Simplifying Meal Planning

Do you find it difficult or frustrating to plan your meals for the week?  If so, you’re not alone.  If you’re trying to live a healthier lifestyle and/or lose weight, you’ve probably heard that cooking more and eating out less is one of the biggest steps towards achieving these goals.  For many, however, it can be one of the most challenging steps.  Busy lives often keep us from planning, shopping, prepping, and cooking meals.  Instead we opt for dining out, carry-out or delivery, which often means bigger portions, more sugar, and fewer nutrients than we bargained for.

However, there are ways to simplify meal planning so it’s not just another added stress, but a source of relief!

First, you have to make the commitment to your goal.  Eating healthy nutrition will help you feel better, have more energy, manage your weight, and boost your immunity.  Knowing and believing you can achieve all of these things helps keep you motivated and stay on track.

Second, realize that like any new skill, it takes some work up front before it can become second nature.  Once you get into a rhythm with meal planning, it doesn’t take much effort at all.   You have to be willing to experiment and figure out what works best given your unique lifestyle. 

Third, set your parameters.  I like to challenge myself to eat mostly home-cooked meals throughout the week, and then splurge on the weekends, allowing myself to go out and indulge in some of my favorite foods.  When thinking about meal planning it’s good to be realistic.  Each week I pick 1-2 new dishes to try (you can make enough to have leftovers for lunches or to incorporate into dinners).  I have a shopping list I keep throughout the week, adding things that I run out of as well as staple items to have on hand (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, grains, eggs, dairy, meat).  I add the ingredients for the new dishes I plan to make and I’m good to go!  I have a number of simple dishes I can prepare throughout the week that don’t take much time or thought.  Play around until you come up with your own arsenal of quick and easy meals. 

Forth, remember that’s it’s ok if things don’t go according to plan.  Just do your best and be kind to yourself.  If you have a stressful day and need to go out for dinner and drinks to unwind, that’s ok.  Just keep balance in mind, listen to your body, and when in doubt, choose what feels most loving towards yourself!