Any goal without a plan is simply a dream. We can have a goal to travel to Arizona and hike the Grand Canyon. It sounds lovely and I’m sure your friends or family would say, “That sounds great. I want to as well.” This vague goal is merely a dream unless we put action items into place and map out a plan to get there. The plan may include saving enough money to pay for travel, a training regimen to get into shape for safe hiking of the Grand Canyon, or even the logistics of taking time off of work, booking airfare and hotel rooms. Having a goal to adapt healthier nutrition habits is quite similar. If we have a goal to eat more vegetables throughout the day, we must plan how we are going to do that.
Meal planning is a strategy that helps you achieve nutritional goals. There are many ways of meal planning from very detailed to a more flexible structure. I recommend working with a wellness or nutritional coach to customize the right meal planning strategies for you. Below are a few starting points:
Step 1: Decide when you are going to meal prep every week.
I like to wait for the weekly adds and it always takes place before you go grocery shopping. This step tends to get over looked. Many forget that having consistency is truly the key to success even when it is simply organizing time to plan.
Step 2: Decide whether you are going to plan breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner.
If you are new to meal planning, I suggest starting with breakfast. There are many easy, simple, and quick recipes that are perfect for on-the-go.
Step 3: Find Recipes.
Use cookbooks, blogs, or websites to search for recipes that meet your nutrition criteria, your palate, and your cooking abilities. Are you able to eat the same thing every morning, will you need to alternate, or will every meal be different? This will determine how many recipes you will need to gather.
Step 4: Make a grocery list.
Search for the ingredients needed for the recipes in your home before writing them on the list to buy at the grocery store. Do not forget to also look at expiration dates!
Step 5: Make your meal plan visible.
Just like when you physically write down your goals, it increases your chances of achieving them. Writing down your meal plan will also increase your chances of fulfilling the plan. There will be no question as to what you should eat. I have a small dry erase board in my kitchen. I write the days of the week and what meal my husband and I are having each day. This saves us from wasting food from extra groceries that we do not cook, we no longer take thirty minutes every night to decide what we are going to eat, and above all it eliminates the desire to eat out (unless planned).
Any change can be difficult, so take one step at a time. Remember no matter how well we plan, life still tends to throw us curve balls. Maybe you planned to sit down on Saturday morning after breakfast to meal plan for the week, but you now have to take your son to baseball practice. Do your meal planning while you are waiting for his practice to be over. You will be successful if you give it your best effort and learn from the challenges that come your way. You can always change your meal planning process as needed. Good luck and happy meal planning!