Friday, December 6, 2013

The Experts Weigh In: Meal Planning 101 (Part 3)

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We've covered the importance of planning, how to detox and stock your kitchen and now let's get down to the specifics of meal planning! Keep in mind that kids get bored easily. And just like adults, kids eat with their eyes. I know my own children love when something is presented in a fun and creative way, and sometimes just that is enough to spike their interest in what you are serving.

So let's dive into how to make your selections easy and stress-free!

To make things simple, I have listed below categories of foods from which to build a balanced meal. These are the main staples that you could use to mix and match and come up with loads of meal options. I will follow this piece next week with a Monday-Friday dinner plan to show you how easy it is to make small changes to create a whole new meal.

As a note, all meats/poultry are organic and grass-fed when possible (and kosher in our house). Where possible, choose organic, pasture-raised meats and eggs, as well as dairy, and always follow the dirty dozen (highest in pesticides) list as a gauge for fruits and vegetables.

  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Avocado
  • Mixed peppers
  • Broccoli
  • String beans (haricot verts)
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Corn
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Green peas
  • Edamame
  • Spinach
  • Soba buckwheat noodles
  • Pasta (quinoa and brown rice pasta)
  • Taco shells
  • Ezekiel brand sprouted burger buns
  • Ezekiel brand sprouted muffin (used for pizza base)
  • Gluten-free brown rice tortillas (for enchiladas)
  • Sprouted brown rice
  • Lentils
  • Brown rice lasagna sheets
  • Chicken breast
  • Turkey (for meatballs)
  • Chicken (for meatballs)
  • Fish (wild salmon or white fish such as wild cod, striped bass or sole)
  • Eggs (organic and cage-free)
  • Organic and grass-fed cheddar and mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Organic grass-fed butter
  • Grass-fed organic ricotta cheese
When creating a meal, try to include some healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, a clean protein and non-starchy veggie options. This way you know you have all your bases covered for a well-balanced meal!

A note on shortcuts - take them!! Use store bought bottled tomato sauces (just be sure to check for added sugar, sodium and preservatives. There are plenty of options now that contain 5-7 ingredients and they are huge time savers! Triple-washed bagged salad greens can be bought to avoid the time it takes to wash your own. Store bought whole-wheat ravioli makes for an easy and quick lasagna at the last minute. Pre-cut your veggies and make dips ahead of time. Marinade chicken cutlets and bread chicken and fish ahead of time for baking into fingers later. I cut and season my sweet potatoes earlier in the day so they are ready to go at the last minute for baked fries. Prepare your grains ahead of time - they keep very well in the fridge! Basically, do as much as you can early on in the day or week so that you are really only PULLING dinner together! Make life easy on yourself!

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These raw veggies are a great source of complex carbs and they're great to prepare ahead of time. When my kids get home from school, they always want to snack so I have learned to always start dinner with a raw veggie platter and a dip (hummus, avocado, tahini or pesto). Make it look pretty and colorful, and talk to your kids about the importance of eating a rainbow. Mix things up, and be patient because what kids don't like today, they may love tomorrow.

Now, for those kids who simply won't eat raw veggies, try to tide them over with the healthiest part of their meal first - such as baked sweet potato fries, broccoli, corn on the cob or any other veggie or healthy starch. The other great thing about starting out with some raw veggies (aside from buying you time to pull together the rest of the meal) is that the fiber is very filling. A small amount of protein with complex carbs and fats will probably suffice for the rest of dinner!


Will you be having chicken, fish, turkey or meat? Or is it a meatless night? Determine how you will prepare and serve your protein. Are you enjoying your grilled chicken breast in a burger, wrap or taco shells? Or maybe you're doing baked chicken or fish fingers? Once you choose your base, the options are endless! On a meatless night, eggs make for a wonderful dinner. My children love to request flipped eggs served in either a grilled cheese or as a side to veggies and a starch. Quinoa, salmon or lentil burgers are also an amazing protein rich, meatless option. Hey, I am ALL FOR meatless nights!

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On a night containing meat, fish or poultry, you might want to add a grain or starchy carb like brown rice, quinoa or poasta or a taco/bun option. We always use sprouted bread/muffins as our pizza bases or for a burger or wrap. Pasta made with brown rice and quinoa is also a great way to boost the nutritional content of dinner, as are wraps or enchiladas made with brown rice, sprouted and gluten-free tortillas. Baked sweet potato fries would also fall under this category and are a favorite in my house (and let's be honest, a much healthier alternative to regular fries!).


This is an easy step. Always make sure some greens are added to EVERY meal. These are your lifelines - your detoxifying foods that help fight disease and build immunity. Get creative and be patient, but find ways to get your family to LOVE greens. In our house, broccoli with lemon, sea salt and olive oil is a hit! Roasting vegetables also brings out wonderful flavors - try roasting Brussels sprouts (they are so easy to love!).


Make sure to include some healthy fats, as this macronutrient is an essential part of a balanced meal. Think avocado, olive and coconut oils, nuts and seeds. Some vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning your body needs fat to be able to benefit from the vitamins. So healthy fats such as olive oil will actually make the vitamins in your green veggies available to your cells.


I know this is a big debate in some households. The general rule we have is that dessert can be had IF we are out and at a restaurant, but at home, it's fresh fruit and a light snack after dinner. I am not up for desserts too close to bedtime, and yes, fruit has sugar (but it also has fiber in it to slow down sugar's effect on the body!). I try to promote the less sweet fruits such as berries, and sometimes, my kids are satisfied with just a bowl of popcorn or pretzel things with almond butter.

Now that you're familiar with the components of building a healthy meal, I'll be back next week with a sample Monday-Friday meal plan to help jumpstart your success in the kitchen! Stay tuned!

Kirsti Pesso is a Holistic Health and Wellness Coach (CHHC) and a certified ACE personal trainer. Currently living in Westchester, New York with her husband and two little daughters, she grew up in Australia where she spent much of her childhood in her father's professional kitchens. This instilled in her a deep connection and love for food. Her own personal journey and education has allowed her to merge her love for food with health and wellness. For the last 11 years, nutrition, fitness and holistic living have been a priority for her and her family.  With a deep passion for cooking healthy and clean meals, Kirsti has made educating her family on nutrition and healthy living, a priority. Also, having a background in psychology and social work has allowed her to connect her  extensive knowledge and education in the health and wellness fields, and help others who seek to live a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Kirsti has simultaneously been running a successful freelance hair colorist and styling business and has been in the industry for nearly 25 years in Australia and New York. She has a loyal following, due in part to her holistic perspective on hair. 'Healthy In Beauty Out' was born out of Kirsti's love, passion and deep understanding that beauty is an inside job. Her business reflects a culmination of many different pillars of wellness and beauty,  and combines her talent and education in the areas of nutrition, food, fitness and hair. In addition to her freelance services as a colorist and stylist, you can seek more of Kirsti's advice on healthy living, fitness and beauty, by visiting her Facebook page. To learn more about how you can live a clean, healthy and beautiful life, join Kirsti on her 11-day comprehensive Cleanse Program. To learn more, visit her at

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