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Question: I cook for the week on Sunday. I might bake a chicken, make a big batch of quinoa and steam vegetables so I can make lunch and dinner quickly during the week. But I find I am eating the exact same foods every day. Is this okay for overall nutrition? Could I be missing nutrients?

Answer: Your approach allows you to eat well and save tons of time on busy workdays. We call this “planned-overs.” I have suggestions to ensure that your meals aren’t monotonous and you don’t miss out on important foods or nutrients.

Plan To Eat These Foods Almost Daily:

  • Leafy greens provide fiber, folate, vitamins A and K, and minerals, including potassium. Look beyond kale to escarole, arugula, watercress and tatsoi. Wash and dry salad greens and cook hearty greens to reheat later in the week. My favorite quick lunch is whole-grain toast with olive oil, topped with crumbled feta, lots of garlicky Swiss chard and cracked black pepper.
  • Nuts offer vitamin E, magnesium, fiber and healthy, unsaturated fats. Toast a few handfuls at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until fragrant. Pack almonds for snacks, toss pecans with wild rice and/or add walnuts to a green salad.
  • Fermented foods include yogurt and kefir, vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut, and soy products like miso and tempeh. Most provide live probiotic bacteria, and fermentation may help with nutrient absorption. Yogurt and kefir are breakfast no-brainers, while vegetables and soy pick up the flavor and texture of grain bowls.

Plan To Eat These Foods Several Times Weekly:

  • Beans and legumes are sources of protein, iron, zinc, folate and fiber. Try tiny French lentils mixed with brown rice and shallot vinaigrette, or sauté cooked white beans with olive oil, garlic and rosemary.
  • Whole grains like spelt and millet are chewy, filling sources of B vitamins, fiber and minerals. Cook a batch to be mixed with leafy greens, beans and/or nuts. Oatmeal isn’t the only delicious whole-grain breakfast. Reheat cooked plain farro and add sliced strawberries, toasted hazelnuts, yogurt and a little honey.
  • Berries or citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C, antioxidant phytochemicals and fiber. Wash and slice plenty for snacks and desserts.
  • Orange vegetables and fruits­—sweet potatoes, butternut squash and mango, for example—are rich in beta-carotene, which can convert to vitamin A. Cube sweet potatoes or winter squash, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 450 F until cooked through and browning. Stir into plain yogurt for a savory treat, add to salads or toss with black beans.
  • Seafood, including fish and shellfish, provides iron, iodine and zinc. Fatty fish have omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D. Seafood has a short shelf life, so plan to eat it early in the week. Roast salmon fillets on Sunday and eat the leftovers over arugula or spinach for Monday’s lunch.

To keep things interesting and increase your nutrient diversity, vary the foods in the “several times weekly” and “almost daily” groups from one week to the next. Add more vegetables and fruits to the rotation and think about punching up flavor. Make Caesar dressing or mustardy vinaigrette. Crumble goat cheese or grate cheddar so they are ready to go. Wash fresh herbs like basil or cilantro.

Here’s hoping these ideas make your workweek tastier and more nutritious!

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Sanna Delmonico, MS, RDS, CHES

"Sanna Delmonico, MS, RDN, CHE, is an associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America where she teaches food safety and nutrition. She previously led programming for the CIA Healthy Kids Collaborative and the CIA-Harvard Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives Continuing Medical Education Conference. Prior to joining the CIA, she was an instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College where she co-coordinated the dietetic technician program. Sanna develops delicious, seasonal recipes and writes about food and nutrition for publications, including IDEA Fitness Journal. She lives in Napa, California, and is a home winemaker."

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