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30 Minute Meal Magic

If you’re like most people, you rarely plan what you’ll eat more than 2 hours in advance of getting it on the table. Sometimes, this means you make less healthy choices in favor of getting a meal prepared on time. Having a game plan for healthy meal planning can help keep you on track and get you to the table in 30 minutes or less.

1. Plan your menus in advance. Build a meal using these steps to balance prep time with healthy choices:

a. Pick a whole-grain starch as your base: beans, pasta and rice are good choices.

b. Choose a few seasonal vegetables to add taste, color and texture.

c. Complement your dish with a protein such as lean meat, fish, tofu or low-fat cheese.

d. Accent with seasonings, condiments or a touch of healthy oil for flavor.

e. Enjoy fresh fruit for dessert.

2. Keep staples on hand. Once a month, stock up on staples such as beans, brown or wild rice, whole-grain pastas, canned tomatoes and sauces, broths, and frozen lean meats, vegetables and fruits. These can serve as the basis of your meal planning. Be sure to add in flavor enhancers like vinegars, salsas, herbs and spices.

3. Shop fresh weekly. Once a week, shop for fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats and fish, and low-fat dairy products. These serve as meal enhancers, liven up your staples and round out your healthy choices.

Now get creative -- lots of fast, healthy meals follow this formula. Search our recipe collection for great meals, or whip together quick meals in 30 minutes like:

● Black bean soup -- beans, broth, vegetables

● Chili with ground turkey -- turkey, tomatoes, beans, spices

● Beef or chicken stir fry with vegetables -- meat, veggies, rice

● Omelets with vegetables and herbs -- eggs, vegetables, herbs

● No-shell tacos -- ground meat, low-fat cheese, lettuce, veggies

● Pasta with grilled chicken or fish -- meat, pasta, vegetables, herbs

● Thai steak salad -- meat, lettuce, veggies, sauce

● Minestrone -- meat, tomatoes, vegetables, broth

● Pasta primavera - pasta, vegetables, low-fat cheese

Planning your meals in advance, starting with your staples and adding in your fresh ingredients, will not only save you time, it can save your sanity and help you build long-term healthy eating habits -- for life!