamon, sage, rosemary, basil
- dairy, especially those with probiotics
- nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, flaxseed, chia seeds
- olive oil
- tea, coffee
- dark chocolate
In 2022, I will use share dinner planning ideas each month that focus on using these types of ingredients. These ideas shared can be used as-is, modified, or simply as a means of inspiration.
Let’s get started.
DINNER PLANNING IDEAS
To get things started, I’ve created a few delicious, health- and brain-boosting dinner ideas that I hope will inspire your dinner planning routine. Cycle one, two, or all three ideas into your dinner planning rotation this month. Each one is quite versatile, so feel free to adjust for flavor or dietary preferences and available ingredients.
Mediterranean Bowl with Creamy Basil Sauce
Enjoy this power-packed, flavorful bowl alone or served with fresh fruit on the side.
- Health and brain-boosting ingredients in this dinner option – leafy greens, sweet potatoes, other veggies, chickpeas, whole wheat couscous, nuts and seeds, herbs, yogurt, fresh fruit
Ground Turkey, Italian Sausage, or Vegetable Bolognese
Savor this comforting bolognese sauce served over flavorful roasted spaghetti squash accompanied by a tossed salad on the side.
- Health and brain-boosting ingredients in this dinner option – onion, bell pepper, carrot, garlic, tomatoes, herbs, balsamic vinegar, spaghetti squash, leafy greens, other veggies
Fish Tacos with Avocado-Tomato Salsa
Build-your-own tantalizing taco with traditional yet delectable “fixings”, accompanied by fresh fruit on the side.
- Health and brain-boosting ingredients in this dinner option – fish, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeno, leafy greens, radishes, whole-grain tortillas, fresh fruit
What health and brain-boosting dinners do you enjoy cooking? Share them with us in the comments section!
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