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1-Week Healthy and Balanced Meal Plan, According to a Dietitian

By Natalie Olsen, MS, RDN, LD, ACSM-EP

Medically Reviewed by Anastasia Climan, RDN, CD-N

Published on May 17, 2022

A healthy eating pattern can be an impactful part of reaching optimal wellness. Although healthy diets can vary by the individual, there are some key components to focus on that can be a great starting point for creating a healthy and balanced meal plan.

Written by
Natalie Olsen, MS, RDN, LD, ACSM-EP
Registered Dietitian, Certified Exercise Physiologist
Natalie is a registered dietitian, functional medicine practitioner and certified exercise physiologist with over 15 years experience in the health and wellness industry and holds a Master's degree in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine through a collaborative program provided by the University of Western States and the Institute of Functional Medicine.
Medically Reviewed by
Anastasia Climan, RDN, CD-N
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Anastasia Climan is a registered dietitian whose career progressed into public health, corporate wellness, and private practice roles. She earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Connecticut's Coordinated Undergraduate Dietetics Program in 2011. She's led wellness initiatives on HIV/AIDS, children's health, and diabetes.
1-Week Healthy and Balanced Meal Plan, According to a Dietitian
Photo credit: iStock.com/FreshSplash

What you eat each day can influence many aspects of health — including mood, energy, weight, and sleep — and even help manage or prevent disease.

Figuring out which eating pattern is best for you can be confusing and difficult — especially with so many different diets and mixed information out there.

There are many things to consider when determining which diet plan to follow, while also ensuring you are getting all the nutrients needed to optimize health.

Working with a dietitian can be a very helpful way to create an individualized eating pattern that meets your specific health needs and goals.

However, there are a few key evidence-based recommendations that make up a healthy diet and can be a great starting point for creating a healthy and balanced meal plan.

Read on to learn what the foundations of a healthy diet are and helpful considerations for improving the quality of the food we eat.

Also, learn which eating pattern ranks the best for overall health, and find an example of a 7-day healthy and balanced meal plan.

What Is Included in a Healthy Diet?

Although this is a very broad question, there are a few foundational aspects of a healthy eating pattern that can be included daily.

A healthy meal plan should emphasize the following:

At Least 5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables

Research shows that getting at least five servings of fruits and vegetables is linked to a lower risk of death from cancer, heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease. (1)

Aiming for two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables is a good goal.

Fiber

A minimum of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. (2)

Fiber has many health benefits — including improving weight, gut health, insulin sensitivity, blood sugar management, and lowering inflammation.

It has also been linked to lowering the risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, and all-cause mortality. (3)

When eating carbohydrates, it is best to focus on higher fiber options like beans, lentils, chickpeas, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Healthy Fats and Lean Protein

In addition to focusing on high-quality carbohydrates that have fiber, including healthy fats and lean proteins are both important parts of a balanced diet.

Focus on foods with unsaturated fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, and olive oil and lean protein — which has less saturated fat — such as chicken and turkey without the skin and fish.

Plant-based protein sources such as tofu, beans, chickpeas, and lentils are also healthy options.

Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats that can improve heart health and decrease inflammation. (4)

Consuming more fatty fish like salmon or tuna — or getting plant-based omega-3s from walnuts, hemp, chia, or flax seeds — is recommended.

Related: Foods That Are Very High In Omega-3

Whole and Plant-Based Foods

Limiting processed and refined foods can help you get more fiber and other nutrients associated with better health outcomes. (3)

In addition, consuming more plants is highly beneficial.

If you are a current meat eater, this does not mean you have to give up eating meat altogether — but instead — focus on more plant-based options like fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet include gut health, lowering inflammation, managing weight, and decreasing the risk of disease. (5, 6)

Consuming a highly-processed diet is linked to a higher risk of being overweight or obese, having cholesterol issues, and metabolic syndrome — which includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. (7)

Summary

Fruits, vegetables, fiber, healthy fats, lean proteins, and whole foods are important foundations of a healthy, well-balanced eating pattern.

Each day, aim for five servings of fruits and veggies, and a minimum of 25 grams of fiber for women and 38 grams for men.

Also, focus on healthy fats and lean protein, while consuming more whole foods instead of processed and refined foods.

What Are Other Considerations for a Healthy Diet?

