I know the requirements can limit things, but there's still plenty of room for fun.
Here are some important things to keep in mind while you plan and prepare your meals.
1. Purpose. The purpose of this merit badge is to learn how to plan, and prepare well-balanced and healthy meals for everyday life as well as hiking and camping. In other words to BE PREPARED FOR LIFE! The requirements state that you need to use MyPlate and I will expect that. There are some things that MyPlate doesn't specifically address though and I'd like to do that here.
2. Have fun. I would hope that you all enjoy food. Yes, you need to plan with MyPlate in mind and yes, you need to meet the requirements, but when planning think about what you like and what you think others would like. Enjoy learning a new skill and think about how it will help you for the rest of your life and enjoy it.
3. Carbohydrates. Comprehension of Carbohydrates is not required but good to know for life, which is the overall purpose of this merit badge. So for well-balanced nutrition you absolutely need carbohydrates. They are where you get your energy. Keep in mind that you CAN have too much of a good thing though.
Carbohydrates include both sugars and starches.
4. Plan with MyPlate: There is a ton of information on THIS POST about the different food groups and how to figure out how much you need as well as food galleries so you can get fresh ideas for each food group. Here are a couple visuals to help you as well.
5. Dairy/Water: I think MyPlate is a vast improvement over the pyramid, but the dairy up off the plate is a bit misleading, as if you don’t actually eat dairy on your plate. It also continues to ignore water. So don’t forget that you can eat dairy as well as drink it. And remember no, matter how you get your dairy don’t forget your WATER! Again, it’s not a specified part of the requirement, but a good habit for life. You have milk to drink with the majority of your meals. I would swap out some of the milk to drink for some other dairy in the meals, just for variety, but milk to drink is ok.
The USDA has this handy document about good beverage choices, which pretty much boils down to: DRINK MORE WATER!
7.Charts! I finally have a working draft of a comprehensive chart that can include ALL the information you need for each meal. It isn't required that you use it, but I really think it will be easier for you in the long run, (it’s also easier for me).
You can download and print that here: MEAL PLANNING HELPER PACKET.
If you are planning for more than 3 meals non-hiking meals average out to $2.30 per meal and hiking meals, $3 a meal.
Keep this in mind when you are planning.