Meal Planning and daily food guide


Meal planning is making a plan of meals with adequate nutrition for every member of the family within the available resources. The term ‘available resources’ means whatever the family has in terms of time, energy and money.


Meal planning is important for meeting the nutritional requirements of the family members. It helps us to decide what to eat each day and in each meal. We can call it our ‘daily food guide’. Meal planning helps us to:

  • fulfill the nutritional requirements of the family members
  • make the food economical
  • cater to the food preferences of individual members
  • save energy, time and money
  • use leftover food

The following section will help you to understand these points clearly.


What guidelines do you keep in mind while planning meals? What do you consider to make your meal planning effective? Yes, there are many factors such as

  1. Nutritional Adequacy This is the most important factor, which means that the nutritional requirements of all the family members are fulfilled. For example, you know a growing child needs more protein, a pregnant or lactating woman needs calcium, etc. While planning meals you will include food items from various food groups, that is, energy giving foods, bodybuilding foods, and protective and regulating foods.

  2. Age People normally eat according to their age. You must have observed in your family that the diet of various members of different age groups differs in quantity. A newborn baby drinks only milk, a small child’s meal is also of very small quantity, an adolescent eats still more in amount and variety of foods. Similarly, you must have seen your grandfather eating less food and also that they prefer soft and easy to digest foods.
  3. Sex. Sex is another factor which determines the dietary intake. The dietary requirement of adolescent and adult males are more than their female counterparts.

  4. Physical Activity The kind of work a person does affects the kind and amount of food they need to take. Do you remember that RDA is different for people engaged in different activities? A labourer not only eats more quantity but needs more energy because he is engaged in hard work. His body uses up more energy while performing hard work. So, if you have to plan for such a person you will include more energy giving foods in the diet.
  5. Economic Considerations Money available to the family to be spent on food is another major factor. Foods like milk, cheese, meat, fruits, nuts etc. are expensive. However, alternative sources like toned milk, seasonal fruits and vegetables are less costly and at the same time nutritious. You can, therefore, plan a balanced diet to suit every budget. Tips for the economy:

  • Buy food in bulk, if you have enough place to store.
  • Buy from fair price shops like ration-shops, super bazaars, cooperative stores, etc.
  • Compare prices and quality while buying.
  • Make use of left-over food.


    1. Time, energy and skill considerations While planning the meals, you should consider the resources like time, energy and skill available to the family. Meals can be elaborate with different dishes but you can simplify them by cooking a simple but nutritious dish. For example, a working mother could prepare a paushtik pulao, instead of preparing three or four items for dinner.
    2. Seasonal availability. Some foods are available in summers while some in winters. The off season foods are expensive and less nutritious, while those in season are fresh, nutritious, tasty and cheap. Hence, while planning seasonal foods should be used.

  1. Religion, region, cultural patterns, traditions and customs Regional factors influence meal planning. For example, if you are a North Indian, you will consume more of wheat, while those near the coastal region, will consume more of coconut, fish, etc. Similarly, your staple food would be rice if you are a South Indian. Religious beliefs prevalent in the family also have an influence. For example, if you are a vegetarian, your diet will not have any meat or meat product, Hindus do not eat beef and Muslims do not eat pork, etc.
  2. Variety in colour and texture. These factors help you to make meals more appealing, attractive and hence more acceptable.

  3. Likes and dislikes of individuals. The food you serve should cater to the likes and dislikes of the individual family members. It is often better to change the form of some particularly nutritious food item, rather than omitting it completely. For example, if someone in your family does not like milk, you can give it in the form of curd, paneer, etc. Similarly, if one does not want to take green leafy vegetables in cooked form, what alternative would you suggest, so that it can be taken in adequate amount? Yes, it can be used in a variety of ways – mixed with flour and made into paranthas or poories
  4. Satiety Value While planning meals, take care that you select foods which provide satiety value. Meals which produce inadequate satiety will lead to the onset of hunger pangs, which in turn will affect the working capacity and efficiency of a person. Satiety: Feeling of fullness after eating

Read Also: Balance Diet and Nutrients