In addition to the foundational aspects of a healthy diet, it is important to also focus on the quality of foods consumed. This means focusing on organic, non-genetically modified foods and limiting processed and red meat.

Limit Processed and Red Meat

The quality of meat consumed can make a big impact on our health.

The American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020, and the American Diabetes Association all emphasize limited consumption of red and processed meat. (8)

If you are eating red meat, focus on high-quality, grass-fed, unprocessed options void of added hormones and antibiotics. This will increase nutrient density and is linked to improved health. (9, 10)

Processed meat is linked to an increase in heart disease, diabetes, and cancer risk. (8)

Based on a comprehensive review of evidence, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen and red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A).

Focusing on high-quality, unprocessed meat — or replacing processed and red meat with poultry, fish, or minimally processed plant-based protein sources like legumes or nuts — can decrease the risk of chronic diseases. (8)

Related: Nutritious Protein-Rich Foods That Offer More

Focus on Organic, Non-GMO Foods

Focusing on quality also means including foods that have little to no pesticides and are not genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Although chemical pesticides — including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides — can protect from crop loss, their use remains controversial for human health.

Pesticides have been linked to health issues — including neurological disorders, cardiovascular issues, and cancer. (11, 12, 13)

For example, glyphosate — a common pesticide used — has been determined to be a “probable human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC ). (14)

A review in the New England Journal of Medicine on GMOs, herbicides, and human health stated, “GM foods and the herbicides applied to them may pose hazards to human health.” (15)

Therefore, focusing on organic, non-genetically modified foods may be beneficial for health.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit that focuses on providing research and resources to become more aware of the health and safety of our food and water.

Each year they test a variety of fruits and vegetables for pesticide contamination and create a list of the most and least contaminated. These lists are called the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen.” (16)

The following are called the “dirty dozen” and were found to have the highest contamination of pesticides: (17)

  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Kale, collard and mustard greens
  • Nectarines
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Bell and hot peppers
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes

The “clean fifteen” includes the list of produce that had the least amount of pesticides when tested: (18)

  • Avocadoes
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapple
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Asparagus
  • Honeydew melon
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Mushrooms
  • Cantaloupe
  • Mangoes
  • Watermelon
  • Sweet potatoes

In general — to limit exposure to pesticides — it is best to buy organic produce, particularly if buying fruits and vegetables from the “dirty dozen” list.

Summary 

A healthy eating plan should focus on organic, non-genetically modified foods and minimize pesticide intake. This is linked to health improvements and decreased risk of disease.

Improving the quality of meat consumed can also make a positive impact on health. High-quality red meat that is not processed can be a part of a healthy, well-balanced diet, but it is recommended to focus more on poultry, fish, or minimally processed plant-based protein sources.

Which Diet Ranks the Best for Health?

When it comes to creating a healthy, well-balanced eating plan, it can be helpful to know which diets rank the best for overall health.

There are many different variables that can be looked at when determining if a diet is considered healthy — including how it affects our overall health, how easy it is to follow, and how nutritionally complete it is.

The U.S. News and World Report has a team of nationally recognized experts who rank 40 different diets every year based on the following: (19)

  • How easy it is to follow.
  • Its ability to produce short-term weight loss.
  • Its ability to produce long-term weight loss.
  • Its nutritional completeness.
  • Its safety.
  • Its potential for preventing and managing diabetes.
  • Its potential for preventing and managing heart disease.

Based on this review, the Mediterranean diet ranks as the “best diet for healthy eating.” (20)

This is because it is well-balanced, nutritionally complete, safe and sustainable to follow long-term.

The Mediterranean diet includes plants as the foundation of the diet and focuses on whole, unprocessed foods with an emphasis on plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

It also emphasizes lean meats, like fish, and healthy fats, like olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds.

The Mediterranean diet limits red meat and dairy and encourages a lower intake of added sugar and saturated fat. (21)

This eating pattern offers several benefits for cardiovascular health. (21)

The Mediterranean diet has also been proven to reduce or even prevent the development of many other health issues — including breast cancer, depression, colorectal cancer, diabetes, obesity, asthma, erectile dysfunction, and cognitive decline. (21, 22)

Summary

The Mediterranean diet is a well-balanced, sustainable, and nutrient-dense eating plan that is well researched for improving or preventing many health issues. This diet pattern could be a good base for creating a meal plan.

