The Core Diet Blog

The following content was provided by Registered Dietitian, Jaime Windrow.

You have just returned home from a typical shopping trip to the grocery store, and your car is overflowing with the healthiest foods you could find. Although you are pretty sure that there are a few items in there that you are not quite sure about, but you just couldn't resist! Filled to the brim with fresh fruits, vegetables, and anything else labeled organic or "natural", your refrigerator is now ready to be photographed for the cover ofEating Well. Day dreaming about all the nutritious meals you will be enjoying this week, you realize it is time for dinner…"What should I have?!"

I wonder if this is still good?If you have ever found yourself standing in front of your open refrigerator, holding that once perky bunch of dark leafy greens, or those organic bell peppers that you HAD to buy, but now look like they have been sitting in the sun all day, you are not alone. One of the most common mistakes in food preparation is not having a plan. The enthusiasm, effort, and intent is always there, but when you head to the store without a "food map", you can end up defeated at the cost of those hard earned bucks, never mind a significant waste of food.

There are a number of ways to go about planning a meal, and the best way is to do what works for you and your family. However, there is one key factor that I believe to be crucial to success; writing it down. Just like goal setting, if you write it down, you will likely achieve it. If you are not interested in picking up a pen and paper, do not fret - there's an app for that! With all of this technology, you could use a search engine for "meal planning" and find hundreds, if not thousands, of options. But, even with all of today's technology, this dietitian does it old school style, with a dry-erase board on the side of my refrigerator. This works for me, because of mystarting point.

Starting point: Where do I begin?

Just like anything, the first step can be the most challenging, and there are a few starting points to choose from. You can begin by choosing either your protein/main dish, first, and then add in vegetable sides to go with it, or the other way around. Some families like to assign themes to each night of the week, such as Italian, Asian, American, or take-out. This can be especially fun if you have children at home. Another option is to plan according to the weekly sales where you shop. I really like theFood on the Tablewebsite for local sales. It even has iPhone and android apps, as well. But, this is not a free site, so you must commit to the format as your driving point, for it to be worth using.

I am involved with a CSA, so I prefer my starting point to be vegetables or side dishes. Each Sunday I pick up my share fromMs. V's Organics. Given that I have no idea of what will be in my box of fruits and vegetables, it makes sense to build my meals around what I receive each week. If this option is available to you, I highly recommend getting involved. Over the long run, it will save you money, and you will get fresher and more nutritious foods! Not to mention that you will be "forced" to try new foods that you might not otherwise try. By default, this will increase the variety in your diet. ClickHERE, to see the CSA's in your local area.

What's in my shopping cart?Each week has new surprises but, depending on the season, there are usually a few reoccurring items as well. Let's take a peek at my most recent share:

Swiss Chard (1 bunch)

Turnip Greens (2 bunches)

Eggplant (1 small)

Romaine Lettuce (1 bunch)

Sweet Potatoes (2)
Butternut Squash (1)
Yellow Squash (1)
Green Zucchini (1)
Mushrooms (12)
Sweet Onion (1 large)
Green Onions (4-5)
Celery (1 bunch)
Apples (2)

STEP 1:Choose which main vegetables to eat first. I typically go from the fastest to slowest spoilers. As a result, here is how my week panned out:

Monday:turnip greens

Tuesday:swiss chard

Wednesday:yellow squash, green zucchini, mushrooms

Thursday:turnip greens


Saturday:sweet potatoes

Sunday:butternut squash

STEP 2:Pick your proteins! I do not have any hard and fast rules, except that I aim for variety, according to the following template:

  • Fish/Seafood: 1-2x per week
  • Lean Meat: no more than 1x per week
  • Vegetarian: at least 1x per week
  • Chicken/Turkey: 2-3x per week

Monday: turnip greens, onion, + CHICKEN

Tuesday: swiss chard, onion, + FISH

Wednesday: yellow squash, green zucchini, mushrooms, + VEGETARIAN

Thursday: kale, green onion, + TURKEY

Friday: eggplant + CHICKEN

Saturday: sweet potatoes + LEAN MEAT

Sunday: butternut squash + FISH

STEP 3:Search for recipes! Now that you have your template, the rest is easy, and this is when a website or app can certainly come in handy. Once you find a recipe - save it! I useZip List, and love it. Whichever you choose, stick to it, so that everything is organized in one place. It will prove to be a big timesaver. Here is an example of what Tuesday's dinner turned into:

Local mahi-mahi grilled with a mango chili sauce, and served with swiss chard (leaves and stems) sautéed with onion and fresh garlic!

STEP 4:Filling in the gaps. To ensure that I do not get to the end of the week with food uneaten or spoiled, I go through the rest of my share, see what I have left, and how I can use it:

Romaine Lettuce (1 bunch)

Sweet Onion (1 large)

Green Onions (4-5)

Celery (1 bunch)
Apples (2)

In this case, the romaine lettuce will be used for dinner salads, when there are no greens (Friday - Sunday), and the onions will be a good complement to the swiss chard and turnip green recipes. The apples and celery make easy snacks. I typically wash and cut the celery stalks into three-inch pieces, and eat them with peanut butter or hummus. If the celery is not prepared in advanced, then it does not become a "quick" snack!

I personally do not plan menus for breakfast or lunch, as I do dinner. But, I am prepared for those meals. Many times my dinner recipes yield more than enough for leftovers, which become the next day's lunch. Breakfast is a variety of what I buy below, and these quickbreakfast wrapsthat I like to have on hand.

STEP 5:Now it's time to shop! So the dinner menu is done, and I can now head to the grocery store or farmers market knowing exactly what is needed.

Weekly Fresh Items:

·1 dozen organic/free range eggs

·Pint of egg whites

·Greek yogurt

·Low fat cottage cheese


·Fresh fruits


·Fish, chicken, lean meats

·Anything needed for recipes I do not have

To keep my weekly shopping to a minimum, I buy frozen and shelf stable items in larger quantities. Below is a short list of items I like to keep on hand for times when I need to throw a quick meal together!

·Almond, Rice, Hemp, Coconut Milk

·Frozen chopped vegetables for stir-fry or eggs

·Frozen edamame


·Frozen fruit for smoothies

·Canned tuna and canned salmon

·Variety of canned beans

·Turkey sausage and chicken breast (freeze them)

·Low carb wraps (freeze them)


·Brown rice

*If you have noticed that your fruits and vegetables are spoiling much faster than they really should be, you might be storing incompatible ones together. Keeping the ethylene gas releasers, such as apples, away from those sensitive to it, such as leafy greens, should slow the process. You might also be storing some fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator that should not be, such as pears or tomatoes.

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