What are the 3 keys to planning healthy meals?

There is no “perfect diet” for optimal health and performance. Look at the graphic below to see if your eating plan includes balanced meals that contain high-quality foods and beverages at regular times. Decide what foods you'll prepare for lunch and dinner and make a list of the items you'll need at the grocery store. When you have a plan, you'll be less likely to spend money on fast food or ready meals.

Check out these tips for easy menu planning. Plan your meals around the foods that are on sale. Check out store brochures, newspaper inserts, and online coupon sites. You might be surprised at the good purchases available.

Just make sure you buy and plan the foods you're actually going to use so that they don't go to waste. Being prepared to cook at home in a healthy way is the key to success. Stock up on healthy, non-perishable items for your pantry, plan your shopping list, and enjoy tasty, heart-healthy meals. Choose two or three breakfast options and two or three lunch options for the week (maximum), and add variety through dinner and snacks.

Keep in mind what foods you and your family like to eat, any food allergies or dietary needs, and how much time you have to prepare food. Then, find recipes that fit your schedule and preferences. You may have to experiment a bit to find recipes that work for you, so do your best. Meal planning makes it easier to eat healthy.

Preparing a menu in advance means you don't have to worry about what you'll eat during the week. And anything you cook yourself is probably healthier than a similar meal at a restaurant. Are you ready to try it? Here's a six-step guide to meal planning and some resources to help you get started.