7-Day Healthy Eating Plan

When creating a healthy eating plan, it is important to include plenty of fruits, veggies, fiber, healthy fats, lean proteins, and to focus on whole foods.

Other important considerations include aiming for unprocessed, organic, non-GMO foods when possible.

Use this 7-day healthy, well-balanced meal plan as a general guide. It emphasizes a Mediterranean-type diet and includes the following aspects that have been shown to improve health:

  • At least five servings of fruits and vegetables.
  • Plenty of fiber.
  • Whole, unprocessed foods.
  • Healthy fats and lean or plant-based proteins.

It is important to note that individual needs, dietary preferences, and health goals will vary, but you can use this meal plan as a foundational guideline and adjust as needed.

Day 1

Nutritional Summary

  • Calories: 1,765
  • Carbohydrates: 210 grams
  • Protein: 86 grams
  • Fat: 68 grams
  • Fiber: 54 grams

Breakfast 

Oatmeal bowl made with:

  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup mixed berries
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Snack

  • Apple
  • 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter

Lunch

Salad bowl made with:

  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • 2 cups of leafy greens
  • 1 ounce broccoli sprouts
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup chopped cucumbers
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 cup chopped strawberries
  • Fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Snack

  • 3 tablespoons hummus spread onto cucumber slices
  • Wrapped in 2 ounces of turkey slices
  • Apple

Dinner

  • 4 ounces cooked wild salmon
  • 1.5 cups roasted mixed veggies with olive oil
  • 1 medium, baked sweet potato with skin

Day 2

Nutritional Summary

  • Calories: 1,784
  • Carbohydrates: 198 grams
  • Protein: 113 grams
  • Fat: 67 grams
  • Fiber: 44 grams

Breakfast

  • 2 egg veggie omelet with 1 cup chopped peppers and onions
  • 2 slices of whole sprouted grain bread with 1/2 avocado

Snack

  • Banana
  • 15 whole almonds

Lunch

Pasta bowl made with:

  • 1 cup whole grain pasta
  • 1 cup cooked broccoli
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil and basil pasta sauce

Snack

  • 1 cup plain whole fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup warm berries on top

Dinner

Taco bowl made with:

  • 4 ounces shredded chicken
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 3 tablespoons chunky salsa
  • 1 ounce cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded lettuce

Day 3

Nutritional Summary

  • Calories: 1,876
  • Carbohydrates: 214 grams
  • Protein: 84 grams
  • Fat: 81 grams
  • Fiber: 50 grams

Breakfast

Burrito made with:

  • 1/2 cup Black beans
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
  • On whole grain tortilla

Snack

Lunch

Salad bowl made with:

  • 1/2 cup chickpeas
  • 3 ounces chopped chicken breast
  • 2 cups of leafy greens
  • 1/2 medium, chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
  • 1 ounce broccoli sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 10 kalamata olives

Snack

  • Apple slices
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter

Dinner

  • Lentil and veggie soup

Day 4

Nutritional Summary

  • Calories: 1,964
  • Carbohydrates: 183 grams
  • Protein: 116 grams
  • Fat: 84 grams
  • Fiber: 38 grams

Breakfast

Oatmeal bowl made with:

  • 1 cup plain, unsweetened oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup mixed berries
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/8 cup slivered almonds

Snack

  • Banana
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter

Lunch

Sandwich wrap made with:

  • Whole grain wrap
  • 2 ounces turkey slices and cheese
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • Tomato
  • 2 teaspoons mustard

And a side of:

  • 4 ounces baked sweet potato fries with 1 Tbsp of olive oil

Snack

Yogurt parfait made with:

  • 1 cup plain whole fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup warm berries
  • drizzle of honey on top

Dinner

  • 6 ounces cooked wild salmon
  • 3/4 cup of quinoa
  • 10 spears of asparagus drizzled in olive oil

Day 5

Nutritional Summary

  • Calories: 1,641
  • Carbohydrates: 195 grams
  • Protein: 91 grams
  • Fat: 59 grams
  • Fiber: 49 grams

Breakfast 

  • 2 egg veggie omelet with 1 cup chopped broccoli and 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 2 slices of whole sprouted grain bread with 1/2 avocado

