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  • snmorphis

What's for Dinner: Continued

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

My last "What's for Dinner" post was getting long and slow to load, so I decided to start a new page. This post is a continuation of my previous thread of weekly dinner plans.

For those who haven't read my meal plan posts before, I'd like to clarify that the intent of these posts is not to tell you what to eat. Instead, the purpose is to show you how to plan.

When I plan dinners for the week, there are many considerations:

-Variety: It's crucial to vary protein, carb, and fat sources to obtain the many different nutrients our bodies need. Variety is also vital for cultivating a broad spectrum of gut microbes, which current research indicates is significant for all kinds of disease states.

-Practicality: As much as I would like to eat a different meat/plant-protein source at each meal, I know this desire is unrealistic. Variety is essential, but meal plans must also be realistic. Leftovers are truly a gift from God on busy workdays, and I certainly won't bat an eye if eating them means I'll be eating chicken twice in a row.

In addition to utilizing leftovers, practical meal planning also means thinking about how much time and energy you have to cook. How busy is your day? Will you need to use pre-chopped veggies or opt for frozen convenience items? What food is already in your fridge that you need to use up? How much money can you spend on ingredients this week?

Because of practicality, my meal plan should probably never look exactly like your meal plan. We likely have different schedules, budgets, and food preferences. If you try to make all the recipes I choose for the week, you may find yourself irritated by the number of ingredients in each recipe or turned off by certain flavors. We are all unique, and what works for me will probably not work for you in the same way.

-Macronutrient balance: As a dietitian, macronutrient balance is always at the forefront of my mind when planning meals. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, protein, and fat, and having a reasonable amount at each meal ensures your body has enough energy to burn and store. Eating a balance of all three macros also slows down glucose's absorption rate into your bloodstream. Slow glucose absorption prevents sharp glucose spikes, which negatively affect our hormones.

-The Yummy Factor: Food is not just about nutrition! A plain chicken breast with some steamed broccoli and brown rice is bland. If you're not satisfied with your meals, there's a higher likelihood that you'll binge on cookies after dinner or queso on the weekend. When I search for recipes or meal ideas, I listen to my body and choose items I'm craving. If you have a spouse or children, you'll likely want to consider their favorite foods as well.

These four considerations are the central pillars of my meal planning process; however, they are not all-inclusive! My menus also vary by holidays and social events. I may be trying to work in more specific micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). I consider food safety and ethics, new culinary skills, and even aesthetics.

With these thoughts in mind, please take the meal-planning ideas that work for you, and don't sweat the rest.

*A quick note for those who have read my previous posts: I know I mentioned updating my post twice per week... this definitely didn't work! I'll be resuming my once-per-week, Sunday updates.

Week of February 28th-March 5th

Monday: Coconut Curry Salmon from Half Baked Harvest

Variety: We didn't end up having salmon last week, so I'm rolling this recipe over to this week. Gotta get those omegas in... See last week for more details.

Tuesday: Zesty Vegan Pasta with Cashew Alfredo Sauce from Feasting at Home

Variety: I'm sandwiching a vegan meal in between salmon and chicken. This is mainly to make me feel less guilty about eating animals, but getting more plants in is just about always a good thing.

Practicality: Not much to say here... this recipe should be relatively simple for a weeknight.

Macronutrient balance:

Protein: Some people assume vegans don't get much protein, but this recipe is an example of how plant-based recipes often subtly add protein into their meals. In this recipe, protein comes from a variety of sources including cashews, nutritional yeast, and peas. If you have high physical demands for protein it's actually pretty easy to add more. Obviously, if you're an omnivore you can add grilled chicken or shrimp. Bone broth can also be used instead of veggie broth in the sauce to add more protein. If you'd like to keep it completely plant-based, legume-based pasta help to can amp up the protein. Although people often use mushrooms as a meat substitute, remember that this is just because of their umami flavor. They are very nutritious but do not have much protein.

Carbs: Peas and pasta will be the main starches in this meal. Depending on which pasta you choose you can vary the protein, fiber, and starch ratios to your liking. Fibrous carbs include peas, mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Although the cashews are mainly fat, they have fiber too.

Fat: Olive oil and cashews are both very healthy sources of fat.

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup with Rotisserie Chicken from Eating Well and Honeycrisp Apple and Romaine Salad

Variety: This is a rollover from last week as well. I guess this will be our poultry for the week! See last week for more details.

Friday/Saturday: Friday is my birthday, so Jackson and I will probably go out either Friday or Saturday. Whichever day we don't go out, will probably be a leftover night.

