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App Help: Quick & Healthy Menu Maker

FAQs and instructions on how to use Cooking Light's Quick & Healthy Menu Maker app.

Build a healthy menu or choose one of ours in a snap—with Cooking Light’s Quick and Healthy Menu Maker for iPad and iPhone. Download here today.

Swipe through more than 300 easy, delicious chicken, beef, pork, fish, and vegetarian entrees—then add sides and desserts to make healthy weeknight meals you and your family will love.

How to get around the Quick and Healthy Menu Maker:

1. From the main screen, choose an entree, side or dessert to start building a menu around. Swipe up and down to change categories (e.g. Chicken, Beef, etc.) and swipe left to right to explore dishes within the category.

2. Tap Suggested Menu to see our editors’ picks for healthy meals based on the current dish—or to start building your own meal.

3. Tap Menu View to see larger images of the selected menu. Click Dish View to return to menu mode.

4. Tap See Recipe to view the recipe ingredients and directions. View other recipes in a selected menu by tapping the recipe images at bottom.


1. Can I email recipes or share to Facebook and Twitter?
Yes. Tap See Recipe, tap Share, and share a recipe via email, Facebook, and Twitter. You will have to login to Facebook and Twitter before sharing.

2. How do I save favorite menus and recipes? 
Tap Save in upper right of screen and either "Add Dish to Favorites" or "Add Menu to Favorites." See saved recipes and menus here.

3. How do I customize my own menu? 
If you want to change any dish from a menu, tap the "x" in the photo box at bottom and swipe through categories to add another dish.

4. How can I quickly scroll through recipes in a given category? 
Click large image until a line of bullets appears at top. Drag finger across bullets to scroll through recipe titles. Release finger on given title to go the chosen recipe.

5. What does the "v" in a circle mean beside some recipe titles?
These recipes are vegetarian choices.

6. On the iPhone®, how do I see the nutrition information?
Once you’ve built your menu, tap “Nutrition View” on the lower left.

7. What do I do if my app gets stuck or freezes?
If the app "gets stuck" at any point on a recipe or advertisement, you'll need to quit the app and re-start. Here are steps on how to quit an app on an iPad or iPhone:

  1. On your iPad or iPhone, press the round home button at the bottom of your device once. This will take you back to the home screen of your device.
  2. Once you're on the home screen, press the round home button quickly two times. This will bring up the multi-tasking bar at the bottom of your iPad or iPhone.
  3. You should see Cooking Light listed as one of the apps that is running. Hold your finger over the Cooking Light icon until it starts to jiggle. Once it starts to jiggle, it will also get a small red minus icon, which you can tap to quit the application.
  4. Once you quit the application (and any other ones you're not using), press the round home button again. This will hide the multi-tasking bar and show the device home screen again. Find the Cooking Light icon and start the app again.

8. Will there be an app for the Android?
The Cooking Light Quick & Healthy Menu Maker is currently only available for iPad® and iPhone®. We may consider a version for Android for future releases.

What do the nutrition numbers mean?
The rules for healthy eating are actually pretty simple for the average American: Eat more plants, including whole grains; less meat; lots of variety; and favor healthy fats over less-healthy saturated fats.

Our menus are based on these simple principles. But we kept an eye on three key nutrition numbers—calories, sodium, and saturated fat—when we built the menus for this app, and those are keyed to the green/red indicators. The indicators relate to one average adult serving of the entire menu and are based on the daily nutrition recommendations for women 25 to 50 (see the chart below for men, and for women over 50).

These are not stingy servings. We assumed you might eat about 40% of your daily calories and sodium at dinner, and half your saturated fat. When a menu exceeds those percentages—exceeds 875 calories, 1,000mg of sodium, or 10g of saturated fat—the indicator turns red.

What do I do if a nutrition indicator turns red?

  • Swipe in another dish until the sodium, calories, or saturated fat number turns green.
  • Cut out dessert or side dish—you may not want a 4-course meal anyway.
  • Consult some of the fat-, salt-, and calorie-cutting options listed below.
  • Pick a main dish or side dish you like and touch the Suggested Menu button. You’ll get a whole new “all-green” menu.
  • Decide you don’t care in this case if calories, sodium, or saturated fat are high—maybe because you had a light lunch or you exercised a lot.

Does a red indicator mean a meal isn’t healthy?
No. The recipes and menus in this app—as with all Cooking Light recipes—are significantly and consistently lower in saturated fat, calories, and sodium than most of the popular American and international dishes upon which they are based. So going over a bit really means you have reached the levels of standards recipes.

What does “Menu Per Serving” mean?
The indicators relate to one average adult serving of an entire menu and are based on the daily nutrition recommendations for women 25 to 50.

How do average nutrition numbers relate to me, an individual?
The chart below shows how average nutrition recommendations vary by gender and age. Other factors, including lifestyle, weight, and your own health—including genetic factors such as risk for hypertension—all need consideration. So it’s a good idea for any adult to know her own health numbers—including body mass index, cholesterol levels, and other values—which any good annual physical exam will reveal. Use that information, and the advice of a physician or qualified nutritionist or dietitian, when changing your diet.

