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What's For Dinner: March/ April

Updated: Apr 10, 2022


This post is a continuation of my previous threads 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.


Week of April 10th-16th


Sunday: 20 Minute Creamy Italian Chicken Skillet with whole wheat spaghetti and roasted broccoli

Macros:

Protein: Chicken

Carbs: Fiber comes from zucchini, onion, tomatoes, and broccoli. I decided to add a little bit of whole wheat spaghetti for a fiber-filled, starchy carb. Some other options could be white beans, chickpea pasta (any alternative pasta), potatoes, or brown/wild rice.

Fat: We get some healthy monounsaturated fat from olive oil and some saturated fat from the cream cheese.


I rolled this recipe over from last week since we never made it. I haven't made many Eating Well recipes, but my mom says they're really good. I'm looking forward to trying a few more.


Monday: Mango Burrito Bowls with Crispy Tofu from Cookie + Kate


Macros:

Protein: Tofu

Carbs: Fiber filled carbs from all the veggies and mango and starchier carbs from rice

Fat: Peanut butter, oil


This recipe looks like its going to involve a lot of chopping and make a lot of dishes. Regardless, I'm pretty excited for it. I just better hope that I feel like cooking on Monday night!


Tuesday: Salmon Terikyaki with brown rice noodles and green beans from Dr. Weil


Macros:

Protein: Salmon

Carbs: both noodles and green beans will provide fiber, but the the noodles will be the starchy carb.

Fat: Omega-3s from salmon


I try to fit fish in at least once per week (let's be honest, more than once never actually happens). Dr. Weil was my first introduction to nutrition. I remember flipping through his magazines as a preteen after my mom would get them in the mail. I'm grateful my first nutrition influence was wholesome and balanced and not something sensationalized and ridiculous (though I did have those influences too)


Wednesday: Broccoli Cheddar Soup modified from Smitten Kitchen with whole grain bread


Macros:

Protein: Bone broth, dairy, a small amount in broccoli

Carbs: Fibrous carbs from broccoli and carrot, starchy carbs from bread on the side

Fat: Most of the fat is saturated fat from dairy. I'm replacing some with olive oil.


I love broccoli and I love cheese, but whenever I eat broccoli cheese soup, I feel like I'm often eating a bowl of queso dip with some flecks of green. As much as I love queso, this just isn't enjoyable for dinner. Fortunately, broccoli cheddar soup is very easy to modify. The first thing I'll change is the roux (flour and butter mixture). I'll replace 4 T butter with 2 teaspoons of ghee and 2 T of olive oil. The milk and cheese already add a lot of saturated fat to this recipe, so replacing some of the butter with olive oil replaces some of that saturated fat with monounsaturated fat. Using ghee provides a stronger buttery taste to compensate for a smaller amount used. I will also replace the half and half with whole milk to cut down on some of that saturated fat.

The protein in this recipe is largely from dairy and to a smaller extent, broccoli. In order to add more protein, I plan to use bone broth instead of chicken broth. Vegetarians can add some nutritional yeast instead. I will also add an extra cup or so of broccoli to keep it nice and green!


Thursday: Leftovers


Friday: Takeout/ something easy


Saturday: Crunch Dill Chickpea Pancakes with Lemon Garlic Aioli and some kind of veggie (tbd)


Macros:

Protein: Chickpea flour, nutritional yeast

Carbs: Chickpeas contain both starchy carbs and protein, veggies will provide fiber

Fat: Aioli and olive oil


I've never tried these, but I trust Angela (recipe author) implicitly! If you want fantastic (sometimes time-consuming) plant-based recipes, look no further.




Week of April 3rd- April 9th


Sunday

Salmon en Papillote from The Modern Proper with roasted green beans

Macros:

Protein: Salmon

Carbs: This meal has plenty of fiber-filled carbs from fennel, zucchini and green beans. Normally I would add another starchier carb, but it'll be okay! There's plenty of food.

Fat: The omega-3s in salmon and the added olive oil give this meal a healthy dose of poly and monounsaturated fats.


I had a head of fennel leftover in my refrigerator from the tortellini soup last week. I didn't know what I wanted to do with it until one of the moms I babysit for showed me this recipe. She said it was her daughter's favorite. If a twelve-year-old can eat fish and enjoy it, I can too!


Update: This recipe was wonderful. It was one of the fastest recipes I've made in a while, and it was incredibly light. I would highly recommend it for a quick weeknight dinner.


Monday

The Jennifer Aniston Salad

Macros:

Protein: chickpeas, pistachios, feta, some in bulgur/quinoa blend

Carbs: the bulgur/quinoa blend along with chickpeas provide starchy carbs. Veggies like cucumber, red onion, mint, and parsley provide non-starchy carbs. All of the carbs in this recipe are great sources of fiber.