Snack

  • 4 tablespoons hummus with carrots, cucumbers, and celery

Lunch

Pasta bowl made with:

  • 2 ounces black bean pasta
  • 1/2 cup cooked and chopped peppers
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red pasta sauce
  • Sprinkle of 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese

Snack

  • 1/2 cup of frozen coconut yogurt
  • 1/4 cup warm berries on top

Dinner

  • 4 ounces grass-fed beef patty in lettuce wrap with tomato
  • 6 ounces baked sweet potato with 1 tablespoon grass-fed butter

Day 6

Nutritional Summary

  • Calories: 1,710
  • Carbohydrates: 204 grams
  • Protein: 86 grams
  • Fat: 64 grams
  • Fiber: 42 grams

Breakfast

Chocolate wild blueberry smoothie made with:

  • 1/2 tablespoon cacao powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup wild blueberries
  • 1/2 cup flax milk
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 and 1/2 dates
  • 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon chia seeds

Snack

Chips and dip using:

  • 1/2 cup bean dip
  • 1/4 avocado
  • Organic tortilla chips

Lunch

Pasta bowl made with:

  • 1 cup whole grain pasta
  • 1 cup cooked broccoli
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic, and basil-flavored tomato pasta sauce

Snack

  • 3 tablespoons hummus spread onto cucumber slices
  • Wrapped in 2 ounces of turkey slices
  • Olives

Dinner

Salad bowl made with:

  • 1/2 cup chickpeas
  • 3 ounces chopped chicken breast
  • 2 cups of leafy greens
  • 1/2 medium, chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
  • 1 ounce broccoli sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup pumpkin seeds

Day 7

Nutritional Summary

  • Calories: 1,770
  • Carbohydrates: 229 grams
  • Protein: 105 grams
  • Fat: 49 grams
  • Fiber: 37 grams

Breakfast

Smoothie made with:

  • 1 cup unsweetened flax milk
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup of spinach

Snack

  • 4 tablespoons hummus with carrots, cucumbers, and celery

Lunch

  • 6-piece tuna sushi roll
  • Miso soup
  • Cucumber salad

Snack

  • 1/2 cup of frozen coconut yogurt
  • 1/4 cup warm berries on top

Dinner

Taco bowl made with:

  • 4 ounces shredded chicken
  • 1/2 cup black beans
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 3 tablespoons chunky salsa
  • 1 ounce cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded lettuce

Frequently Asked Questions

What are aspects of a healthy well-balanced diet?

Some foundational components of a healthy diet include getting five servings of fruits and vegetables, the minimum amount of daily fiber (25–38 grams depending on sex), including healthy fats and lean proteins, and focusing on whole, minimally-processed foods.

Is there a specific diet pattern that is recommended?

The Mediterranean diet is a great example of a well-balanced and nutritionally complete diet. It focuses on whole, unprocessed foods and includes legumes, fruits, veggies, and fiber daily.

It also emphasizes healthy fats and lean meats like fish. It has been ranked one of the top diets by the US News and World Report.

Is eating organic and non-GMO important for a healthy diet?

Focusing on organic, non-genetically modified foods is linked to improved health. Although research is controversial, pesticides and GMOs may be hazardous to human health. When focusing on aspects of a healthy diet, these are important things to consider.

The Bottom Line

There are many things to consider when creating a healthy meal plan.

Evidence has shown that getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fiber while focusing on whole, unprocessed foods — with an emphasis on plants — are important foundational factors that can improve health.

Additionally, a well-rounded diet will include healthy fats and lean proteins.

A Mediterranean diet plan is one that includes these key aspects of a diet and can be a good option to consider when creating a healthy meal plan.

Other considerations are to focus on high-quality foods — such as organic, non-GMO options — and be mindful of the quality of meats consumed.

Processed and red meat are linked to worse health outcomes. Focusing on high-quality, grass-fed meats void of hormones and antibiotics or replacing at least some red meat in your diet with poultry, fish, or plant-based protein options can benefit health.

It is important to note that individual needs, dietary preferences, and health goals will vary, but you can use the example meal plan provided as a foundational guideline and adjust as needed.

For a more individualized meal plan tailored to your specific needs and goals, it is best to work with a dietitian.

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