How to Build a Healthy Meal Plan—Plus a 14-Day Healthy Meal Plan to Get You Started

Fueling up with a well-balanced, healthy meal plan can help you conquer even the busiest days with energy—and, over the long-term, prevent disease and extend your life. But we totally get it: Starting from scratch can be daunting. Enter: Our complete healthy meal plan guide, including tips from dietitians and a 14-day healthy meal plan (including ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes for you—plus a midafternoon snack!) to help you kick things off in delicious style.

It's 1 p.m.. You arrived at your desk this morning after calling your cold brew coffee and a granola bar "breakfast," and didn't have enough time to pack your lunch. You're between meetings and ravenous, and it seems like the only options are to call for takeout or raid the vending machine. Again.

We've totally been there, felt that. But now that we're healthy meal planners, we never have to worry about what's on our plate for every meal and snack! (We'll be honest though, we definitely allow ourselves wiggle room for desserts, cocktails, and restaurant outings at least a few times each week—then just roll over any extra meals and snacks from the healthy meal plan into slots later in the week!)"A pre-planned meal schedule is a great way to solidify healthy food choices, ensure a balanced meal, eliminate decision fatigue and is one of the best time-saving hacks," says Mary Stewart, RD, LD, a registered dietitian and the founder of Cultivate Nutrition in Dallas. "By meal planning, you will not have to spend time and mental energy trying to figure out what the next meal or snack will be. It prevents poor food choices that can be more common when we make last-minute decisions."

woman placing blueberries bananas avocado fruit blender
Oscar Wong/Getty Images

Read on for tips from Stewart and Roxana Ehsani, M.S., RD, CSSD, LDN, a registered dietitian in Miami and a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics about how to customize your own healthy meal plan, if you like. Then score a dietitian-approved 14-day healthy meal plan to give you a jumpstart.

How to Build a Healthy Meal Plan

As we mentioned, don't feel like you must stick to every aspect of this healthy meal plan. See a breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack you don't adore? Make a double batch of something to use again. If you live alone or have a smaller household, many of these healthy meal plan ideas will allow for leftovers, which you can enjoy later in the week or freeze for another time!

And if you don't have time to make all these recipes each day, prepare a few on the weekend, or on your days off. Our best meal prep tips can make this experience faster and easier than ever.

"There's no need to follow this exactly, but you can certainly use it as inspiration and as a guide. Feel free to shuffle around the meals to fit what your preferences are," Ehsani says, or adjust to accommodate any budgetary needs, dietary preferences, intolerances, or food allergies. (For instance, slot in $3-or-less recipes, keto recipes, vegan recipes, or gluten-free recipes as desired, or tweak the meals and snacks in our healthy meal plan below to feature your favorite diet-specific desires, such as cup-for-cup flour instead of all-purpose, or plant-based "meat" instead of ground beef.)

"Most people love the idea of a healthy meal plan, but then struggle to follow it long-term. Either it's not customized to their preferences or maybe they may follow it for a few days, then not have enough time to prepare everything on the meal plan or maybe they have leftovers for example, and skip one day," Ehsani says.

When this happens, don't beat yourself up. Instead, brainstorm ways to use any perishable items in bonus meals and snacks or as part of the healthy meal plan recipes below, or pop them in the freezer to use later. (Check out how to freeze vegetables, fruit, herbs, and bread so it thaws and tastes good as new.)

"Any time we feel like we have 'fallen off' the plan, remember that every meal is an opportunity to start fresh. One meal off-plan will not prevent you from reaching your health goals," Stewart reminds us.

Plus, our healthy meal plan is actually designed for you to add your own elements. Many of our daily calorie totals fall around 1,500, below what the average adult needs:

  • Adult females: 1,800 to 2,400 calories
  • Adult males: 2,400 to 3,000 calories

Use our healthy meal plan as the foundation, and plan for one or two bonus "treats," such as a dessert, glass of wine, or a slice of birthday cake to celebrate a family member's special day. With this as your mindset as you embark on the healthy meal plan, you'll think of these extras as totally acceptable, planned-for noshes and sips—not "failures" and signs that you're off track. If it feels challenging to stick to and/or prepare every meal and snack on this healthy meal plan, "start by focusing on the one meal that you find the hardest to 'make happen.' For example, your morning might be super-busy getting the kids ready for school and making it to the office on time, so preparing breakfast in advance that can be eaten for several days would be a great use of time," says Stewart, who's a mom herself. (P.S. Here are 20 healthy make-ahead breakfast ideas.) "Or maybe you usually have full afternoons and early evenings, so you might benefit from preparing a slow cooker dinner to simmer all day so you come home to a hot meal."

If you'd like personal nutrition advice or a customized healthy meal plan, consult with a registered dietitian nutritionist. Visit eatright.org and click "Find An Expert" to find a certified pro near you.

Your 14-Day Healthy Meal Plan

"Before taking time to meal prep, be realistic about your week. The best healthy meal plans are ones that work with your schedule and overall lifestyle," Stewart says. "Use already-created meal plans like this one as a guide, and feel free to sprinkle in other family-favorite recipes, repeat meals throughout the week or take advantage of quality frozen foods for those extra busy days."

We've included ideas for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks as part of this two-week healthy meal plan that have been selected with an eye on nutrition, of course. Each day's three meals and one snack offer about:

  • 1,500 calories
  • Less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium
  • A good mix of fat, protein, and carbohydrates
  • Enough fiber to help you feel full and promote gut health
  • Plenty of variety to keep your taste buds happy and your vitamin and mineral needs covered

Plus we're sharing time-saving and prep-ahead tips to help you make the most of your ingredients and schedule.

