Part of living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight is planning healthy meals for yourself and your family.
The Pro’s of Meal Planning:
- Meal time can become a time to relax, talk with loved ones and enjoy real food
- No last minute panic over what to make for dinner
- Less time wasted trying to decide what to make for dinner every night
- Works well with a busy schedule and still can be healthy
- Allows you to track your food intake easily and stay on track with your healthy lifestyle
- Reduces stress so you can focus your energy in other areas
The end result of meal planning can absolutely make life easier, the problem is that creating a meal plan can seem overwhelming and complicated. There are a number of reasons why people throw in the towel when it comes to meal planning. Here are a few of them:
- Don’t know what to cook or feel they don’t know how to cook
- Working long hours, busy schedules or irregular schedules
- Trying to balance multiple food preferences or restrictions
Meal planning doesn’t have to be intimidating. Follow these tips to get the job done and reap the benefits for weeks to come!
In a Nutshell:
- Set aside time to plan
- Write down a list of foods and meals you and your family enjoy
- Keep it simple- avoid meals with too many different ingredients in each recipe.
1.) Schedule a time to plan, 15 mins in the evening or 1 hour at the end of the week is plenty of time. As you get familiar with recipes and which ones you enjoy most, planning will become easier!
2.) Ask yourself a few questions about your priorities and preferences to help guide you as you choose what meals to add to your menu.
- What are some of my family’s favorite meals and foods?
- Do those foods fit our healthy lifestyle?
- If not can I find a recipe that tweaks the ingredients to make it healthier?
- Do I have any goals for improving my family’s health and how can I use the choices that I make to incorporate those goals into our meal plan? For example:
- Using lower calorie foods or less processed foods
- Using more seasonal foods and locally grown foods
- Using more nutrient dense foods, including special foods that have particular nutrients I or may family might need like Iron rich foods or Calcium rich foods etc…
- Adding a wider variety of foods to our diet
- Do I have any other priorities besides how healthy the food is? Such as how affordable it is and staying within a budget?
3.) Keep it simple: choose meals that don’t require a ton of odd ball ingredients, look for recipes that use things you usually have in the house. Make sure you purchase any new ingredients before you’re ready to start cooking so you aren’t left scrambling at the last minute! Focus on choosing 15-20 meals you can rotate over a few weeks.
This is what meal planning looks like for me, I choose 15 meals for the month. On Week One I choose 2-3 from the top of the list to make. Week Two I move down that list and choose the next 2-3 meals listed. Week by week I buy the groceries I’ll need to make the meals I chose for that week. I tried planning a meal for each day on the calendar but this did not work for me. My husband’s schedule changes frequently and often times we aren’t sitting down for a meal together. It just didn’t make sense to have such a rigid schedule. However having that list of 15 meals for the month and scratching them off as I go works perfectly!
I hope these tips are helpful and encourage you to start your list today! Today is the last day of February and March is just around the corner- there’s no better time to get started! If you have any tips you’d like to share, please do so in the comments! Also don’t hesitate to contact me with your questions!