Fat: Olive oil provides a good source of monounsaturated fat and feta provides some saturated fat and a major punch of flavor.


I never got to making the Jennifer Anniston salad last week. I kept thinking I would cook it during that day for lunch, but that never happened. This week I'm being more realistic and planning it for dinner. I'm assuming I'll have plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. I think there's a 50/50 chance that Jackson will complain about this being "too healthy" or he'll say it might be better with fish or salmon on top. Wish me luck because I'm too lazy to add another protein source after chopping up all these veggies!


Update: This salad was great, and there was enough for me to have it for lunch every day this week. I will say, it was better the night I made it than it was as leftovers. I would make it again, but I will probably try other grain bowls first before returning to this one. It's great, but I don't really see why there is a whole Tik Tok trend surrounding it...


Tuesday: Ground Turkey Skillet from Skinny Taste with whole wheat tortillas

Macros:

Protein: Ground turkey and black beans

Carbs: I added the tortillas to provide some starchy carbs for this meal. The corn and black beans will also act as starchy carbs. Zucchini, tomato, black beans, corn, and tomato will add fiber.

Fat: There isn't much fat in this recipe since the turkey is lean. The turkey will still add some fat, but it might be nice to add some avocado.


I figured something a little heartier would be nice after having a vegetarian salad for dinner last night. It will also make good leftovers!

Update: I ended up making this recipe Wednesday night and made the curry on Tuesday. Jackson loved this recipe, and we had it for dinner several nights in a row. It made a lot of easy leftovers. I would definitely make this recipe again.


Wednesday: Brothy Thai Curry with Silken Tofu and Herbs from New York Times Cooking with brown rice and spinach

Macros:

Protein: Tofu

Carbs: Starch will come from brown rice and fiber will come from rice, herbs, tomatoes, scallions, shallots, garlic, spinach, and ginger

Fat: Coconut milk is a plant-based source of saturated fat. Although it's probably not great to have on a daily basis, there is some evidence that the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut have beneficial properties- more so than other sources of saturated fat.


I felt like this recipe needed some greens. It has a lot of various vegetables, but I felt like some spinach wilted in at the end would add an extra punch of nutrients. I also wanted to add the brown rice to give it a little more substance. Broth and silken tofu seem a little too liquidy to be satisfying. Potatoes would also work well here.


Update: Hmm.... this recipe was a little strange. I think that if I had a better brand of curry paste, I would have liked it more. My favorite brand is Thai Kitchen, but they were out of it at the store. I ended up finding an alternative brand, and I just didn't love the outcome. I would try this recipe again, but I would ensure that I use Thai Kitchen red curry paste, and I would switch the tofu with chickpeas (there wasn't enough texture).


Thursday: Leftovers- see above


Friday: 20 Minute Creamy Italian Chicken Skillet with whole wheat spaghetti and roasted broccoli

Macros:

Protein: Chicken

Carbs: Fiber comes from zucchini, onion, tomatoes, and broccoli. I decided to add a little bit of whole wheat spaghetti for a fiber-filled, starchy carb. Some other options could be white beans, chickpea pasta (any alternative pasta), potatoes, or brown/wild rice.

Fat: We get some healthy monounsaturated fat from olive oil and some saturated fat from the cream cheese.


Update: We never got to this recipe because we still had plenty of ground turkey skillet leftovers.


Saturday: Frozen/Easy


Update: Ground turkey leftovers



Week of March 27-April 2nd- Last week certainly didn't go as planned! I think I only cooked once- twice if you count making pasta. Whoops. Fortunately, I feel refreshed, and I'm ready for a more structured and organized week.


Sunday: Tofu Broccoli Bowls with Carrot Ginger Dressing from Love and Lemons

Macros:

Protein: Tofu

Starchy carbs: Brown rice

Fiber-filled carbs: Radish, broccoli, dressing

Healthy fat: Avocado, dressing


Thoughts: I'll be rolling this meal over from last week since I never made it. I did decide I may make a different sauce. I recalled making the Love and Lemons Carrot Ginger dressing for another recipe, and I remember not liking it very much. They have a few others dressings listed, so I'll try one of those. A store-bought dressing is always an acceptable shortcut too if you're in a pinch.


I'm sure we will have leftovers of this meal, but I'm planning on bringing those leftovers for lunch instead of having them for dinner Tuesday.


As usual, I'm trying to intersperse plant-based meals between meals with animal protein. I had chicken for dinner the previous night, so it's tofu time!


Update: I would definitely make this recipe again. I threw together a teriyaki-like sauce and skipped the carrot ginger dressing.


Monday: Cheese Tortellini Soup with Cannellini, Kielbasa, and Kale

Macros:

Protein: Cheese, kielbasa, cannellini beans

Starchy carbs: Beans, tortellini

Fiber-filled carbs: cannellini beans, kale, veggies

Healthy fat: oil (saturated fat from cheese and kielbasa)


Thoughts: I never got to this meal last week, so it is also being rolled over. A silly part of me is urging myself to make more soup before it warms up. I feel like I haven't taken proper advantage of soup season! Who am I kidding though? I will definitely be making soup in the spring and summer.