Week of February 22nd-26th (short week due to my brother's visit)

Tuesday: Souper Jenny's Turkey Chili, Minimalist Baker Cornbread, and Little Green Salad

Variety: I can't say that we've had turkey in a while, but that isn't exactly why I'm making this recipe. Our apartment has a chili cook-off tomorrow that I just signed up for at the last minute. The email saying they had extended the deadline to RSVP made me think they might need some more participants... Because I work all day tomorrow, I'm making the chili tonight. I figured I could spare two servings for Jackson and myself since the recipe is massive. Jackson insisted I make Souper Jenny's Chili. It's the recipe that I make most often, though I do love a white chicken chili. To see the chili and cornbread recipes, head over to My Favorite Recipes.

Practicality: Competition will beat out practicality if I manage to win the "coveted chili cook-off trophy." And of course, it will feed us for two nights.

Macronutrient balance:

Carbs: The beans in the chili are fiber-filled, protein-rich carbohydrates. The corn and cornmeal in the cornbread is a whole grain. We have simple, less nutritious carbs too from the cornbread. All the veggies in the salad and chili are fiber-filled corn.

Protein: This meal has plenty of protein from the turkey and the beans.

Fat: Chickpea rice has 3 grams of fat per serving, with most of this fat being monounsaturated. The dairy products in this recipe will add some saturated fat, and I will likely add some olive oil (monounsaturated) as well.

The Yummy Factor: The cornbread is a key yummy factor here. It may not add a ton of nutrition, but it amps up the satisfaction!

Other Considerations: Want to learn how beans and legumes affect your health? Check out this brief article.

What actually happened: I WON! Sure, I only had two competitors, but I'm taking that trophy and running.

Wednesday: Chili Cook-Off

Wish me luck!

Thursday: Sweet Potato Black Bean Bowls from Skinnytaste

Variety: I decided on a plant-based meal after two nights of chili.

Practicality: This meal is relatively simple, and will provide easy lunches for the next day or two. It's also inexpensive- yay!

Macronutrient balance:

Carbs: Sweet potatoes, brown rice, and black beans are all complex carbohydrates. They contain lots of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fun fact that I just recently learned: if you refrigerate your rice and potatoes after cooking, the temperature change will change the starch into resistant starch. This will reduce the amount of sugar your body is able to absorb and reduce blood sugar spikes.

Protein: There is about 5 grams of protein in a cup of brown rice and about 8 grams of protein in 1/2 a cup of black beans. The recipe also has Greek yogurt and kale which is a higher protein veggie. Overall, the recipe has around 20 grams of protein according to the Skinnypaste estimation. Not bad for a plant-based meal! Or any meal...

Healthy fat: extra virgin olive oil; the recipe calls for 0% Greek yogurt. If you're trying to conceive buy full-fat!

The Yummy Factor: We couldn't have this recipe without the creamy chipotle sauce. It's very healthy, but it would probably make or break the recipe.

Other considerations: Even though the carbs in this recipe are complex and nutritious, some people may need fewer carbs than others. If you have diabetes, keep an eye on your blood glucose so you know how your body responds to certain carbs. You could always replace the sweet potato or rice with grilled chicken or chicken sausage,

These were super good. The sauce is mostly Greek yogurt, so the more you have, the more protein you get. It's not every day that you can feel healthy about loading up on sauce!

Friday: Coconut Curry Salmon from Half Baked Harvest

Variety: As I've mentioned before, I try to make fish at least once per week. The last few weeks have been salmon (my comfort zone). Maybe next week I'll try something different.

Practicality: I always find salmon night to be easy. I usually try to make it on days when I know I'll be able to go to the grocery store so that we'll have fresh salmon.

Macronutrient balance:

Carbs: I haven't decided what kind of rice to serve with this meal. The white rice in the picture looks pretty amazing, so I may need to do that. Portion size is key when it comes to white rice! Broccoli will add fiber-filled carbs as well.

Protein: Salmon, some in broccoli

Fat: Omega-3 fatty acids in salmon! YAY!

We still had plenty of leftovers from our bowls, so we had those for dinner instead.

Saturday: Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup with Rotisserie Chicken from Eating Well and Honeycrisp Apple and Romaine Salad

Variety: I try to make plant-based meals after meat and fish, but this soup looked so good! We haven't had chicken yet this week, though the chili was technically poultry-based. These two recipes will help us get lots of different veggies.

