Healthy Menu Plan
This approach to creating a healthy menu plan is based on
including selections from at least three food groups at each meal (two groups
Throughout the day you will need to vary which food groups you choose, with the Fruit and Vegetable Group as the most prominent and the Fat Group with the least number of selections. Your other selections will be from the Grains, Protein and Dairy Groups.
Building a healthy meal
Another way of talking about a healthy menu plan is to start with your main food, usually a Protein food, then add a food from the Grain or Dairy Group and several selections from the Fruit and Vegetable Group, with occasional additions from the Fat Group. When all the foods are on your plate, there should be a colorful variety that is attractive to the eye and pleasing to the palate.
Overall, you should limit high fat foods, those with added sugar and overly processed foods that are high in sodium and chemical additives. This includes most fast foods.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page for more information about the food groups and particularly the serving sizes for the foods within these groups.
To help you create a healthy menu plan, here are some comparisons of good choices and poor choices. You will see that each of the good choices includes at least three food groups, and the poor choices tend to focus on simple carbs and fats, neglecting the group that should be the most plentiful, Fruits and Vegetables.
Healthy menu plan choices for breakfast
- Greek yogurt, plain, (may be fat free) with fresh or frozen blueberries and some slice almonds or walnut pieces (Dairy group, Fruit and Vegetable Group, Protein group)
- Oatmeal or seven-grain hot cereal with freshly ground flax, a chopped apple, cinnamon and milk (Grains group, Protein Group, Fruit and Vegetable Group, Dairy Group)
- Two scrambled eggs with tomatoes and asparagus, sweet potato cubes and a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter (Protein Group, Fruit and Vegetable Group, Grains Group)
- Pancakes made with whole grain flour, topped with fruit or a bit of real maple syrup and a glass of milk. (Grains Group, Fruit and Vegetable Group, Dairy Group)
- Cottage cheese with chopped apple, cinnamon and a slice of whole grain toast with nut butter (Dairy Group, Fruit and Vegetable, Grains Group, Protein Group)
- Smoothie made from milk (may use soy or almond milk), berries, plain yogurt or whey protein powder, ground flax or chia seed (Dairy Group, Fruit and Vegetable Group, Protein Group)
choices for breakfast
- A doughnut, toaster pastry or “breakfast bar” and a cup of
coffee (Not much real nutrition here, except
calories, high in sugar)
- Fried eggs, bacon, white toast with butter, hash browns (High in saturated fat with marginal representation from
all but the Protein Group and little or no fiber)
- Pancakes made with white flour and topped with cherry pie
filling and whipped cream (High in sugar with very
little nutrition to recommend it, except calories)
- A bagel with cream cheese (Most
bagels are made with white flour and along with the high fat cream cheese have
little, but calories to recommend them.)
- Chocolate flavored “sugar puffs” with milk (Most boxed cereals are loaded with sugar, preservatives and
highly processed grains)
- Leftover cold pizza and a soft drink (Not a good way to start your day!)
Healthy menu plan choices for lunch
- Mixed green salad with tomatoes, carrots, red cabbage and
chicken breast, vinegar and oil or homemade yogurt ranch dressing (Fruit and Vegetable Group, Protein group, Fat group)
- Fish with lemon, green beans and whole grain role with a
dab of butter (Protein group, Fruit and Vegetable
Group, Grains Group, Fat Group)
- Minestrone soup with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a
whole grain bread stick (Fruit and Vegetable Group,
Protein Group, Dairy Group, Grains Group)
- Sandwich made with whole grain bread, a slice of real
cheese, tomato and a slice of avocado (lightly toast sandwich until cheese
melts) and a half cup of fresh fruit on the side (Grains
Group, Dairy Group, Fruit and Vegetable Group)
- Turkey sandwich made with whole grain bread, romaine
lettuce, tomatoes and mustard or a dab of mayo with a side of melon. (Protein Group, Grain Group, Fruit and Vegetable Group,
Fat Group if mayo is used)
- Bean burrito made with whole grain tortilla and fresh guacamole
topped with a dab of Greek yogurt (Protein Group,
Grains Group, Fruit and Vegetable Group, Dairy Group)
choices for lunch
- Sandwich made with white bread, hydrogenated, sweetened
peanut butter and jelly (High in sugar and not much
else to recommend it)
- Open faced roast beef sandwich on white bread with gravy (High in fat and calories compared to nutritional
- Two pieces of pepperoni pizza with a coke (High in fat and calories compared to nutritional value)
- Meatball sub sandwich on white bread with potato chips (High in fat and calories compared to nutritional value)
- Boxed Macaroni and Cheese with a side of fruit cocktail (Highly processed foods, loaded with salt, sugar and
- Nothing at all or a diet soft drink (Skipping lunch leaves you with a nutrient deficit that
will wreak havoc with your blood sugar and possible make you overeat at
Healthy menu plan choices for supper
- Four bean chili with whole grain cornbread (Protein group, Fruit and Vegetable Group, Grain Group,
- Lean steak made into a stir fry with vegetables over
brown rice (Protein Group, Fruit and Vegetable
Group, Grains Group, Fat Group)
- Baked chicken breast with carrot-raisin salad and
Brussels sprouts (Protein Group, Fruit and
Vegetable Group, Fat Group)
- Lean hamburger on whole grain bun with healthy potato
salad and carrot sticks and radish curls (Protein
Group, Grains Group, Fruit and Vegetable Group, Fat Group)
