Meal Planning: The Secret to Achieving Your Healthy Eating Goals

Meal Planning: The Secret to Achieving Your Healthy Eating Goals

Being a culinary guru, I have been asked so many times about how to start eating healthy. Perhaps the easiest and most effective thing you can do is meal planning.

Before I began writing a meal plan, I was guilty of pleasure eating to the point that I had some weight problems. I found that using planners to track eating habits, as discussed at, can greatly help you achieve healthy eating.

With meal planning, you get to enjoy delicious foods while achieving your health and fitness goals. The major benefit of meal planning is that you can think about what you will be eating for the day or week in a focused, quiet manner. It’s easier to avoid unhealthy foods if you do the planning at home instead of while you’re in queue on a pizza stall.

So, how do you create a meal plan?

First of all, find a relaxed time in your week when you can prepare your plan. Know how many meals you need in a week. Usually, you need seven breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some would prefer to have snacks or skip a meal on certain days. A rough estimate of your weekly meals will help you decide on how many varieties of recipes and viands you need.

Next, think about how much time you can allot for cooking your meals. Your meal plan is useless if you don’t have time to execute it. Consider how many hours of your day you can spend for cooking. Usually, you can spend a good 30-minute in the morning for cooking your meals for the entire day. This is enough to cook several quick recipes. You also need to set a day for grocery.

If you have a very tight schedule, you may want to cook everything on a weekend, keep them refrigerated, and just heat them up later. Another way is to consider quick-cook recipes. Getting a planner for working moms such as those reviewed here is a good idea.

Now you can list down the dishes you can cook. You want the dishes to be healthy and easy to cook. Consider the season as this will affect the availability of your ingredients. If you’re cooking only on once a week and are storing them up, make sure to consider the shelf-life of the dish. Check the nutritional profiles of your recipes, making sure that they align with your healthy eating goals. If possible, consider overlapping ingredients to save on your budget and minimize waste. It is best to check out what ingredients are plentiful during the season and those that are on sale.

Over time, you can create a master recipe list that you can just refer to when planning in the future. Compile all the dishes and recipes in one planner as this can serve as a quick reference. A recipe catalogue can greatly help you in the meal planning and preparation process.

Next, you can now distribute the chosen dishes into your calendar. It would help if you post a paper copy of your calendar in your kitchen. However, I highly recommend that you write them down in a planner so you can easily refer back to it when needed. There are also calendar apps that you can use to schedule your meals.

Once you’ve completed your meal plan, you can write a grocery and shop. Having a grocery list would not only help ensure you get healthy foods but also avoid overbuying. It should also save time at the store since you can arrange the items by group.

Meal planning is not only the secret to achieving your health and fitness goals – it can actually save you money and time. It’s definitely something worth trying for everyone!

Let’s light things up

Let’s light things up

Let’s light things up a bit. I’m thinking here of brightening up my kitchen a little bit more. I’m looking to create the perfect ambience for different occasions, and to do that right, lights or lighting tends to either be focal or play a very important supporting role in decorative and essential lighting effects. More importantly, I’m looking at creating a stronger light in my kitchen but without the glare. This will allow me to work with aplomb at any time of the day.

More light to work in

Morning, noon and night are all synonymous with three festive occasions of my day (I hope it’s still the case in yours); breakfast, lunch and supper. And unless I’m not venturing off somewhere on another food expedition or giving talks on how to prepare feasts for festive occasions, I’m here in my kitchen making something a little bit different and doing things differently too. It goes without saying that the different times of the day bring about fresh lighting aspects that can inspire the chef in you.

But the master chef in me needs more light to work in. In my search for new ways to light the kitchen properly and effectively for the purpose of being able to work with food without any blemishes, I have to admit that I was a little excited when I learned from Light Bar Report that these heavy duty LED lights and light bars I had been reading about for some time before did not need to be used only on trucks and heavy, long-distance, open-road and dirt road vehicles. They can also be used as stationary lighting objects.

Lighting things up

I subsequently discovered that a new set of LED lights will be ideal for my home economics base camp. I will be talking to technicians about putting in the correct fittings in the kitchen ceiling (our ceilings are high, so here we are a bit fortunate where this exercise is concerned) and then having another look at the reviews on LED light bars and other websites to make an informed but utterly original choice. Is this possible? I think it is. Well, we’ll only really know once we try.

And what are we trying to do here? Basically install LED lights into the kitchen ceiling. But now, I have a confession to make. Most hard-working creatives like to let their hair out a bit, relax and have some fun. While I was pondering what to do outside on the patio located within our entertainment area, I read that light bars were suitable for lighting an entire outdoor area. Already in use for such purposes, the light bars are also functional as part of the home or business security features, whether on the fixed property or the purpose-driven vehicles.

For now though, I’ll have to curb my enthusiasm, if you will. There’s still much work to be done before we can head off into our yard and light things up our way.

