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1-2-3 Eat! Meal Planning

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DISCLAIMER:  This article may contain affiliate links and we may earn a small commission if you purchase through one of our affiliate links.  We only recommend products we love.

I want to introduce you to the concept of “1-2-3 Eat!” meal planning. It’s literally the way I feed my family many nights of the week, and I often use it as a backup when I don’t have a plan. It has saved me more than once, and if you adopt it, it will save you too.

But first, let’s talk about the meal planning process in general. It can be as complex as scouring the local ads for what foods are on sale, cross-referencing that with what coupons are available, and creating a meal plan from there. It can be a culinary exercise, planning 5 course dishes each night that would be fit for royalty. It can be daunting and dreadful when a mental block prevents even the word “spaghetti” from entering as a thought. You head over to Pinterest to find something to make and end up looking at a recipe with ingredients you’ve never heard of and appliances you don’t have.

It can be all of those things, but it doesn’t have to be. Meal planning can be as simple as 1-2-3. Let me show you.

Three Easy Steps for 1-2-3 Eat! Meal Planning

First (1), start cooking a whole grain. Brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, corn, and barley are just a few of the options here. (Corn? Yes, corn is a whole grain!) Steam in water or low sodium chicken or vegetable broth.  A one-half cup serving is all you need for delicious and filling fiber.

Next (2), prepare a lean meat.  Lean meats like chicken breasts, fish filets, even sirloin steaks, provide complete proteins and are important protein sources. If you are able, go for grass-fed beef, pastured chicken and pork, and wild-caught fish. Aim for about 4 ounces of meat. The easiest and quickest way to prepare your lean meats is to grill or broil. Most cuts don’t need much seasoning except a little salt and pepper, but if toppings are preferred, opt for a simple salsa or roasted red pepper tapenade.

And finally (3), steam, roast, or grill a green or orange vegetable. Think of this as the most important inclusion on the plate, and therefore it should be the most prevalent. Try to include a variety of greens and oranges into the week, and be sure not to skimp on the dark green leafies! The easiest way to prepare these to preserve the nutrients and preserve the simplicity is to steam, roast or grill. Or better yet, eat them raw.

In 30 minutes or less you have complete, attractive, healthy, and tasty meals made up of whole grains or starches, lean meats, and green or orange vegetables. There are endless varieties of the 1s, 2s and 3s, so your weekly meals never have to be repetitive. That’s all there is to “1-2-3 Eat!” Meal Planning.

Just think about it: You come home from a long day and don’t have something in the slow cooker. You literally have no exact plan for dinner. Then you remember that you have frozen brown rice packs, frozen fish fillets, and some broccoli florets. The fish fillets defrost quickly and can be sauteed in a pan or quickly broiled. The brown rice packs take 3 minutes in the microwave. The broccoli can be steamed in a few minutes. Dinner is saved!

If you always keep a few meat options, a few grain or starch options, and a few green veggie options hanging around, you’ll never be more than 30 minutes from a healthy meal.

1-2-3 Eat! Examples

As you can imagine, the combinations are nearly endless with this method. I suppose one of you statisticians could tell me exactly how many combinations are available, but let’s just go with “nearly endless”.

We’ve put together some options in actual recipe posts though, so I thought I would include some of our favorite “1-2-3 Eat!” meals below.

"1-2-3 Eat!" Orange Salmon with Brown Rice and Green Beans

Brown rice (step 1), Simple Orange Salmon (step 2), and 7-minute green beans (step 3)

healthy orange salmon

"1-2-3 Eat!" Grilled Sirloin Steaks, Roasted Asparagus, Baked Sweet Potatoes

Baked sweet potatoes (step 1), grilled sirloin steaks (step 2), and roasted asparagus (step 3)

Easy 1-2-3 Eat Grilled Steak

"1-2-3 Eat!" Balsamic Chicken, Roasted Butternut Squash, Brown Rice

Brown rice (step 1), balsamic chicken (step 2), and roasted butternut squash (step 3). NOTE: The squash could also be a step 1 starch and you could do a green veggie for step 3.

Roasted Balsamic Chicken

"1-2-3 Eat!" Baked Orange Roughy, Parmesan Zoodles-n-Noodles

Zoodles and noodles (step 1 and 3 together) and baked white fish (step 2)

Baked White Fish

"1-2-3 Eat!" Grilled Shrimp, Roasted Asparagus, Whole Wheat Rolls

Whole wheat rolls (step 1), grilled shrimp (step 2), and roasted asparagus (step 3)

Grilled Shrimp with Roasted Asparagus

Three Easy Steps for 1-2-3 Eat! Meal Planning

The examples above are just that…examples. You can switch out any of the three categories to your liking. We’ve also created this handy chart to help. Of course, even this chart isn’t an exhaustive list of all the possibilities, but it serves as a good memory jogger and idea generator.

STEP 1: Whole Grain or Starch

STEP 2: Lean Protein

STEP 3: Veggie

Brown Rice

Wild Rice

100% Whole Grain Bread

100% Whole Grain Pasta



Cous Cous

Sweet Potatoes

Purple Potatoes


Lean Ground Beef


Pork Loin or Chops

Fish Fillets





Brussels Sprouts

Green Beans




Bell Peppers



Sweet Potatoes


We’ve tagged all of our 1-2-3 Eat recipes in our database so they are easy to find!  Some are full meals and some are just singled components you can combine yourself.  Just click below to see them all.

1-2-3 eat

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I like this option as my family often just likes a meat & vegetable at supper. Now I will try to add a healthy grain to make it a better meal.

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