Meal planning saves money and time, but it also promotes healthy living. Get into this habit, and you’ll gain control over what goes into your body, learn to avoid impulses, and set yourself up for successful healthy eating. Here’s more on why and how to begin and maintain a healthy meal plan.
The Benefits of Meal Planning
Creating meals based on a plan means more fresh, healthy foods and fewer processed foods. You’ll cut out loads of sugar, sodium, and chemicals. With this plan, you’ll lay out an easy-to-follow course and know exactly what to expect. You’ll create convenience, surround yourself with healthy foods, and take total control of your healthy lifestyle.
Following a meal plan makes your days easier than trying to drum up ideas for meals last-minute. This means less impulse eating. After a long day, you may reach for something easier and less nutritious than a thought-out meal. With meal planning, you already have everything laid out and prepared. This removes the hassle and saves energy. It makes making the right choices easy.
Eat Out Less
Numerous studies have found a correlation between eating out and obesity and weight-related disease. Heavy portion size, lack of nutritional information for consumers, and high-fat, high-calorie foods all contribute. Preparing your meals at home means you’re less likely to suffer from obesity and other diseases related to poor diet choices.
Meal plans also help you from over-buying or impulse buying at the grocery store. When you have a plan, you have a list. You know just what and how much you need.
Fit Any Nutrition Goal
No matter your healthy eating goals, (less fat, fewer carbohydrates, more lean meats, or counting calories), you can build your meals around them. Weekly meal plans are important tools that help you meet your goals.
How to Do It
Don’t Be Overwhelmed
Keep in mind that meal planning is not as daunting as it may seem. It’s meant to make your life easier and healthier, and it will. It’s a simple process, and after a couple of times, it will become routine. The more you do it, the easier and faster it gets.
Each week, put together a plan of what you’ll eat for each meal and a grocery list to match. It takes less time than you may think, and it saves a lot of time in the end.
When you bring home your week’s worth of ingredients, wash and cut vegetables, cook proteins, and portion out as many elements as you can. After cooking a week’s supply of protein, you can freeze it for easy access later. Pre-make salads, fruit bowls, and beans, and measure and store in proportioned containers.
Repeat Ingredients You Love
You know what healthy foods you like. When planning your meals, repeat those ingredients throughout the week. If you love chicken and carrots, make a stew with them for dinner one day. Use leftover chicken and fresh carrots in a wrap for lunch the next day. Use fresh apples or make applesauce as a fresh snack, then sauté some with pork for dinner. Use in-season and sale items as often and creatively as you can in your weekly meal plan.
Integrate unfamiliar, healthy foods slowly. Each week, experiment with one new ingredient. This a great way to expand your palate without overloading your plan with foods you may not like. You’ll be more likely to stick with a healthy meal plan by choosing foods you know you will eat.
Post Plans Where You See Them
Taking the time to create a weekly meal plan means very little unless you actually use it. If you post your meal schedules within sight, it increases the likelihood you will stick to them. Consider purchasing a small dry erase calendar to hang in your kitchen. Make a word document, spreadsheet, or even a simple sheet of notebook paper with your meal plan and stick it on the fridge.
Account for Leftovers
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all part of weekly meal plans. That doesn’t mean they have to all be separate. Planning each meal gets easier when you take into account leftovers. If one or more of your dinners has a high likelihood of yielding leftovers, plan to repurpose them for lunches or future dinners. Use leftover chicken for sandwiches the next day or freeze it for later in the week.
Plan Around Time Constraints
Another benefit of a weekly meal plan is that you can make your life easier by planning around a potential lack of time. If you know you will be late to the kitchen on any given day because of meetings or soccer games, plan for it. Schedule simple meals that are quick to prepare. This way, you will be less tempted to go off-plan due to lack of time or energy.
Use Perishables First
Schedule meals so you use the most perishable items in the beginning of the week. Make salads with fresh, leafy greens first. Save the root vegetables and canned or frozen vegetables toward the end of your meal plan week. Top yogurt with fresh fruit for breakfast at the start of the week. Use frozen fruit blended into smoothies at the end.
Creating weekly meal plans makes sense for many reasons. If you are new to the process, don’t let the idea overwhelm you. With practice and use of the above tips, you’ll create delicious, healthy meal plans that work for your lifestyle.
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