Consider all the places you eat: home, restaurants, at friends’ houses, maybe even your car? Opportunities to thwart healthy eating are everywhere! But if you take the time to plan ahead you’ll be better able to handle the situation and won’t succumb to last minute temptations or the (perceived) exhaustion of planning out a meal.
Meal planning may seem like a daunting task but consider the benefits.
Benefits of Planning Your Meals in Advance
- You will eat out less (and save money).
- You will actually use the groceries you buy so again you’ll be saving money. (Think about how many times you bought lettuce or broccoli, stored it in the fridge, only to completely forget to use it before it went bad.)
- You will ensure you eat a healthy variety of foods.
- You can avoid that lingering question of “what to have for dinner.”
- Less stress, no pointless staring at the fridge and cupboards “What the heck am I going to eat?”
- Fewer trips to the grocery store, which also saves you money in gas and time. Plus, fewer opportunities for impulse purchases.
- Oh and you’ll LOSE WEIGHT! Your meals will be nutritionally balanced so you’ll be getting all the nutrition you need without a lot of extra calories.
Tip: Try planning out all your meals for the week on a Sunday afternoon or another day/time when you don’t feel rushed or exhausted. By planning out the entire week in advance you will ultimately save yourself time and energy.
Meal Planning: Don’t Forget Snacks
Good meal planning includes arranging for snacks too. Think of all the places where you might grab a snack (such as in the car or at your desk at work). You need to plan for these times and make sure you have nutritious, low calorie snacks available so you won’t be tempted by the vending machine or the fast food drive-thru window.
Good snack ideas:
- Grab-and-go fruits such as apples, pears, bananas or grapes.
- Washed and chopped fresh vegetables like celery and cucumbers or carrot sticks.
- Raw nuts (just be sure to measure out how many you eat; while nuts are a good food choice, they also pack a lot of calories per ounce).
- Low fat cheese sticks.
- Rice crackers.
Once you’ve planned out and written down all your meals and snacks for the week, make your grocery list. It’s always important to go to the store with an actual list.
Other Meal Planning Tips
Be sure to re-stock your cabinets and fridge with healthy options on a fairly regular basis. You don’t want to find yourself without a particular item that is crucial to your meal. Also, don’t forget about your office cabinet or car glove box. Be sure you stock these places with healthy shelf-stable treats. You will find it easier to make better choices when you have a good variety of nutritious foods available in ALL the places where you eat.
Once you get your groceries, do what you can ahead of time. Try to make a couple of meals to freeze for busy nights or just make extra and freeze half.
Wash and prep vegetables and fruits when you get them home and put them in see-through containers in your fridge so you won’t forget about them.
Remember to have fun and keep it flexible. There are so many benefits to meal planning, especially giving you more time, money and energy to do the things you really want and need to do!