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Health

Healthy meal ideas for a busy week: Chili, creamy avocado pasta and more

You asked, we answered! Hundreds of Start TODAY members told us they wanted more healthy, balanced meal ideas to help them reach their health goals. This dietitian-designed meal plan gives you the flexibility to enjoy the holidays — all while learning the building blocks of healthy eating. After all, all that walking works up an appetite!

Meal planning isn’t as daunting as it sounds. Spend just 10 or 15 minutes mapping out your meals, jot down what you need and head to the store. That’s it. And since the holidays are busy enough, we’ve also got suggestions for streamlining meal prep — and, best of all, you can even take the weekends off if you’re dining out or celebrating with family.

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Holiday food is much more than nourishment. We connect with loved ones over holiday meals, and favorite dishes may bring back warm memories and cozy vibes. It’s important to honor these traditions, just as it’s important to eat healthfully at other times. So, this week, your nutrition goal is to resume your healthy eating routine. Thankfully, that’s easier when you have a plan for easy meal prep. This week’s menu includes fast and filling protein-rich breakfasts. Lunch involves alternating options that make use of a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Dinner features a lineup of nutritionally-balanced, flavorful meals that prove healthy and delicious go hand-in-hand.

December 26, 2022: What to eat this week

Here’s a plan that utilizes our blueprint for easy meal prep. You’ll see that breakfasts involve some make-ahead meals and some morning-of options. Lunches include leftovers and simple-to-assemble ideas. While we’ve offered five different dinner options, you can streamline the menu by making enough for leftovers.

Start TODAY meal plan for the week of December 26.

Breakfast

Starting your day with a protein-rich option keeps you fuller for longer and tames cravings later on. Here are some quick and easy ways to pack protein into your morning meal.

Protein-boosted Avocado Toast

Mash white beans or chickpeas into avocado. Spread on whole grain toast and top with an egg, cooked any style.

Oatmeal with Pear and Almonds

Frances Largeman-Roth

Serve with lower-sugar Greek yogurt mixed in or on the side.

Microwavable Scrambled Eggs

Top with salsa, black beans, and avocado slices.

Lunch

Rotisserie chicken is the multi-tasking ingredient of the week. Remove the skin and pull the meat off the bone to use in sandwiches and salads. A typical rotisserie chicken yields 3-4 cups of meat.

If you’re a vegetarian or trying to reduce your meat consumption, use rinsed and drained canned beans instead. When making your grocery list, be sure to add plenty of veggies to serve in salads and alongside sandwiches.

Sandwich

Spread whole grain bread with mayo and grainy mustard and stack with rotisserie chicken, lettuce and tomato. Serve with veggies on the side. For a vegetarian option, use mashed chickpeas.

Salad

Mix rotisserie chicken, chopped celery, and golden raisins with mayo and dijon mustard. Scoop mixture over salad greens and add any veggies of your choosing. Sprinkle with seeds (such as sunflower seeds) or crushed nuts.

Leftover Chili (see recipe below)

Top with sliced avocado and crushed tortilla chips.

Dinner

This week’s dinner menu features nutritious meals that are anything but boring. From tangy pineapple chicken to briny flounder to creamy pasta, there’s something for everyone. If you like a lot of variety, make one per night. If you’d prefer to cook less, double (or triple) a recipe to serve later in the week. You can also look back at the recipes from our previous weeks to add a different dish to your menu. Make sure to take note of any suggested sides to keep your meals balanced.

Game Day Chili

Quentin Bacon

Chili is a family-friendly one-pot meal that’s surprisingly healthy. This version uses lean ground beef, but you can always swap it for ground turkey or chicken or skip the meat and use extra beans instead. Top your bowl with avocado slices and serve with warmed corn or whole grain tortillas.

Peanut Chicken Salad

American Bar / American Bar

Get loads of veggies–and the spectrum of nutrients they provide–in this hearty main dish salad. You can take numerous shortcuts to streamline hands-on time, like using a rotisserie chicken and pre-shredded cabbage, brussels sprouts, and carrots. Make extra dressing and serve with cold brown rice noodles.

Sheet-Pan Pineapple Chicken

Joy Bauer

This colorful meal is a feast for your belly and your eyes. To make this more quickly, chop the red peppers in advance, and make extra to eat for snacks during the week. Also, buy pre-cut pineapple. Serve over brown rice (fast options include frozen and microwavable brown rice) or a blend of brown rice and riced cauliflower.

Sheet Pan Flounder with Roasted Tomatoes and Black Olives

Gentl + Hyers / “Small Victories” by Julia Turshen

Briny, salty olives and roasted tomatoes give this dish Mediterranean vibes. Serve with roasted baby potatoes–also called creamer potatoes–which you can find ready-to-cook in most grocery stores.

Avocado Cream Pasta with Arugula and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

TODAY

Avocado brings the creaminess to this dairy-free pasta dish. Since this meal is light on protein, we recommend using chickpea or lentil pasta to make it more filling and balanced.

Snacks

Snacks that contain whole food sources of protein and fiber offer a winning formula that keeps you full for hours. Here are a few ideas:

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