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A healthy dinner involves more than a piece of meat and something to wash it down with. To build a menu, begin with the main course. From there, fill in with different kinds of side dishes (starches, vegetables, and salads), and then wrap up with a dessert.

Planning a top-notch meal is as easy as 1-2-3 with the pointers from the book 7-Day Menu Planner for Dummies by Susan Nicholson. All you need to do is follow this formula:


1. Start with the entrée: Entrées come in two forms: combination dishes that combine a protein with a starch or vegetable (like casseroles) and protein by itself (think a chicken breast, a slice of roast beef, a pork chop, or a piece of fish).


2. Choose sides: Add starches, vegetables, and salads to your meal to add nutrients, flavor, and interest. Serve veggies as side dishes because they have so many benefits, including:

  • High nutrient value
  • Low price (compared to whole proteins)
  • Add crunch, texture, and interest to the meal
  • Easy to prepare
  • Fill you up so you don’t overeat


3. Wrap up with dessert: You can have dessert during the week, but keep it simple–a piece of fruit is ideal. The weekend is a good time to have a special sweet treat, like cake or brownies.


After you’ve planned each meal, find a recipe for each entrée and side dish. Now the only things left to do are to shop for the ingredients you don’t have on hand, prepare each night’s meal, and enjoy it with your family.