Posted on

Meal Planning

Meal planning is carefully selecting foodstuffs and preparation using appropriate cooking methods to meet the nutritional requirements (for growth, body building, energy supply and body protection) of people or persons.

1. Type of foods in season:
Foods in season are cheaper and may be more nutritious.
2. Health condition of the family members:
Plan meals that will meet the health condition of members of the family.
3. Composition and nutritional needs of family members:
The need of various age groups in the family must be taken into consideration. Each group has its own needs.
4. Cooking methods chosen:
The cooking method that will ensure retention of food nutrients should be chosen. Some cooking methods destroy nutrients more than others.
5. Adequacy and availability of foods:
Plan meal with foods that can easily be obtained in your community.
6. Cooking skills of the home maker:
The home maker should observe the method of food he/she can handle. Do not include things you cannot prepare.
7. Cooking facilities available:
If you do not have an oven, do not include a lot of baked foods in the plan. However, improvised ovens are now available.
8. Occupation of members of the family:
Different occupations have different needs. An office executive needs less energy than a manual labourer.
9. Family income:
The amount of money available for feeding must be taken into consideration. Plan within your budgets.
10. Personal likes and dislikes:
There are individual likes and dislikes among individuals. This should be considered in planning meals.
11. Quality of food:
Meals planned must be adequate, palatable and attractive. It should also be safe to eat. Meals planned must not be monotonous. Variety ensures that people obtain as many nutrients as possible.

An adequate or balanced diet is one which provides all the essential nutrients in sufficient qualities to meet the nutritional needs of an individual (energy, growth, repair and regulation of body processes). In order to plan an adequate diet, we use the food groupings. The food groupings are the various ways available food is classified. Food can be classified in various ways. We can classify them based on their functions or types or any system that enables us to make a good selection that will ensure meeting the nutritional needs of individuals or families. Using the available food and our traditional food habits, we can group food according to:


Group 1: Energy giving foods are as follows:
i. Root and tubers (yam, cocoyam, potatoes (sweet or Irish), cassava).
ii. Cereals (e.g. rice, wheat, maize, oat).
iii. Fats and oils (palm oils, vegetable oil, margarine, butter, etc.) and
iv. Starchy fruit (green plantains or banana).

Group 2: Body building food:
i. Animal proteins (meat, fish, egg, milk, snail, crayfish etc); and
ii. Legumes (black eyed beans, soyabeans, pigeon pea, nut/seeds, barbara groundnuts, groundnuts)

Group 3: Protective food:
i. Fruits (oranges, paw paw, pineapple, mango, apple, pear, sour sop, etc); and
ii. Vegetables (Afang, pumpkin, spinach, carrots, etc)

Group 4: These include food items which are high in dietary fibre, including fruits and vegetables, cereals, legumes and adequate amount of water.


Group 1: Starchy roots/tubers/starchy fruits and cereals. The major nutrient here is carbohydrate.

Group 2: Animal foods; legumes, nuts and seeds. These provide mainly proteins.

Group 3: Fats and oils: These ones provide essential fatty acids or fat in the diet.

Group 4: Vegetables: This group includes all green leaves, fruits and immature seed vegetables. These are the major sources of vitamins and minerals.

Group 5: Fruits (especially citrus fruits (orange, lemon, lime) pawpaw, pineapple, guava, Mango, sour sop, etc). They are the major sources of vitamin C.

Group 6: Others (spices, condiments, herbs). These are used in small quantities and they still provide valuable amounts of nutrients and some have medicinal values.

Planning an adequate diet requires the selection of at least one food item from each of the food groups. The major difference between the two food groups given here is the fact that fruits and vegetables are separated in the second one. This is done to ensure that we improve our nutrient intake by encouraging the consumption of fruits at meal times. Fruits are the major source of vitamin C. Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron and it is a very important antioxidant in the body. Antioxidants prevent cell damage that leads to many degenerative diseases.


A menu is a means of informing people what a particular meal is on the list of meals on offer. There are usually three meals in a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. In-between these meals, snacks could be served. A breakfast menu, for example, shows what items would be served at breakfast. So, we have breakfast menu, lunch menu, and dinner, and at times, supper menu.

Planning a menu is an important function of a home maker or a caterer. Menus can be planned for households, restaurants, hospitals, schools, etc. A well-planned menu helps in knowing what food to purchase, what facilities should be made available and also shows the creativity, style and nutritional knowledge of the planner.