Practicality: Using rotisserie chicken will simplify this recipe. There will probably be quite a bit of chopping between the two recipes though. Fortunately, I expect there will be lots of leftovers.

Macronutrient balance:

Carbs: Egg noodles, fruits, and veggies are the main carb sources in these two recipes

Protein: Chicken

Fat: oil for sauteeing and dressing

In the end, I didn't really feel like cooking. I went to a 2nd birthday party and had to White Claws. They kind of put me out of commission for the rest of the day. Who would have thought a 2 years party would be too wild for me. Jackson had been out all day, so he grabbed Chickfila on the way home.

Week of February 13th-19th

Sunday: Chickpea Rice "Risotto" with turmeric and broccoli

Variety: I'll start off the week with plant-based protein, cruciferous veggies, and an antioxidant punch from turmeric.

Practicality: Chickpea rice risotto is a "no-recipe recipe." I cook Banza chickpea rice like you would cook a standard risotto and add some parmesan and veggies. The recipe comes straight out of my head, which tends to speed up the cooking process. I'm planning to wing this dinner so that I can spend less time on dinner, and more time cleaning my disaster of an apartment. I'll eat the leftovers for lunch for the next few days.

Macronutrient balance:

Carbs: Chickpeas are a fiber and protein-filled carb. "Complex" carbohydrates like chickpeas are a great option for keeping blood glucose steady. Broccoli is also a fiber-filled, carbohydrate-rich food. It differs from chickpeas in that it is a "non-starchy" carbohydrate, so it will affect your glucose levels even less than chickpeas.

Protein: 1/4 cup of dry Banza rice contains 11 grams of protein. Broccoli also contains some protein- it has more protein than most veggies, though it still only totals a few grams. I will also be adding some milk and parmesan. Overall, I'd estimate a generous serving of this meal will have about 20 grams of protein.

Fat: Chickpea rice has 3 grams of fat per serving, with most of this fat being monounsaturated. The dairy products in this recipe will add some saturated fat, and I will likely add some olive oil (monounsaturated) as well.

The Yummy Factor: Risotto is creamy and delicious on its own, but the ingredient I would consider the yummy factor here is the parmesan. Parmesan is truly sent down from the heavens, and it will make this meal much more satisfying and comforting.

Other considerations: this week, I'm focusing on anti-inflammatory ingredients for endometriosis. Monounsaturated fat from olive oil and chickpeas is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric is renowned for containing the antioxidant curcumin, which has a bold yellow color and reduces inflammation. Finally, broccoli is high in the antioxidant lutein, and chickpeas contain the antioxidants selenium and beta-carotene.

A warning: cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are known to cause gas and bloating. Given this is a common concern in endometriosis, you may want to replace broccoli with spinach or asparagus if your stomach is sensitive. Intestinal distress can certainly exacerbate the pain of uterine cramping, so do what's right for you.

What actually happened: Tragically, after shopping at three different stores, I still couldn't find the Banza chickpea rice had in mind. Instead, I used a wild rice blend. The wild rice has less protein, so it would have been ideal to pair it with another protein source. I decided to use bone broth instead of veggie broth to increase the protein to compensate for the rice change. I added some sundried tomatoes for extra flavor. Overall, this was a yummy, easy meal.

Monday (Valentine's Day): Filet Mignon, Roasted and Smashed Fingerling Potatoes and Beet Salad with Arugula and Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Variety: Red meat is typically pretty scarce on my protein source rotation, but I definitely add it in on occasion. In my mind, what better occasion than Valentine's Day? Arugula and beets are also veggies that add some variety to my typical meal plan. I don't cook with either that often. Beets will add more Valentine's flair.

Practicality: My plan for this meal is honestly not really rooted in practicality. Since it's Valentine's Day, my bigger concern is making a fun, festive meal. I am lucky that Valentine's Day occurs on a day when I have a short workday though! To reduce dishes, I will probably roast the beets with the potatoes instead of using the Instant Pot method in the recipe. I know Jackson and I won't finish the salad in one night, so I will only dress the portion of the salad we will eat that night and save the rest for leftovers. Filet is a pricy cut of meat, but find that Trader Joe's has a great deal! Grass-fed is ideal, but sometimes it's just not going to happen.

Macronutrient Balance:

Carbs: Potatoes are our starchy carb here. In addition to starch, they also provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Potatoes are surprisingly high in potassium! Beets, arugula, cranberries are non-starchy carbs, with cranberries being high in fiber and sugar.

