A few weeks ago I wrote a post on Sustainable Weight Loss. I touched gently on the importance of meal planning, knowing that an entire post could be dedicated to just that topic. So here it is. This may be one of the most important things you can do to maintain healthy eating habits and – if it’s a goal of yours – help yourself lose weight.
Meal planning helps you regulate your eating patterns and increases the likelihood that you’ll make healthy choices, both of which are critical in maintaining a healthy weight. Irregular eating patterns (skipping meals, eating once/day, etc.) cause drastic changes in blood sugars and slows your metabolism, making it difficult to lose weight or maintain a healthy one.
Arming yourself with healthy snacks guarantees a healthy choice when your in a bind and need something quick. Otherwise, you’re bound to grab the nearest thing – and it’s more times than not going to be something sweet and sugary. Why? Because when we’re hungry it means our blood sugar is low and our craving for sugar is heightened. Ever been starving waiting in line at Lowes and eyeballing something on the candy shelf? That candy bar looks pretty good doesn’t it? This is where having an apple and some almonds stashed away in your purse or car come in handy. #beprepared
We’re also not the most pleasant to be around when our sugars drop and we get moody…
Meal planning can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it. I prefer to keep it simple:
Make a list of meals for the week. New to meal planning? Keep it simple by focusing on dinners only. Sit down and write out a list of dinners you’ll have for the week. There are tons of websites with healthy meal ideas you can peruse, but here’s a list of fellow RD food bloggers so you know they’re pretty healthy: mine of course, Avocado a Day Nutrition, ImmaEatThat, Healthy Aperature, Kumquat (Gluten-Free), The First Mess (not an RD but a farmer who posts beautiful plant-based foods). That should be enough to get you started. Remember, you want your meals to be balanced; a little carb, a little protein, and lots of veg.
Don’t forget those snacks. Plan for balanced snacks –> carbohydrate + protein.
fruit + nuts
apple or banana slices + peanut butter
whole grain cereal + milk
dry cereal + nuts
carrot sticks (or other veggie) + hummus
cheese + crackers
cheese + fruit
Maybe Breakfast as well? If you typically eat the same breakfast everyday, this should be easy to plan for. Because breakfast is one of the easiest things to prepare at home, it’s silly not to. Not only will it save you the money you spend at the drive-thru, it will healthify your diet astronomically. And yes, healthify is a word. Here are some healthy portable breakfast ideas. (If grabbing breakfast elsewhere on the go helps ease your transition into meal planning, by all means, keep doing it. Once you have a hold on dinners and snacks, then move to breakfast.)
Write out your grocery list. Now that you know what meals you’ll be cooking/preparing, write out what you need to make those meals. You may already have some of these items at home – cross them off the list. I highly recommend to keep the dinners simple at first. This way, your list will be short and sweet and you’ll see it as something you can easily tackle. Realistic goals make for solid results. You’ll also be more likely to continue meal planning and it will inevitably get easier, paving the way for a healthier lifestyle.
Have at it – get shopping!
I usually do this planning right before I head to the store on a Sunday. Still not sure if you’re up for it? Have a glass of red wine while you make your list the night before and it will instantly become more fun 🙂