Continue reading for more Nutrition FAQs



Women ages 25 to 50

  • Calories: 2,000
  • Protein: 50g
  • Fat: 65g or less
  • Saturated Fat: 20g or less
  • Carbohydrates: 304g
  • Fiber: 25g to 35g
  • Cholesterol: 300mg or less
  • Iron: 18mg
  • Sodium: 2,300mg or less
  • Calcium: 1,000mg

Women over 50

  • Calories: 2,000 or less
  • Protein: 50g or less
  • Fat: 65g or less
  • Saturated Fat: 20g or less
  • Carbohydrates: 304g
  • Fiber: 25g to 35g
  • Cholesterol: 300mg or less
  • Iron: 8mg
  • Sodium: 1,500mg or less
  • Calcium: 1,200mg

Men over 24

  • Calories: 2,700
  • Protein: 63g
  • Fat: 88g or less
  • Saturated Fat: 27g or less
  • Carbohydrates: 410g
  • Fiber: 25g to 35g
  • Cholesterol: 300mg or less
  • Iron: 8mg
  • Sodium: 2,300mg or less
  • Calcium: 1,000mg

What do the abbreviations like “mono” and “poly” mean? 
In our nutritional analysis, we use these abbreviations:

  • sat: saturated fat
  • mono: monounsaturated fat
  • poly: polyunsaturated fat
  • CARB: carbohydrate
  • CHOL: cholesterol
  • CALC: calcium
  • g: gram
  • mg: milligram

How can I lower calories if my menu is in the red zone?
Your calorie requirements vary a lot, of course, based on your physical activity level. The goal is to balance calorie intake with energy burned.

How to cut back on calories:

  • Pay attention to portions. You may be satisfied with a half-sized portion of an entrée or side dish—which would cut out half the calories.
  • Look at the calorie levels of individual dishes, and learn which types are lower in calories. Usually brothy soups, leafy salads, vegetable dishes, and fruit salads are lower.
  • In place of a calorie-dense starchy side like bread, rice, beans, or pasta, opt for more fruit or vegetable side dishes.
  • Skip dessert. Many people don’t have dessert every night.
  • Watch for concentrated sources of calories—like sugar, syrup, or honey. Each contains about 50 calories (or more) per tablespoon.
  • Take notice of the calories in processed food. You have to look at the number of servings in the container to understand how much you’re truly consuming.

How can I lower saturated fat if my menu is in the red zone?
Saturated fat can often be recognized as fat that is solid at room temperature, like butter and lard. It most often comes from meat and dairy products (but also from palm and coconut oil). Saturated fats and trans fats raise bad (LDL) cholesterol and are implicated in heart disease and type 2 diabetes. More and more, scientists are implicating type of fat in the American diet, rather than total fat. Focus on eating more heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and limiting those unhealthy fats. Keep in mind, of course, that all fats are relatively calorie-dense.

How to cut back on saturated fat:

  • Change from butter to canola or olive oil for sautéing or pan-frying. For each tablespoon of oil you sub in for butter, you shave off about 1.5g saturated fat per serving (for 4 servings).
  • In place of a beef or lamb entrée, pick one based on fish or chicken breast.
  • Or just stretch meat further—reduce the amount per serving by one ounce.
  • Scale back on cheese. For every tablespoon of cheddar, feta, goat, fontina, or Monterey Jack you cut, you also lose about 1.4g saturated fat.
  • Substitute cheeses that are lower in saturated fat. Part-skim mozzarella melts beautifully and is particularly low in saturated fat. Other lower-sat-fat options include Parmesan and queso fresco.
  • Be sure to seek out sat fat information on food labels—it’s required to be called out on all labels.

How can I lower sodium if my menu is in the red zone?
You’ll see in this app that it’s relatively easy to combine dishes to turn the sodium indicator red. It’ snot because our recipes are high in salt—it’s because recommended levels are relatively low. You may want to cook a menu anyway and then try to reduce the sodium as you cook.

Why is salt taking so much heat these days? Too much causes fluid retention and high blood pressure, which leads to vascular damage that can cause strokes, heart disease, and kidney disease. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume no more than 2,300mg (about 1 teaspoon) per day. But average consumption is 3,400mg. Much more than half (nearly 75%) of the salt Americans eat comes from processed and restaurant foods, which is why it is so important to read ingredient labels. And about half of Americans, the government says, are so at risk for hypertension that they ought to cut consumption to 1,500mg. For good measure, the Guidelines recommend 1,500mg for women and men over 50—a difficult level to achieve.

How to cut back on sodium:

  • Decrease the added salt. For each 1/4 teaspoon table salt you omit, you save 148mg sodium per serving (spread over 4 servings). For the same amount of kosher salt, you save 120mg per serving.
  • If your recipe includes lower-sodium broth, try decreasing the broth and making up the difference with water. For every cup of broth you omit, you cut about 100mg sodium per serving.
  • Always rinse and drain canned beans, jarred roasted red bell peppers, and capers. Doing so washes away up to 40% of the sodium.
  • Choose lower-sodium, no-salt-added, or organic canned beans, which are all lower in sodium than their conventional counterparts.
  • If a recipe calls for canned diced tomatoes—and you have the time—substitute 2 cups fresh diced tomatoes. Sodium savings per serving (for 4 servings): 276mg.
  • Some cheeses are higher in sodium than others. If you’re sprinkling grated Parmesan on top of your soup or pasta, for example, try a lower-sodium cheese like crumbled goat cheese or queso fresco. You’ll save 72mg or 99mg per tablespoon, respectively.
  • Know that some foods are always going to be pretty high in sodium. Bread, cheese, condiments, pickles, and relishes, for example, are high in sodium—so sandwiches need to be paired with lower-sodium sides like fruit. Many stews, which rely on purchased broth and canned tomatoes, are on the upper end of the sodium scale, so pair with lower-sodium salads and maybe skip the bread.
  • Read labels on supermarket foods carefully. There are more and more reduced-sodium, low-sodium, and no-salt-added products available, and consumer demand will only increase the supply.