Seven-Day Menu Planner

Susan Nicholson is an Atlanta-based cookbook author and registered dietician. She can be reached by email at Look for Susan's new book, "The 7-Day Menu Planner for Dummies," in bookstores. The Menu Planner is also accessible at Read Susan's blog at

SUNDAY (Family) — Your own BALSAMIC MARINATED FLANK STEAK is just what the family ordered. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 clove minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Mix well; pour into a resealable plastic bag. Add 1 (1 1/2-pound) flank steak. Seal bag and marinate in refrigerator 6 hours to overnight; turn occasionally. To grill, remove steak; discard marinade. Grill on medium, covered, 11 to 21 minutes for medium- to medium-rare doneness; turn occasionally. Remove from grill; let stand 5 minutes. Carve crosswise into thin slices.

Prepare your own OVEN-ROASTED POTATOES and CARROTS and add a ROMAINE SALAD and WHOLE-GRAIN ROLLS. For a special dessert, slice COCONUT CAKE.

PLAN AHEAD: Save enough steak for Monday. Save enough cake and cook enough potatoes for Tuesday.

SHOPPING LIST: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, fresh basil, Dijon mustard, garlic, sugar, flank steak, potatoes and carrots to roast, romaine, whole-grain rolls, coconut cake.

MONDAY (Heat and Eat) — Make STEAK TACOS tonight. For the sauce: In a small bowl, combine 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro and 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers; mix well, cover and refrigerate. For the filling: Cut leftover steak into thin slices and then into strips. Stir-fry 1 medium red bell pepper and 1 onion, each thinly sliced, 4 minutes in 2 teaspoons canola oil. Add steak; stir-fry 1 minute or until hot. Warm 4 burrito-size flour tortillas and spoon meat and vegetables into them. Top with sauce and roll.

Serve with canned reduced-sodium PINTO BEANS. TROPICAL FRUIT is dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: reduced-fat sour cream, cilantro, canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, red bell pepper, onion, canola oil, burrito-size flour tortillas, canned reduced-sodium pinto beans, tropical fruit.

TUESDAY (Meatless) — Skip meat tonight and try this POTATO-VEGETABLE FRITTATA (see recipe). Serve with a SPINACH SALAD and toasted whole-grain ENGLISH MUFFINS. For dessert, enjoy leftover CAKE.

SHOPPING LIST: olive oil, red onion, zucchini, eggs, parmesan, shredded part-skim mozzarella, parsley, salsa, fresh spinach, whole-grain English muffins.

WEDNESDAY (Budget) — CHILI WITH BEANS (see recipe) will work for an economical meal. Spoon it over CORNBREAD (from a mix) squares and top it with reduced-fat sour cream and chopped cilantro. Serve with MIXED GREENS. Fresh PINEAPPLE CHUNKS are good for dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: 95 percent lean ground beef, onion, canned reduced-sodium pinto beans, no-salt-added tomato juice, canned condensed tomato soup, chili powder, coarse salt, pepper, 50 percent reduced-fat cheddar cheese, green onions, cornbread mix, reduced-fat sour cream, cilantro, salad greens, fresh pineapple.

THURSDAY (Kids) — Treat the kids to CHIX STIX. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush all sides of chicken tenders (1 pound) with low-fat mayonnaise and then coat all sides with 1/2 to 3/4 cup panko crumbs. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet; bake 15 minutes or until golden and chicken registers 165 degrees. Make a DIP with half low-fat mayonnaise and half honey-mustard sauce.


SHOPPING LIST: chicken tenders, low-fat mayonnaise, panko crumbs, honey-mustard sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, soft rolls, peanut butter cookies.

FRIDAY (Express) — For a quick meal, try frozen ASIAGO CHEESE TORTELLONI (such as Lean Cuisine) or another flavor. Add a packaged ITALIAN SALAD and GARLIC BREAD. TAPIOCA PUDDING is dessert.

SHOPPING LIST: Asiago Cheese Tortelloni (such as Lean Cuisine) or another flavor, Italian salad, garlic bread, tapioca pudding.

SATURDAY (Easy Entertaining) — Invite guests for MAPLE-GLAZED SALMON (see recipe). Serve with aromatic JASMINE RICE and SUGAR SNAP PEAS. Add a BOSTON LETTUCE SALAD and BAGUETTES. For dessert, buy a KEY LIME PIE.

SHOPPING LIST: salmon fillets, coarse salt, butter, maple syrup, fresh chives, jasmine rice, sugar snap peas, Boston lettuce, baguettes, key lime pie.



Makes 4 servings

Preparation time: about 15 minutes

Cooking time: less than 20 minutes

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 medium red onion, sliced

1 medium zucchini, sliced

3 whole eggs

6 egg whites

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 cup leftover cooked potatoes, chopped

Salsa for garnish

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil on medium. Add onion and zucchini and cook 5 minutes or until almost softened. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together whole eggs, egg whites, parmesan, mozzarella and parsley. Stir potatoes into mixture in skillet, then pour egg mixture over top. Cover and cook on low 8 to 10 minutes or until bottom is golden and top is set. Cut into 4 wedges and serve with salsa.

Per serving: 238 calories, 19 grams protein, 11 grams fat (42 percent calories from fat), 4.7 grams saturated fat, 15 grams carbohydrate, 157 milligrams cholesterol, 385 milligrams sodium, 2 grams fiber.


Makes 8 cups

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: less than 20 minutes, plus 4 hours on high

2 pounds 95 percent lean ground beef

1 large onion, chopped

2 (15-ounce) cans reduced-sodium pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 cups no-salt-added tomato juice

1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed tomato soup

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Shredded 50 percent reduced-fat cheddar cheese and sliced green onions for garnish

In a large nonstick skillet, cook beef 8 minutes or until no longer pink. Microwave onion on high 10 minutes or until softened; drain. Place cooked beef, onion, beans, juice, soup, chili powder, salt and pepper in 4-quart or larger slow cooker. Cook on high 4 hours. Mix well, ladle into bowls and garnish with cheese and onions.

Per cup: 262 calories, 31 grams protein, 6 grams fat (20 percent calories from fat), 2.3 grams saturated fat, 25 grams carbohydrate, 62 milligrams cholesterol, 551 milligrams sodium, 7 grams fiber.


Makes 6 servings

Preparation time: less than 10 minutes

Cooking time: less than 10 minutes

6 (5- to 6-ounce) salmon fillets

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup maple syrup, divided

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Heat broiler. Sprinkle salmon evenly with salt. In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter on medium. Add salmon, skin side up; cook 2 minutes. Place salmon, skin side down, on broiler rack coated with cooking spray; place rack in broiler pan lined with foil and brush salmon with half the syrup. Broil 5 inches from heat 5 to 7 minutes or until syrup caramelizes. Brush with remaining syrup; sprinkle with chives.

Per serving: 236 calories, 30 grams protein, 8 grams fat (33 percent calories from fat), 2.4 grams saturated fat, 9 grams carbohydrate, 71 milligrams cholesterol, 287 milligrams sodium, no fiber.