Update: Holy bananas this soup is good. I can't believe I forgot how good it was. Definitely make this soup.


Tuesday: Leftover soup and the Jennifer Anniston salad

Macros: see above for soup

Protein: chickpeas, some in bulgur, feta

Starchy carbs: chickpeas, bulgur

Fiber-filled carbs: chickpeas, bulgur, herbs, veggies, pistachios

Healthy fat: pistachios, olive oil, feta


Thoughts: My friend has requested that I test out the Jennifer Aniston salad. As a devoted Friends fan (and Aniston fan), I obliged. Leftovers from this salad will make a great lunch for days after.

Jackson's parents will be in town for the rest of the week, and we will probably eat out a lot. When I eat out, the same nutrition priorities apply. I aim to make half of my plate veggies and get some protein and healthy fat. Does this always work out? No. Do I keep trying? Always!


I didn't get around to making the salad, so we just had soup.


Week of March 22-27- this will be a simple week, so I don't have too much to say about why I have chosen each meal. I'm just trying to get back into the swing of things after lots of recent travel :)


Tuesday: Out- My gift card for winning the chili cookoff (subtle brag) came in, so Jackson and I are going out to celebrate! The gift card is to one of our favorite restaurants and I'm pumped.


Almost as soon as I finished this post on Tuesday, Jackson and I decided we didn't really want to go out. Instead, I made some Banza chickpea pasta and added some olive oil, garlic powder, parmesan, and red pepper flake. I stirred in some spinach while it was still hot enough to wilt it, and we had a super simple dinner.


Wednesday: Roast Chicken and Vegetables with Tahini from The New York Times Cooking

Macros:

Protein: Chicken (I'll use breasts instead of thighs- just personal preference)

Starchy carbs: Sweet potato, potato

Fiber-filled carbs: carrots, celery root, golden beets (I'm adding broccoli)

Healthy fat: tahini*


Thoughts: This recipe is not only a great combination of protein, veggies, and healthy starches, but it is also an easy weeknight dinner. Chopping will be the only time-consuming part of this recipe. If you don't have time for much chopping, buy precut veggies and frozen potatoes. Using tahini instead of making a fancy sauce also cuts down on time, while keeping the sauce healthy. I will only make enough chicken for my husband and myself. I love leftover veggies, but I dread eating leftover chicken. Idk what's wrong with me.


*Note: some professional organizations recommend that women avoid tahini during pregnancy due to an increased risk of listeriosis and salmonella. If you are/could be pregnant, consider using an alternate dressing or sauce. You could also try heating the tahini with the veggies, but I've never tried this.


On Wednesday we used the gift card as we had originally planned to on Tuesday. We got take out so that we could chill and watch a movie. My intentions were to order a balanced (albeit very caloric) meal. We ordered one main that was full of veggies, another with protein, and of course, it all came with rice. Unfortunately, I did not like the one with protein at all, so I had a very unbalanced, carb-heavy dinner. It happens though, and there's no use stressing!


Thursday: Tofu Broccoli Bowls with Carrot Ginger Dressing from Love and Lemons

Macros:

Protein: Tofu

Starchy carbs: Brown rice

Fiber-filled carbs: Radish, broccoli, dressing

Healthy fat: Avocado, dressing


Thoughts: A simple plant-based meal after a night of chicken. I can add any leftover veggies from the night before to this bowl.


On Thursday, I made the roast chicken and veggies with tahini that I had planned to make the day before. It was very good and pretty simple. I did have to add a little bit to the tahini to make it more exciting. It was kind of plain alone. I added some rice vinegar and soy sauce to give it a little bit of sweetness, saltiness, and acidity.


Friday: Date night out. Jackson has promised me we can go paint picture at one of those paint and pour places, so we will probably go out.


Jackson and I got tapas, and they were amazing. We sat at the bar and the owner, who also happened to be the head chef, acted as our waitress, bartender, and chef. She also drank champagne and danced the whole time. I don't know how she did it all, but we were impressed and will be going back!


Saturday: Cheese Tortellini Soup with Cannellini, Kielbasa, and Kale

Macros:

Protein: Cheese, kielbasa, cannellini beans

Starchyc carbs: Beans, tortellini

Fiber-filled carbs: cannellini beans, kale, veggies

Healthy fat: oil (saturated fat from cheese and kielbasa)


Thoughts: My mom used to make this soup all the time. It is comforting without being heavy. The tortellini makes it hearty enough to be a meal.


I babysat Saturday night, so I grabbed a chicken and veggie wrap. I'll roll the soup over for this next week.




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