There are different kinds of menus for the normal day meals, which we have at home.

Other types include:
i. Special party or function menus:
These are for special occasions, for example, banquets, wedding, silver or golden wedding, anniversary, retirement, conference and coming of age.
ii. Hospital menus:
A dietician is responsible for planning this type of menu to ensure that patients get exactly what they need.
iii. Menu for people at work:
This type of menu depends on the company policy on the welfare of their staff.
iv. Menu for children:
This is seen in boarding schools and also in places where school meals are given.
v. Special menus:
These are very special menus based on country of origin or religion. For example, Chinese, Efik and Italian menus.
vi. A la carte:
In this type of menu, several dishes are listed and priced individually. The customer selects what he/she wants and these are prepared or cooked as ordered. The customer has to wait for a while, before the food arrives. This is found in restaurants.
vii Table d’ hote or set-price menu:
This again is found in hotels/restaurants. The menu is usually composed of two or more courses at a set-price. A choice of dishes may be offered for each course.

The information on the menu needs to be clearly stated and set out in courses so that the menu is easily understood. A meal is made up of at least two courses. A course is a part of meal served separately.

The description on the menu should give an indication, as appropriate, of the size, quality, preparation and composition of the dish.

Breakfast is the first meal of the day. The breakfast menu can be computed from the following foods:

i. Fruits: (whole fruits, fruit juices or stewed fruit).
ii. Cereals: cornflakes, porridges (ogi, oat and corn meal).
iii. Eggs: fried, boiled, poached, scrambled, omelletes with bacon or tomatoes, mushrooms or sante tomatoes.
iv. Fish, fish cake and fried fish.
v. Meat: fried, grilled, sausages, kidney, liver with tomatoes, sante potatoes or fried plantain.
vi. Pressure: marmalade, jams and honey.
vii. Beverages: tea, coffee, cocoa-based beverages (milo, bournvita, etc.).
viii. Bread: rolls, toast, pancakes, waffles and croissants.
ix. Starch Root: boiled/fried yam, plantain or potatoes.
x. Legumes: Akara, moi-moi, etc.

A breakfast menu can be compiled from the above, depending on what is available. A variation of breakfast menu is the continental. A continental breakfast is one that does not include any cooked dish.

a. Orange juice or orange segments or pawpaw cubes
b. Cornflakes/oats/ogi
c. Croissant/rolls/toast with jam/butter
d. Cheese/sardine
e. Chocolate/tea/coffee with milk.

i. Fresh orange/Pineapple
– Ogi
– Akara/Moi-moi
– Chocolate/Tea/Coffee with milk
ii. Fresh fruit/juice
– Pancake with fish sauce
– Hot vanilla flavour, soyabean milk

Lunch is the meal eaten at or shortly after mid-day. What people prefer for lunch varies according to the individuals’ likes and dislikes, their occupation, physical activities, family habits. While some would prefer a heavy lunch, others prefer a light one. Hence, lunch menus should be compiled to meet the needs of the individual or groups of individuals.

i. Hors-d’oeuvre:
Assorted or simple items, light salads with a vegetable, fish, meat, etc.
ii. Appetizer soup:
Pepper soup, cream soup, chicken, mushroom soups.
iii. Main course:
These are usually the meat dishes. Menus from other parts of the world based on animal proteins (chicken, meat, lamb, pork, etc). In Nigeria, they are based and named after the starchy staples, for example, Garri, Pounded Yam, Amala, Fufu, Rice and Yam.
iv. Sweets:
These are made up of milk puddings, fruit salads, fruit fritters, egg custards, caramel custard, ices and ice-creams.
v. Desserts:
These are made from fresh fruits of all kinds. Supper menus could be selected from the same list of food as from lunch. The number of courses vary with individual households. In the Nigerian context, it is necessary to have at least a two course meal made up of the main course or main dish and a dessert. This is because our dishes are mainly one pot (the cocoyam/yam, vegetables, fat, meat/fish/sea foods, etc). A dessert of fruit salad or whole fresh fruit will make an appropriate second course. This furnishes the much needed vitamin C for iron absorption.
vi. Tea/coffee.

i. Ekpankwukwo
Fruit salad
ii. Goat meat pepper soup
Fresh fish, vegetable stew with boiled yam, pawpaw ring. iii. Tomato salad.
Goat meat, white Nsala soup with pounded yam, fruit salad.