Backup healthy meal plans in a crunch
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Healthy meal plans that fit on days you are swamped!

variety of healthy foods, coffee and a cell phone and note pad arranged on a white tableWondering what to do when you don’t have a plan or your schedule changes?  You need a list of back-up healthy meal plans!

In a best-case scenario, I would recommend booking some time in your calendar to plan meals for the week, make a grocery shopping list and go shopping.  But we all know that life isn’t perfect or predictable and planning or executing a plan doesn’t always happen.


It is also likely that you can have an amazing plan but something in your work or family life is bound to happen that steals away your precious time and makes it difficult to execute the plan you had in place.



Watch my previous segment on CTV News on backup healthy meal plans in a crunch:


What are some of the most common issues people have with creating a healthy meal plan?


  • Your life is insanely busy and you simply could not find time to plan and shop with all that you are juggling at home and work
  • Your schedule changes unexpectedly and makes it impossible to execute your meal plan
  • Weekday stress and fatigue impacts motivation to want to make a healthy supper
  • Getting home from school/work too hangry to take the time to execute your meal plan

What is the single most important question to ask yourself the night before?


Want to improve your success with executing healthy meal plans? Before going to bed answer the question: “What is for supper tomorrow?”

backup meal plans italian

  • Look at your available options in your pantry, fridge and freezer and simply select the 3 components of a balanced meal (grain/starch, vegetables and a source of protein).
  • Your meal planning doesn’t have to be fancy.  Give yourself a break – having pancakes, Greek yogurt and frozen veggies may not be gourmet but it meets the criteria for a balanced meal.
  • Let the vegetable drive dinner.  To avoid food waste instead of looking in your freezer or pantry, start by what fresh foods need to be used up first and form your meal around those items

If you have forgotten to answer the most important question the night before, think about this on your drive to work, at lunch or while waiting to pick up your kids from school.  ANY amount of planning instead of hoping for the best at supper when you are hangry and tired is helpful.


What is the criteria for creating backup healthy meal plans?


All of the Dietitians in our practice recommend having a list of back-up meals posted in your home:

  • Make a list of 3-5 back up meals you will have on standby at all times in your home
  • Make sure your weekly grocery shopping list always contains the ingredients for your back up meals
  • Meals should be able to be prepared in a short amount of time
  • Meals should contain 3 things for balance (grains or starches, vegetables and/or fruit and a source of protein)backup meal ideas tofu, couscous
  • The main cook and the “not-so-good cooks” should know how to make these (do some cooking instruction if needed so everyone is on board)

Having a solid backup meal plan prevents stress if scheduled meals fall apart, allows for your work or personal family schedule to change and also prevents imbalanced home and eating out if getting to the grocery store is delayed.


What are some ideas for back up healthy meal plans?


While each individual or family food preferences and cooking skill is different here are a few to get you started:

  1. backup meal plans mexicanScrambled eggs, toast (fresh or frozen bread) and carrot sticks or frozen veggies.
  2. Quesadillas:  Flour tortillas (fresh or frozen), canned black beans, grated cheese (kept fresh or frozen), red peppers (fresh or jars of roasted red peppers), frozen corn and canned salsa.
  3. Frozen shrimp sautéed with Thai chili sauce (or lemon, garlic and olive oil) prewashed salad and couscous which can be made in minutes.
  4. Baked beans, potatoes (boiled or microwaved for speed), cabbage (shaved for a coleslaw or steamed if you prefer)
  5. Thin frozen fish fillets you can dust with bread crumbs and seasoning.  Served with whole grain garlic toast and steamed fresh/frozen veggies.
  6. French toast, yogurt or cottage cheese, frozen berries/mango.
  7. Fresh or frozen stir-fry strips of beef, pork or chicken that can be added to fresh/frozen veggies and tossed into a wrap or over rice.
  8. Pasta, tomato sauce, ground meat/poultry (or canned drained lentils or chick peas)


What are some healthy convenience food options?


back up meal ideas eggs, peas, potatoesHealthy convenience foods to consider stashing in your home are:

  • Pre-cut fresh or frozen vegetables & fruit
  • Packaged salad or coleslaw mix
  • Canned diced tomatoes & legumes (lentils, chick peas & beans)
  • Shredded or pre-sliced cheese (can also be frozen)
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Freeze individual portions of chicken breasts/thighs & fish fillets
  • Freeze lean ground meatballs
  • Veggie burgers, non-breaded turkey or chicken burgers, lean beef or bison burgers
  • Pre-sliced meat (stir-fry & stewing)
  • Canned fish (tuna, sardines & salmon)
  • Frozen, peeled shrimp & other seafood
  • Eggs
  • Frozen edamame beans
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Whole grain pizza crusts or ready-made dough (can be frozen)
  • Fresh or frozen whole wheat tortellini

Andrea Holwegner on CTV backup meal plans
Looking for more fast meal ideas and strategies for building healthy meal plans?


Check out these other resources from our Dietitian team:

Nutrition Bootcamp: Online Training & Resource Kit

Article: Meal planning for busy families

Article: 4 Things every meal planning newbie should know

Need more support on healthy meal plans?

variety of healthy foods, coffee and a cell phone and note pad arranged on a white table

Contact us for help!

As Registered Dietitians that specialize in meal planning, weight concerns, emotional eating, eating disorders, digestive health, heart health, diabetes, pediatric nutrition and sports nutrition we can see you in our local Calgary nutritionist office or as an Online Dietitian by phone or video conferencing for virtual nutrition counseling. Find out more about our Dietitian Nutrition Counseling Programs here.

As university trained Registered Dietitians, you can count on us for credible advice and practical meal planning so you don’t have to stress about food anymore. You can achieve a healthy and joyous relationship with food and your body. Let’s talk about what this can look like for you. CONTACT US.








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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
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Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
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Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

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I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
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