Eating healthy on regular basis can be quite challenging. In my experience, the best way of avoiding falling into the junk food/take out trap is being prepared. If you arrive home from work and have everything ready to prepare a delicious and nutritious meal, you will be less likely to end up at McDonalds drive thru.
Here are some tips for creating your own meal planning system. This is the method I use to plan my meals and grocery shopping for the week.
- Start an recipe library. I collect healthy and easy recipes which I keep in a folder divided into categories (beef, chicken, lamb, pork, eggs, vegetarian). I always get the free magazines from the grocery stores. They usually have seasonal recipes and make shopping much easier. However, I only keep the recipes I know I will be able to do. My criteria is healthy, quick preparation, and delicious?
- Selecting the menu. When I am planning the weekly menu, I pull my recipe folder and choose five to six recipes. I try to include a variety of vegetables, grains, and protein sources to improve nutrient consumption and create some excitement. Also, I distribute the meals according to my schedule. Ex: I usually plan fish dishes for Mondays and Fridays because those are the days I can get fresh fish from the local fishmonger. So you should choose what works for your lifestyle.
- Lunch is usually leftovers from dinner. Because of my work schedule, I can only cook in the evenings so I prepare a bigger batch for dinner and portion out my lunch servings. It is time effective and a great way to avoid second helpings. That’s portion-control at its best.
- Create go-to breakfast options. I usually have two or three breakfast options which I alternate during the week. I start by choosing a protein source, then adding a fruit or veggie, and finishing with a smart carb (oats, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potato, whole grain bread). Because I leave home really early in the morning (think 5am, folks), I don’t have time to prepare breakfast before work. So, I have everything ready-to-go in advance. This way, there is no excuse to stop for a coffee-shop pastry.
- Create go-to snack options. Same as for breakfast: have two to three options and alternate them. Rule of thumb, unless you are trying to gain weight, your snacks should be 200 kcal or less. That means that a giant muffin is out of the question. Ex: boiled egg and small salad, hummus and carrots, yogurt and fruit.
- Make you shopping list based on your menu. Once you’ve made your plan, create your shopping list based on the ingredients you need for the week. Number one rule is stick to your plan and avoid buying anything out of your list. Don’t keep high calorie snacks and lollies at home. If you don’t have them at hand, you won’t eat them. And if you are really craving something special, then you will have to make the effort to go to store and get it. You might give up just by thinking of it.
Take away notes: As I said before, this is what works for me. You can use it as a template but I strongly suggest that you make adjustments according to your lifestyle. I usually shop once a week for most items but get fresh produce and meats as I need them during the week. You may choose to plan only three days at a time. Anyways, do whatever works for you.