“I don’t like to cook”
“I don’t have the time to cook”
“I don’t have the energy when I get home from work to focus on cooking a meal”
“I work such long hours that I usually have to order something for dinner instead of making a meal for myself”
I hear these statements pretty regularly and in my mind the solution seems quite simple: Meal plan! However, what comes after that suggestion is usually a deep sigh of dread followed by a laundry list of reasons why meal planning sucks. I would be lying if I said that meal planning didn’t require extra work but when I think about the benefits associated with it, the work involved is well worth it.
Often times meal planning is discussed as a means to control weight however, developing this habit/ skill is an easy way to ensure that you are doing your part to nourish yourself and your family. Impulsive food purchases are often quick grab-and-go items that tend to lack balance from a nutrition stand point. To ensure that you are maximizing your nutrient intake it is important to make sure that meals and snacks are balanced so that your body can perform at its best (energy wise, health wise). Not only does meal planning allow you to make choices you feel good about but it also saves you a lot of money.
Again, YES! Meal planning does take time, but it is well worth it especially WHEN you grant yourself the freedom to plan meals that you ACTUALLY enjoy! Too often, people are thinking about restricting something when they plan meals which only continues to fuel the fire behind diet mentality and takes the joy out of planning for and preparing meals. When done properly meal planning can grow into a habit that is enjoyable and long lasting.
Here are a few tips to get started with meal planning
- Think about what you like to eat but also focus on balance
1) Feeling guilty because you want to have tacos instead of a salad? Cut the crap and make those tacos
- The combination of meat (fish or plant based proteins), veggies, whole grains, avocado, salsa and cheese —Not only does this sound balanced but pretty darn tasty to me.
- Have to monitor sodium? Or carbs to manage a chronic illness? No worries- Opt for low sodium seasoning packets or Corn tortilla shells (corn is naturally lower in sodium than flour) OR try the new carb smart options OR use a smaller flour shell— just a few thoughts.
- Keep it simple
- Spaghetti dinner and green beans? Sounds good to me
- Meal kit work for you? Go for it!
- Not confident in your ability to prepare a delicious meal, start with what you are good at and build from there- even if it is scrambled eggs.
- Pick a day for shopping and prep
- Block out some time to get this done—set a limit for prep if it makes it less overwhelming.
- Hate prepping? No worries, purchase pre-cut veggies and fruit or frozen veggies and fruit; Go to the butcher for pre-cut meat; Make use of marinades
- Get bored or burned out from prepping? – Put your kids or significant other to work! The kids have to earn their keep, plus the entire family will learn to appreciate all of that prep work that goes into planning out and preparing meals for the week.
- Utilize the internet if you need to
- Search for recipes that look interesting
- Shop online: Instead of going into the store, shop online to avoid grabbing unplanned items
- Learn about nutrients; instead of focusing on what’s “bad” focus on the nutrients food provides to help you feel your best.
- Aim for balance
- Making sure you have protein, produce, whole grains and some source of good fat really contributes to making sure you don’t continue to graze after a meal because your super restrictive meal didn’t quite hit the spot. Trust me I know this from experience, it does not pay to be restrictive.
At the end of the day, we are all busy and can come up with many reasons why going to the local fast food restaurant is the better than going home and cooking a meal or eating what you have prepared. However, in most cases the end result is feeling miserable (Fullness, lethargic and sometimes actual nausea or diarrhea) because those foods are not what your body needs to function at is best. Meal planning should be something you look forward to because you are planning a meal that is meant to be enjoyed by yourself and your family so time should be devoted to making sure this happens. If you still aren’t really sure where to begin I am more than happy to support your efforts and help you figure out what works best for you.