Nutritionist shares meal prepping tips and grocery list

Meal planning and nutrition tips to keep you from taking a holiday from your healthy habits
WAFB'S Allison Childers and Kristen Gradney, Director of Nutrition and Metabolic Services at Our Lady of the Lake and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
WAFB'S Allison Childers and Kristen Gradney, Director of Nutrition and Metabolic Services at Our Lady of the Lake and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Gradney demonstrates a masher to show kitchen utensils for kids.
Gradney demonstrates a masher to show kitchen utensils for kids.

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Tasty temptations on the 4th of July are as American as apple pie, but you don't have to take a holiday on your fitness and healthy habits. We reached out to a nutritionist to learn how to stay on the healthy track, even if you indulge a little at the holiday barbecue.

Wednesday on WAFB's Get Fit Red Stick group, sponsored by Our Lady of the Lake, 9News went inside the kitchen at the Louisiana Culinary Institute with a nutritionist Kristen Gradney to get answers on a question posted on the group.

Get Fit Red Stick group member, Stephanie Brown posted, "I would like to see information on meal planning and nutrition."

Click here to join the Get Fit Red Stick Facebook group and become part of Team WAFB. Members are encouraged to share their fitness journey by posting videos and pictures to motivate others to be more active and follow a healthy lifestyle.

Gradney, the Director of Nutrition and Metabolic Services at Our Lady of the Lake and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, shared her meal prepping tips.


To get started, Gradney recommends thinking backward by asking yourself, "What are the things I like to eat every day?" Then think about the whole week, asking "What are the things I like to eat during the week."


  • What are the things I like to eat every day?
  • What are the things I like to eat during the week?
  • How can I fit healthy, nutritious, affordable meals into my life?

Gradney says meal planning starts before you get to the grocery store. She says you should think ahead to what days you need to cook meals and the days you need to prepare in advance.  "You have to think about. Do the kids have soccer on Thursday? Do I have aerobics at five on Wednesday? Then work from there."


Once you walk into the grocery store, there's an enormous amount of product and food to choose from. "The general rule of thumb is to always choose fresh foods, foods that you can eat right out of the skin or right out of the pot," said Gradney.

It's hard to rule out all packaged foods, so try to aim for a good combination of mostly fresh foods.


Eating healthy doesn't have to break your budget. "Buying fresh fruits and vegetables at your local farmers markets that are in season tend to be cheaper. It's when you try to buy things out of season that they get to be a little more expensive."

In July, you should be looking for watermelon, cantaloupe, and tomatoes, which should all be cheaper because they're being grown right now.


Gradney recommends starting with your vegetables, go from there and choose fresh cooked meats like chicken. She says look for seasonal vegetables and produce but choose meat as more of the side dish.

"You really want to have about a three-ounce portion of meat. That's really the corner of your plate. The rest of your plate should be fruits and vegetables and some healthy carbohydrates like brown rice, pasta, any type of grain of your choice.

Vegetables should be the center of your plate.

Gradney suggests getting a fully cooked rotisserie chicken to make your meal planning and prep much easier and healthier.

"It's a great option that you can make into anything. You can make a tortilla wrap. You can make chicken salad. You can make chicken pasta."


Many people who meal prep successfully buy divided containers to keep protein, fresh veggies and fruits separated. You can find them at most grocery stores.

Small containers are also good to keep in your kitchen so that you can make your own fresh yogurt parfait, that way you can control the amount of sugar and the amount of fruit that goes into it.  Gradney takes plain yogurt from the bulk container and uses a measuring spoon to put in four table spoons into the small container.

"Yogurt is a great source of dairy. When you are meal planning you really want to have enough of all the food groups, including dairy. Dairy helps you lose weight, keeps your heart healthier and will keep you full because it has lots of protein."

Once you've put your yogurt in, take a fresh fruit you've already washed, and put it right on top of the yogurt. You can even add a little granola, oats or even nuts to add more protein. Gradney suggests using a different fruit every day just to get some variety.


For breakfast, Gradney says you can boil a dozen eggs in one day and keep them in the refrigerator so you can just grab a boiled egg for breakfast and grab a fruit like a banana. "That's a great balance of carbohydrate and protein," said Gradney.

She says boiled eggs will stay good in the fridge for three to five days but you should consume it within thirty minutes of taking it out of the fridge.

For a complete meal, Gradney suggests buying frozen fresh vegetables with a combination of veggies like broccoli, squash, cauliflower and carrots to give you a good variety. You can steam the bag and put it on a bed of whole wheat pasta, then add some grilled or steamed shrimp.

"That would be a perfect lunch or even dinner that you can put together in advance," said Gradney.

Don't forget to make use of your leftovers. "It's really easy to convert the veggies that you had and the protein you had into a wrap or just a tossed salad for lunch the next day."


Having healthy snack foods to grab is also important.

As a dietician we always tell people, you have to have foods on hand that are healthy for you, accessible, and fit into your meal plan.

"One of my recommendations is to buy fruits and vegetables that are already pretty much prepped for you," said Gradney. As an example, she pointed to an individual package of cherry tomatoes. They can be washed and put in a zip lock bag to keep in your purse or desk to eat throughout the day.

Additional advice, keep a large container of easy to grab fruits and vegetables on your kitchen counter. She recommends fruits that you can just wash and eat, like an apple or plum.

"If you're looking for salty snacks, it would be a great idea to make a trail mix of popcorn, pretzels and some nuts so that way you get carbohydrates and you get some protein and it fills that salty craving for you."


"One of the main things to get kids to eat the meals that we want, is incorporating lots of fruits and vegetables, but also include them in the shopping and prepping," said Gradney. "The first step is really getting them involved."

She says she buys little prep tools, like a masher, that kids can handle and help with.

"The goal is for kids to understand there's only one type of food, not kid food and adult food, but that we all eat the same type of food and help them understand that."

For those of you looking to start planning your meals, Gradney provided a document including her 1 Day Meal Plan, as well as a 1 Week Grocery list:

Gradney says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website is a good reference to get additional tips for healthy eating.


When it comes to splurging on holidays, even the 4th of July, Gradney says don't sweat it."Try to balance it during the day but definitely don't skip the mac and cheese if that's what you want."

She even encourages you to be resourceful with the barbecue chicken or barbecue ribs.

"You can easily pull those apart and make a perfectly healthy pulled chicken or pulled pork sandwich on a wheat bun. The important thing is that you start balancing. Just transition back to what you know is a healthy diet and start incorporating some of those healthier foods while maybe keeping some of those leftovers, or you could package it up into meals into those containers like we talked about."

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