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It Starts With A Plan

By Kirsten Serrano

The biggest hurdle to better eating is often just having a plan. The what to make for dinner problem is real. Our lives are busy and convenience food is just so …. well, convenient. Eating well balanced meals at home is a real game changer health-wise, but it can feel like the hardest part of your day. I get it. I promise you that a plan makes a huge difference. Even if it is just a few notes on the back of an envelope, it takes away the decision fatigue and spurs you to action.

Breaking meals into types helps me plan and execute them more efficiently and it can help you too. Consider each type a master recipe that you can fill in to suit your needs. A particular meal type may really speak to your cooking style or family needs. I will describe each type and then give you ideas of what that meal may look like.

Meal Type One: The Classic One, Two, Three. This is your basic protein plus two sides meal. It might be the meal you are most familiar with if you grew up, like me, in the Midwest.


  • Pork Chop + Roasted Asparagus + Sweet Potato
  • Salmon Filet + Cucumber and Red Onion Salad + Wilted Spinach.

Meal Style Two: The All In. This is the meal you make on a day when you don’t mind being in the kitchen for a while. The important thing about this meal is the time it provides to work ahead on future meals. You can be working your batch cooking magic while you tend to this meal. Here are some of the meals I make when I have a bit more time.


  • Lasagna + Green Salad + Homemade Vegetable Soup
  • Shepherd’s Pie + Baked Apples + Roasted Broccoli.

Meal Style Three: The Customizable. This kind of meal can be both quick to put together and please a crowd of picky eaters. A customizable meal has some sort of base that is then dressed up by the diner. Here are some examples:


  • Custom Sushi Bowls
  • Custom Cobb Salads
  • Custom Omelets (or Scrambles).

Meal Style Four: The Skillet Meal. I often refer to myself as the queen of the skillet meal. What’s not to love? They are easy, fast and clean-up is minimal. This is most often my go-to meal when I am short on time and don’t have enough leftovers to make another meal. Make this meal super quick by processing produce (chop, shred, slice, etc.) ahead of time and using a protein that is ground or already cut up. Skillet meals are such a winner because you are using small pieces of everything involved. Smaller cooks faster. When you have done your produce prep in advance, you can make these meals in 15 to 20 minutes max. They also make amazing leftovers.


  • Tacos or Stir-fry.

Meal Style Five: Something Out of Nothing. This is the emergency meal when all your best-laid plans fail. Ideally, you have leftovers or something you can just pull out of the freezer, but things don’t always work that way. Here are some fallback ideas that have worked for me.


  • Frittata (fancy name for crustless quiche)
  • Egg or Salmon Salad

Challenge yourself to come up with meals to fit these meal styles. They will make it easier to get dinner on the table and help you avoid health sacrificing convenience meals.

Kirsten Serrano is a nutrition consultant, chef, farmer, food literacy educator and the best-selling author of “Eat to Your Advantage.” You can find out more about her work at



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