Meal planning becomes an important part of
achieving optimal or complete
nutrition. If you don't have a plan for what you're
going to eat, you may end
up grabbing whatever is fastest and most
This often means you're consuming processed
food or junk food.
It’s a missed opportunity to get at least some
nutrients into your system.
Junk food often causes more harm than good.
What Is Meal Planning?
Meal planning is simply deciding in advance what you’re going to have to eat.
In most cases people plan several days’ worth of meals and snacks.
It makes shopping, cooking and preparing food, and eating,
a much simpler and healthier process.
Here are nine steps to make meal planning fun and easy.
#1 Decide how often you can shop.
If you can only shop once a week then you're going to want to plan an entire
week's worth of meals. If you can shop every three or four days then you
only have to plan those meals.
#2 Plan for snacks too.
Include snacks into your meal planning. It's too easy to grab something
unhealthy when you don’t have a plan.
#3 Make it tasty.
Sure, you can plan to have carrots and celery stick for a snack.
However, if you don't like carrots and celery sticks, there's a bigger risk of you
letting that snack get moldy in the fridge while you go out for some fries.
Make sure the recipes and foods you put into your meal plan are actually
foods that you want to eat.
#4 Identify recipe sources.
Where are you going to find your meal ideas? Identify a handful of great
sources of nutritious recipes. For example, you might begin to subscribe to a
few nutritious eating blogs, or you might buy a few cookbooks.
#5 Create a system.
Create systems to organize and plan. For example, maybe you hit the
supermarket on Wednesday and Sunday. Sit down at your table and make a
full meal plan before you shop. Add ingredients from each recipe to your
shopping list so you go to the store knowing exactly what you need to buy.
#6 Get folks involved.
If you're cooking for a family, get others involved in the meal planning - and
maybe even the preparation! When people feel that they have a say in what
is served, they tend to be more excited about it. You might, for example, let
a child choose one meal a week. They can also help prepare that meal.
#7 Have contingency plans.
It always makes sense to have some backup food. You might not have
leftovers that you expected from last night’s dinner and now you have
nothing for lunch. If you have some backups then you’re ready to go.
#8 Make ahead.
If you live a super busy life (and who doesn't), then consider a few make ahead
recipes. These are healthy recipes that you can prepare on the
weekend, freeze, and thaw and heat for dinner. Casseroles are great for
this. Crockpot recipes are also wonderful. You can put everything together in
the morning and come home to dinner.
#9 Try something new.
It's easy to get into a meal planning rut. Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday,
noodles on Wednesday and so on. While that does provide a framework to
make planning easier, it can also start to feel limiting. Try to include one
new recipe each week. It's good to feel excited about your food.
Meal planning can take some getting used to. It requires you to create a few
new lifestyle habits. However, once you've integrated these habits into your
routine, you'll wonder how you ever managed without it. It’s a great way to
make sure that each meal is nutritious and delicious.