Many experts recommend that people let nutrition guide them when creating menus. This means incorporating lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains as much as possible when you plan a meal. While many people focus on animal protein at meal times, such as chicken or beef, many health experts recommend planning meals that are primarily vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and then including a small amount of meat-based protein, as opposed to making it the focal point of the meal. You may also do well to consider how colorful the foods you are serving will look on a plate; since fruits and vegetables come in a variety of colors, a more colorful plate usually means plenty of nutrients have been included.
Focusing on variety when you plan a meal can help to keep your diners interested in eating it. This can mean not only the type of food you serve, but also the texture of the food. Serving meat with tender vegetables and then incorporating a slightly crunchy side dish can make a meal more exciting, for example. Likewise, adding bread to a meal can help keep it interesting. Additionally, you can consider varying your food choices in terms of temperature.
When planning, it usually is best to consider those who will consume the meal in question. If diners have medical conditions that prevent them from consuming certain foods, for instance, you should consider this as you plan a meal. For example, a person with diabetes may need foods that do not contain a lot of refined sugar or may benefit from the careful planning of carbohydrate content. Likewise, if you have vegetarian or vegan diners, you may want to accommodate them by planning an entire meal around the foods they can eat or by preparing at least a few selections from which they can choose while also accommodating those who do eat animal products.
You might also consider the format of a meal when you are trying to plan. The foods you choose when planning for a casual, buffet-style meal may be very different from those you will choose for a more formal, sit-down dinner. With a casual, buffet-style event, for example, you can include finger foods and other selections a person can easily consume while he converses with others. Likewise, you could focus on foods that will do well displayed on a table for a significant period of time. To plan a meal that will be more formal, however, you might focus more on fancier recipes and foods that require eating utensils.