My First Time as a Food Photography Judge

My First Time as a Food Photography Judge

I’ve recently been invited to sit as a judge in a food photography contest. While I have already sat as a judge in a number of food contests, I haven’t really tried judging in a food photography contest. I guess, the organizers thought that since food presentation is among the criteria in judging food contests, I’d be a good judge. Well, they were right. Things went well and I enjoyed the experience.

The other judges (two professional photographers, a restaurateur, and a well-known food blogger) were very helpful. They gave me few tips on how to judge food photographs. I learned a lot from them which I can use on my future cooking projects.

As a food contest judge, one of the things that initially catches the attention of judges is the food plating; the same is true with food photography. Food presentation is king and this can be achieved through a close collaboration between the chef and the photographer. It’s actually a team approach. I don’t think you can take a sumptuous shot on a lousy dish. It just won’t work.

In one of the entries, the photographer did a wide aerial shot, several feet above the large plate. I guess, the photographer used one of the quadcopters reviewed on this site. The chef and photographer exemplified teamwork on this project. The dish was plated perfectly, maximizing the rich tones of the table and the background, and capitalizing the space. The plate seems to tease the heavenly gods.

I’ve seen some photographers do sketches and drawings which the chef used while arranging the dish. It’s just exciting how vision turns into reality. The dishes varied in colors, shapes, textures and themes. It was a food fest not for the palate but for the eyes.

Simplicity is beauty. It may sound cliché but it applies even to food presentation. I find overly decorated, busy plates distracting rather than appetizing. In one of the plates, the photographer used the Hubsan X4 H107C (check out this site for its review: to take a very simple, yet powerful photograph. The simplicity of the dish makes it a real stand out.

I was looking for a dish that playfully uses the textures, colors, shapes and ingredients of the dish to create a mouth-watering presentation. The plate should not look too busy that it overpowers the function and flavor. Moreover, the lens should capture and highlight the main ingredient while giving equal attention to the ‘support’ ingredients. Garnishes, especially the greens, are very helpful supporting ingredients.

While I may not know the technical rules of photography (such as the lighting, focus, exposure, etc.), I know how good food looks in pictures. I guess, if the picture looks live and appetizing, then the photography is awesome.

Overall, the entire experience was a refreshing and enjoyable one. The only frustrating part is that I don’t really get to taste and eat the food! I just have to settle with my imagination.

Filling Up My Tummy With BBQ

Filling Up My Tummy With BBQ

I had the opportunity to judge a wide variety of steaks and BBQ specialties at a contest in Memphis, where barbecue is a major part of this city’s lifestyle. The cooks at this contest put their hearts, hands and minds into preparing the foods and it showed in the way the meals tasted.

Before judging the meals I walked around the downtown part of Memphis and I saw street performers who sang, danced and clapped to traditional blues music. This is interesting because many British music legends such as Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were heavily influenced by blues music. After a few hours downtown, I returned to Memphis to judge the BBQ.

Start With The Steaks

The competition started with a tasting of different steaks and there were contestants from the United States, the UK, Canada, parts of Africa and from countries in Latin America. One steak I had from an American contestant was interesting in that he served fried steak with creamy avocado-basil salsa, and while I loved the salsa, the steak was a bit bland and was so rare that I wonder if he only grilled it for two minutes as this was a huge steak.

The Canadian contestant served his steak just the way I like it; medium rare with loads of black pepper and minimum salt. He also put a little spicy horseradish sauce on the side instead on top like some restaurants do, which gets me upset.

An UK contestant served a small and thin steak with plenty of flavor but he included no side condiment or side dish such as cheese potatoes. I picked the Canadian contestant as the winner of the steak contest.

BBQ Ribs

Now it was time to judge the BBQ ribs made on fine smokers – once again I judged the same contestants. The American contestant served habanero-lime BBQ ribs and I must say that although I love spicy food, these ribs were out of my comfort level  yet they were delicious.

From the Canadian contestant I sampled Thai flavored ribs that were soaked in coconut milk before rubbed with cardamom, curry powder, ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and a little honey. I had a blast with these ribs but somehow they were not that original in my opinion.

Moving on to the ribs from the UK contestant, I had Italian-style ribs which were seasoned with traditional Italian herbs such as thyme, oregano, basil and parsley. This contestant also served fried spaghetti fritters, which tasted good. In the end I chose the American contestant as the winner.

Talking Amongst The Crowd

One thing I loved about judging in the contest and attending the festival in general is talking with the crowd. By this time the winners were chosen and I talked with festival goers who were home cooks themselves.

One cook told me that when she first prepared a plate of BBQ chicken and chunky potato salad for the man who is now her husband on their second date, he started preparing the marriage proposal. That was 40 years ago and judging from his plump belly, he never regretted the proposal.