The Benefits of Meal Planning
This month we’ve focused on easy, no-cook meals, when to buy organic, and tricks for cooking for one. This week is all about menu planning. Meal planning can be a great way to focus on healthy goals. Planning out your meals for the week ahead of time can reduce food waste, help you stick to your goals, and save your time and money.
Evaluate your week
The most important step in meal planning is figuring out your household’s schedule for the week. Knowing who is going to be home and what nights of the week you’ll have time to cook is critical in planning for a reasonable number of meals. This helps you waste less food and can help you plan for breakfasts, lunches and dinners, so you don’t end up eating out for lunch again just because you didn’t plan a meal. Planning ahead keeps you from relying on willpower at the end of the day to make healthy choices.
Choose meals wisely
Cooking can be a relaxing and fun task when you have time for it, but only if you plan enough time for it. Choose your meals based on your schedule. If you know you’ll be coming home late all week, try cooking on the weekend so you’ll have leftovers, or set up the slow cooker in the morning so you come home to a cooked meal. Or stick to easy meals like frittatas that can be whipped up in just a few minutes.
Meal planning also helps you take time to ensure you’re eating a balanced meal. Vary your protein sources and mix up what vegetables you’re eating. Focus on filling half your plate with vegetables and fruits, a quarter of the plate with lean protein, and a quarter with whole grains. Figuring out your meals ahead of time allows you to plan for all of the food groups.
Make a shopping list
Once you’ve decided on what meals you’ll have during the week, make a shopping list. Writing everything down ensures you won’t forget a key ingredient. Don’t forget your usual standby items, like your regular breakfast items or your regular afternoon snack. Ensuring that you have your favorite healthy items for the week will help you avoid a calorie-dense snack from the vending machine you weren’t planning.
What are your favorite meals to cook for yourself?
Let us know on the Sweet Life Wellness Facebook Page! Take your meal planning digital and check out a meal planning app, like EatingWell or Big Oven. A previous client used Big Oven to create a month’s worth of menus!
Sweet Life Wellness Student Intern
Dietetics student at University of Maryland-College Park
- Gidus T (2016) Eating to Boost Energy. In: www.eatright.org. http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/eating-to-boost-energy. Accessed 11 Jul 2017
- (2016) MyPlate, MyWins Tips: Meal Planning Made Easy. In: Choose MyPlate. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate-mywins-tips-meal-planning-made-easy. Accessed 11 Jul 2017