Meal planning – the healthy person’s secret weapon!
Having delicious, nourishing foods at your fingertips requires a little thought and planning. Unfortunately healthy meals don’t fall from the sky, but I’d be first in line if they did. Instead of waiting for a miracle, I’ve created a simple Meal Planning Worksheet and Shopping List.
Filling in the forms and preparing for your healthy and nutrient-filled week ahead only takes a few minutes and the process is so simple even the hunky guy at the gym can do it!
Here’s a foolproof way to plan meals:
1. Make a list of your favorite foods.
First, make a list of all the foods you love which are (relatively) healthy. Think of all the possible food categories: meats, dairy, fruits, veggies, grains, nuts and seeds. Also note any delicious (and semi-nutritious) restaurant food you enjoy on a regular basis.
Eating for weight loss or athletic goals means balancing good nutrition with foods that you enjoy and that fill you up. Trust me, if you lack that “satisfaction factor” you will be swan diving headfirst into a bag of Fritos. I don’t think that’s the type of athletic activity we’re going for.
If you are detail-oriented like I am, you might wish to have categories of food on a sheet of paper and list your favorites under each heading. Jot down either general notations like “chicken” or specifically name your favorite chicken dishes such as “chicken & rice casserole.” My list looks partially like this:
This is just an example and is not my complete list. Your list may look nothing like mine, and that’s fine.
Don’t just write down foods you think are healthy and you SHOULD eat, but write down decent food choices that you LOVE. Keep this list – you will refer to it each week for ideas.
Click the image to print your own Favorite Foods list! Fave Foods and Shopping List
2. Start planning your dinners.
Working with your Favorite Foods List, begin to plug in your favorite dishes on the Meal Planner. I start with dinner first because dinner is generally when we need to exercise our creativity and feed not only ourselves but possibly a family as well. Check to see if there are any nights you will dine out and note those days on your planner
A guideline that works for me is to choose three to four main dishes. That amount allows enough leftovers for my lunch a few days and/or a family leftover night. Plan the number of meals YOU need based on your preference and your family situation.
3. Simplify breakfast and lunch.
Generally I choose two or three lunches and breakfasts and rotate them throughout the week. Or I choose two lunches (eaten once or twice) and grab leftovers on the other days.
If you are new to meal planning, start out SIMPLE. Maybe just choose two breakfast meals and rotate. Or heck, eat the same breakfast every day if that floats your boat. I have a Quest Bar and coffee almost every single weekday because that breakfast is healthy, portable and I love the taste. No prizes are awarded for most dietary variety!
4. Don’t forget to include snacks and desserts.
To be sure you have healthy snack options in the house, write some possible snack choices on your planner.
Be careful not to use snacking as an opportunity to graze all day. I often have a small snack between work and dinner, and then a second snack at night – usually after my workout. You may choose to eat larger meals and not snack at all, or fuel up multiple times per day. Experiment to find what works for you, your health and fitness goals, and what makes you happy.
5. Transfer the ingredients for your meals onto the Shopping List.
Use your meal plan as a guide to create your shopping list. The printable list is organized according to main areas of the store which should make grocery shopping fast and painless!
6. Prep your food to make building meals a snap.
It’s easy to buy fresh fruits and veggies at the store, but when dinner time rolls around after a long day at work, often we are too tired, frazzled or otherwise not inclined to spend loads of time slicing veggies or cooking produce.
One tip is to think about what foods you can prepare in advance. Maybe cook a big batch of rice to use throughout the week, or chop fruit and veggies into bite-sized pieces. Try grilling chicken breasts to take for lunch or throw a roast in the crockpot on the weekend to be sliced and eaten in sandwiches throughout the week.
What can you do to prepare for the week ahead? Write it on your planner.
Refuse to feel deprived!
I have sprinkled this post with photos of delicious healthy foods that would definitely satisfy me. (The pizza is debatable, but a girl’s gotta enjoy life!) If I have a nice snack of imported cheese and a small glass of wine, will I miss a big ‘ol ice cream sundae? Maybe a little, but I certainly won’t feel deprived.
Stepping on my personal soapbox here: I truly feel that one component missing in diet plans is the satisfactory factor. This is why I am such a diet rebel. I cannot follow someone else’s plan to the letter because it doesn’t suit my personal tastes or personality. Experiment to find what foods YOU enjoy, what foods make YOUR body feel good, what foods fill YOU up and flood your body with nutrients.
Now it’s your turn. Print your menu planner and start populating it with your favorite meals. It’s easy as pie! Well, maybe that’s the a bad analogy to use for a health-minded person, but you get the point!