Here are some guidelines you can use for creating a custom healthy menu.  Information is provided for several meals.

Healthy Meal Model

diagram of a balanced plate of food

Choose water (tap, sparkling, infused), unsweetened coffee and tea.

Choose non-starchy vegetables and whole fruits, in a variety of colors. They provide fiber, a variety of nutrients and make the meal more appealing.

Healthy Proteins
Choose plant-based proteins (tofu, beans, lentils, seeds/nuts and nut butters), lean meats (skinless poultry, seafood), eggs, and plain yogurt.

Whole Grains
Choose unprocessed grains (brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, steel cut oats) when selecting side dishes and baked goods, pasta and tortillas. Whole grains are more filling and nutritious than refined grains, and can help with weight control and boost energy levels.

→ Enjoy – Olive and canola oils, nuts and seeds, nut butters, hummus, avocado, tuna, and salmon are sources of heart-healthy, unsaturated fats.
Limit – Saturated fats found in red meat, deli meats, high-fat dairy products (butter, cheese).
Avoid – Trans fats, found in some processed foods, fried foods, and baked goods made with partially hydrogenated oils.

nourish icon
Become more familiar with Nourish guidelines  


  • Breakfast Tips
  • Baked goods – provide whole-grain options in “mini” versions or cut larger portions in half. Avoid pastries.
    Fruit – whole or sliced fruits are a better option than juice.
    Protein – serve eggs or yogurt instead of processed meats like bacon and sausage.

    Selections for Caterers and Restaurants Selections from Grocery Stores

    Eggs (hard-boiled, scrambled, frittata with vegetables

    Plain yogurt, with toppings (fresh fruit, frozen berries, nuts)

    Fruit (platter, salad, whole) Fruit (platter, salad, whole)
    Breakfast burritos with eggs, beans, salsa, and vegetables Whole-grain bread or English muffins. Choose healthy accompaniments (nut butters, whipped cream cheese, tomato and cucumber slices)
    Whole-grain baked goods (bread, muffins, and bagels). Choose healthy accompaniments (nut butters, whipped cream cheese, sliced vegetables) Plain, instant oatmeal (have hot water available) with accompaniments on the side (fruit, nuts, cinnamon)
    Oatmeal with accompaniments on the side  
  • Lunch
  • Sandwiches and wraps – provide whole-grain breads and tortillas, healthy proteins (roasted turkey, grilled chicken); and nutritious condiments (hummus, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber, leafy greens and other vegetables).
    Salads – top greens and sliced veggies with protein (tuna, grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, beans). Provide healthy toppings (avocados, nuts) in place of less healthy options (cheese, bacon bits, croutons, crispy wonton strips). Choose vinaigrette dressings and serve them on the side.
    Desserts – serve whole or sliced fruit. If serving baked goods, use small portions.
    Selections for Caterers and Restaurants Selections from Grocery Stores

    When ordering boxed lunches, choose entrée salads or sandwiches made with lots of vegetables on whole grain breads or wraps.

    Create your own salad bar (salad greens, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, other sliced veggies, chopped nuts, rinsed beans) or choose a pre-made salad.

    Sandwich halves on platters Make your own sandwich or wrap (turkey, chicken, marinated tofu, assorted vegetables, hummus, mustard, vinaigrette, avocado)
    Ask the caterer to substitute fruit for the cookie and a vegetable side dish for the chips.  
    Serve dressings and other condiments on the side.  
    Baked or grilled chicken, turkey, fish, tofu  
    Broth-based soups instead of creamy soups  
  • Sides/Snacks
  • Selections for Caterers and Restaurants Selections from Grocery Stores

    Vegetable platter with hummus or guacamole

    Raw vegetables (baby carrots, snap peas, cherry tomatoes) with hummus or guacamole

    Vegetables (roasted, steamed, grilled, stir-fried) Vegetable platter
    Green salad with vinaigrette dressing on the side Fruit (platter, salad, whole)
    Pasta or side salad incorporating brown rice, quinoa, beans, whole-grain couscous Unsalted nuts and seeds
    Fruit (platter, salad, whole) Trail mix containing primarily nuts and unsweetened dried fruit
    Unsalted nuts and seeds
    Note – any of these can be sides in a boxed lunch.
    Plain yogurt with accompaniments (fruit and nuts)

    More Ideas for Meeting Snack Swaps:

    Choose: Instead of:
    Whole fruit items, dark chocolate Pastries high in sugar, chocolate
    Edamame, vegetable spring rolls   Regular popcorn or Eggs rolls
    Whole grain bread (2.5 grams dietary fiber) Traditional assorted bread products
    Nuts or non-fat yogurt Processed meats like bacon and sausage
    Whole-grain crackers/ unsalted pretzels Chips or donuts
    Hummus, non-fat yogurt dipping sauces Sour cream-based dips
  • Beverages
  • Water – served in pitchers or a dispenser. Consider water infused with cucumber, citrus or strawberries. Encourage participants to bring their own beverage containers and point out the nearest water station.
    Unsweetened beverages – provide regular and decaffeinated coffee, and tea. Low-fat milk (cow, soy, almond) is the preferred creamers.
    Other beverages – carbonated water with a splash of 100% fruit juice is an option. Limit fruit and vegetable juices to 4-8 oz. portions.