- Vegetable Lasagna made with whole grain noodles served
with a green salad (Grains Group, Dairy Group,
Fruit and Vegetable Group)
- Salmon steaks, acorn squash, fresh green salad with dressing
(Protein Group, Fruit and Vegetable Group, Fat
choices for supper
- Triple bacon cheeseburger with order of fries and a shake
(High in fat and calories compared to nutritional
- Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, white
flour biscuit (High in fat and calories compared to
- Prime rib with baked potato, sour cream and white flour
dinner roll with butter (High in fat and calories
compared to nutritional value, no colorful foods included)
- Fettuccine Alfredo with bread sticks (High in fat and calories compared to nutritional value,
no colorful foods included)
- Chimichanga with refried beans made with lard and a side
of Spanish rice (Deep-fried, high in fat and
trans-fats with no colorful foods included)
- Fried fish with tartar sauce, curly potato fries and coleslaw
(Deep fried, high in fat and trans-fats as well as
Healthy menu plan choices for snacks
- A piece of fruit with 1-2 ounces of cheese (softer
varieties are better) (Fruit and Vegetable Group,
- Carrot sticks with hummus (Fruit
and Vegetable Group, Protein Group, Fat Group)
- A piece of fruit with a small handful of raw nuts (Fruit and Vegetable Group, Protein Group)
- Edamame and fruit or raw veggies (Protein
Group, Fruit and Vegetable Group)
- Air popped popcorn (or oil popped with healthy oil) sprinkled
with Parmesan cheese (Grains Group, Dairy Group,
Fat Group, if oil is used)
- Avocado chunks and diced tomatoes with feta cheese and a
dash of good quality salt (Fruit and Vegetable
Group, Dairy Group)
choices for snacks
- Chips, pretzels, cheese balls (Mostly
empty calories, too much sodium and other additives)
- Candy bars (Empty calories,
high in sugar)
- Cookies, most muffins, snack cakes (Empty calories, high in sugar)
- Cheese corn, caramel corn, kettle corn, movie popcorn and
most microwave popcorn (Mostly empty calories,
chemical additives for flavor and shelf life)
- Highly sweetened yogurt, pudding cups, and other
dessert-like processed foods (High in sugar and
chemicals for flavor and shelf life)
- Processed meats such as jerky or beef sticks (Highly processed, too much sodium and cancer-causing nitrites)
Keep in mind that these are just examples. You can add healthy foods or mix and match the foods in the healthy menu plan choices, as long as at least three food groups are represented in each meal, two for snacks and at the end of the day you have had 2-3 servings from each group, and 5-6 servings from Fruit and Vegetable group.
I would like to hear from you with your example of healthy menu plans. Also, if you are not sure about a favorite meal, send me a description, and I will take a look at it and let you know.
Click here to e-mail me.
Healthy Menu Plan Servings
The amount you eat of the listed foods will depend on your calorie needs, but generally should be no more than one serving of each food.
The amount of the listed foods will depend on your calorie needs, but generally should be no more than one serving of each food.
Here is a list of serving sizes for each food group:
Eat a variety of vegetables, with emphasis on the dark green, deep yellow, orange and red choices.
Fruit and Vegetable Group
For vegetables, a serving would be:
- 1/2 cup cooked or raw,
- 1 cup leafy greens, or
- 1/2 cup vegetable juice.
Limit fruit juice and canned fruits in syrup, and eat a variety of fresh, whole fruits.
For fruits, a serving would be:
- 1 medium for most fruits,
- 1 melon slice,
- 1/2 grapefruit, or
- 1/2 cup berries, canned fruit or fruit juice
In addition, most health experts recommend that, for a healthy menu plan you should choose a leaner or low-fat version of the significant protein sources, and to remove all visible fat from meat.
The usual serving size for meat, fish and poultry is 3 oz.
If you don't own a food scale, the usual guideline for visualizing meat servings in a healthy menu plan is that the portion should be the size of a standard deck of playing cards.
For non-meat protein sources, a serving, is as follows and is equivalent to only about 1/3 of the protein in a serving of meat:
- 1 large egg,
- 1/2 cup cooked beans or rice, or
- 2 Tablespoons of seeds, nuts or nut butter,
- Tofu can also be included in this group with a serving size of about 4oz.
As far as possible, these servings should be made up of whole grains.
For breads, cereals, cooked grains and pasta, a serving would be:
- 1 slice of bread,
- 1/2 cup cooked pasta, rice, cereal or other cooked grains
- 1 small roll, biscuit or muffin,
- 1/2 bagel or bun, or
- 3 small crackers
A serving from the dairy group includes:
- 1 cup of milk or yogurt (generally low-fat or fat-free),
- 1 oz of hard cheese,
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese, or
- 1/2 cup ice cream or ice milk (occasionally)
A serving for most solid fats and liquid oils is one teaspoon.
Choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil more often than polyunsaturated (corn oil, soybean oil) or saturated fats (butter, lard). Avoid trans fats (margarine, hydrogenated oils) altogether if you can.
Click here to go from this Healthy Menu Plan page to Healthy Eating Support home page.
Sign up to receive emails of my blog
�ª Grab this Headline Animator
Oct 21, 16 09:05 AM
Recipe Sloppy Joes for Lacto-vegetarian, Lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and Vegan.
Oct 20, 16 09:26 AM
Recipe Chili - a delicious vegetarian chili that is chock full of nutritious ingredients and a mainstay of a healthy eating lifestyle.
Oct 19, 16 09:32 AM
Recipe Baklava - Delightful nutty treat made with honey and phyllo leaves.
Have a question about eating healthy?
Get answers to your healthy eating questions.