Omelet for One
Jason Donnelly

Week 1: Monday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

  • Prepare the Picnic Taco Jars over the weekend
  • Assemble the lasagna through Step 4 on Sunday night

Breakfast: Omelet For One

Lunch: Picnic Taco Jars

Snack: Carrot Cake Smoothies

Dinner: Mile-High Meatless Lasagna Pie

Week 1: Tuesday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

  • Bake and freeze the egg bakes up to 1 month in advance
  • Toss extra veggies from lunch into the 20-minute dinner recipe

Breakfast: Sausage and Potato Mini Egg Bakes

Lunch: Cilantro-Lime Pasta Salad

Snack: Protein-Packed Smoothies

Dinner: Peanut Sauced Veggies and Noodles

Week 1: Wednesday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

  • Build your grain bowl lunch the night before, then refrigerate until lunch
  • Use store-bought rotisserie chicken instead of pork for dinner and in the lunch recipe to make both meals even speedier

Breakfast: Avocado, Prosciutto, and Egg Sandwiches

Lunch: Orzo Chicken Salad with Avocado-Lime Dressing

Snack: Sweet Honey-Ginger Beet and Mango Smoothies

Dinner: Greek Seasoned Pork with Lemon Couscous

Week 1: Thursday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

  • Make the apple compote the night before, then refrigerate until breakfast (or use fresh diced apples instead)
  • Roast the nuts any time earlier in the week

Breakfast: Toasted Bagels with Apple Breakfast Compote

Lunch: Mediterranean Orzo Skillet

Snack: Paleo Rosemary Roasted Nuts

Dinner: Thai Green Seafood Curry

Week 1: Friday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with Sunny-Side Up Eggs, Avocado, Cheddar, and Chives

Lunch: Power Kale Salad

Snack: Caprese Bruschetta

Dinner: Pork, Ginger, and Delicata Stir-Fry

Week 1: Saturday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

  • Use canned pumpkin instead of mashed sweet potato in the waffle recipe to save time
  • Make the pasta salad after you enjoy breakfast (it gets better as it sets a bit!) for a quick-fix lunch

Breakfast: Sweet Potato Waffles

Lunch: Greek Spinach-Pasta Salad with Feta and Beans

Snack: 1 cup Banana Ice Cream

Dinner: Three Bean Enchiladas

Greek Feta Burgers
Jason Donnelly

Week 1: Sunday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

  • Make a batch and a half, or 9, of the tostadas for lunch (1 ½ cans black beans) then use the rest of the beans in the healthy chocolate dessert recipe
  • Serve the burgers tucked inside store-bought pitas, if desired

Breakfast: Honey-Lemon Cottage Cheese Pancakes

Lunch: Black Bean Chipotle Tostadas

Snack: Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

Dinner: Greek Feta Burgers

Week 2: Monday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

  • Prepare the oats and energy bites the night before
  • Use any variety of store-bought frozen ravioli and your soup lunch can be on the table in 20 minutes

Breakfast: Orange-Honey Overnight Oats

Lunch: Mushroom and Beef Ravioli Soup

Snack: No-Bake Energy Bites

Dinner: Sausage-Stuffed Delicata Squash

Week 2: Tuesday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

  • Build the grain salad lunch and start the slow cooker breakfast recipe just before you go to bed the night before
  • Make a double batch of quinoa to use at lunch and instead of farro for dinner

Breakfast: Six-Grain Slow Cooker Porridge

Lunch: Turkey-Quinoa Salad

Snack: Low-Sugar Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins

Dinner: Roasted Salmon and Farro Bowls

Week 2: Wednesday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

  • Create freezable smoothie packs in advance with the blended ingredients for breakfast (except for the coconut milk) to save time
  • Prepare the granola bars up to 3 days in advance

Breakfast: Tropical Fruit Smoothie Bowls

Lunch: Grain and Veggie Bowls

Snack: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Granola Bar

Dinner: Pork Chops, Apples, and Greens

Burrito Bowls with bowls of cheese, guac, and pilo
Blaine Moats

Week 2: Thursday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

  • Toss any extra spinach from the breakfast bites into the Indian-inspired vegetarian dinner
  • Cook the bacon for the egg bites and pizzas the night before, then refrigerate until breakfast and snack time

Breakfast: 2 Bacon-Spinach Egg Bites

Lunch: Burrito Bowls

Snack: Arugula BLT Pizzas

Dinner: Chickpea Tikka Masala

Week 2: Friday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

  • Use any fruit you have handy in the breakfast panini
  • Use microwave rice and leftover vegetables for lunch, or prepare both the night before and refrigerate until it's time to build your bowl

Breakfast: Apple and Almond Butter Panini

Lunch: Roasted Butternut Squash Burrito Bowls

Snack: Confetti Peanut Butter Munchies

Dinner: I-Made-it-Myself Pizza

Week 2: Saturday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

  • Prep a big batch of breakfast burritos, then instead of air-frying the extras, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months
  • Mix up the chia pudding the night before

Breakfast: Air-Fryer Breakfast Burritos

Lunch: Turkey Meatball Grinder

Snack: Chia Pudding

Dinner: Fish with Crispy Bread Crumbs, Spinach, and Onions

Week 2: Sunday

Healthy Meal Plan Tips:

  • Purchase packets or cups of instant oats to make breakfast a 5-minute meal
  • Use up any extra bacon from breakfast by sprinkling it over your soup at lunch

Breakfast: Oatmeal with Peanut Butter, Banana, and Bacon

Lunch: Carrot-Apple Soup with Cheddar Toasts

Snack: Fruit Platter with Maple Mascarpone Dip

Dinner: Herbed Chicken, Orzo, and Zucchini

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