Protein: Steak is obviously the main protein here. Feta and pecans will also add some protein.

Fat: We definitely have some saturated fat in the filet and feta cheese. The dressing for the salad and the oil for the roasted veggies will have unsaturated fat.

The Yummy Factor: To me, dried cranberries, feta, and the filet itself are the indulgent, flavor-forward yummy factors of this meal. Potatoes also increase the comfort-foodiness of this meal.

Other considerations: Generally, red meat is associated with worsening endometriosis symptoms. That being said, women with heavy periods need to replete iron more often, and steak is a very rich source of iron. Moderation is key here. Beets are considered to be nitric oxide-producing foods. Nitric oxide widens our blood vessels allowing more blood flow to the reproductive organs. This along with their antioxidants make them a reproductive "superfood." Arugula is the other major contributor of antioxidants in this meal.

What actually happened: This meal went as planned, and it was so yummy! Perfect for Valentine's Day.

Tuesday: Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup from Minimalist Baker with leftover salad

Variety: After a night of red meat, a plant-based meal will be in order. This recipe has protein, carb, and fat sources that will be new for the week.

Practicality: I am doubling this recipe so that I have leftovers for Wednesday and maybe even Thursday. These days are always super busy and I know I'll be relieved not to cook.

Micronutrient balance:

Carbs: Sweet potato is the main carb here, but lentils also contain carbs. They are both full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, so they are carb choices you can feel great about.

Protein: Lentils are our main source of protein, but the pepitas will also provide some. Salad will also provide some from the cheese and pecans.

Fat: This soup contains full-fat coconut milk which is high in saturated fat. There is some data that because it is a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) it may offer more health benefits than other saturated fats. This is still a controversial topic. We will also get some fat from the salad dressing, feta, pecans, and pepitas.

The Yummy Factor: I have made this soup before, and it is a healthy, delicious, comfort food. The full-full fat coconut milk is probably the most indulgent part of the soup. It will also need a good amount of salt to keep it from being too sweet.

Other considerations: The bright color of this soup is a good indication that it is full of antioxidants! Beta-carotene, procyanidin, and curcumin are the abundant antioxidants in this soup.

What actually happened: Everything went as planned for this meal. It was fast and we had plenty of leftovers. I didn't tell Jackson there were lentils in it until the next week.

Wednesday: Leftover soup and some kind of salad or veggie (perhaps edamame)

Variety: Obviously variety is limited on a leftover night. That's ok though!

Practicality: This night is all about practicality. Wednesdays are busy, and I know I'll be tired! I'm not sure if I will still have salad leftover. I want to make sure I have something green on the table, but I don't want to buy too much produce that will spoil. I'll buy a bag of frozen, lightly salted edamame to have on hand in case there's no more salad leftover. This will be quick, easy, and will add extra plant-based protein.

Macronutrient balance/ the yummy factor/ other considerations: See previous day

Everything went as planned!

Thursday: Salmon Burgers with green beans

Variety: I try to get fish in weekly, but am still pretty bad at getting a variety of fish. Salmon is my comfort zone. Fortunately, it is low in mercury and high in omega-3s! I've never had a salmon burger, so this will be an experiment.

Practicality: From a price standpoint, I also typically get my salmon from Trader Joe's. I've heard that Costco also has excellent, inexpensive salmon. A reviewer on the NYTC website recommended using frozen salmon. Because this means fewer trips to the grocery store for me if I can just keep the fish fresh in my freezer, I will definitely be doing that.

Macronutrient balance:

Carbs: The burger bun will be the main source of starchy carbs. Green beans on the side will contribute more fibrous carbs.

Protein: Salmon

Fat: We get lots of glorious omega 3 fatty acids from our salmon.

The Yummy Factor: I found some awesome looking brioche buns at the store that I'm excited for. If you would rather use whole or sprouted grain buns then more power to you though!

Other considerations: Reasearch is inconsistent when it comes to most dietary recommendations and endometriosis. Fortunatley, getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids is one piece of guidance that is supported by many studies. Omega-3s reduce inflammation which is helpful when preventing and managing endometriosis flares.

What actually happened: these salmon burgers turned out really well. The first night we ate them with a lemon, dill, and Greek yogurt sauce, and the second night I made something kind of like a teriyaki sauce. We had them with green beans and brioche buns both nights. I think I would have liked them just as much with a whole grain bun, so I'll do that in the future.

Friday: Leftovers; see above

Saturday: My brother is coming into town, so we will likely be going out! Yay!!!

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