What is Meal Planning?
Feeling fed up with unhealthy eating habits? Ready to start making healthier food choices? If that sounds like you, then meal planning could be just the solution you've been looking for. By taking the time to plan your meals in advance, you can steer clear of making unhealthy food choices, save precious time, and even cut down on your grocery bill. Here are some top tips to help you get started with meal planning and pave the way to a healthier, happier you:
Set Realistic Goals
When it comes to meal planning, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of planning out every single meal for the next month. However, it's important to keep in mind that planning too far in advance can often lead to feelings of overwhelm or even burnout.
One helpful approach is to start with setting more realistic goals. Begin by planning just a few meals per week, such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner on specific days. This can help you to establish a routine and get into the habit of planning ahead.
As you become more comfortable with meal planning and begin to see the benefits, you can gradually increase the number of meals you plan for each week. This way, you can set achievable goals that you can stick to in the long run, rather than trying to do too much too soon and feeling discouraged.
By setting realistic goals for your meal planning, you can ensure that you're able to sustain the habit and enjoy the benefits of healthier eating habits over time.
Choose Nutritious Foods
Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is essential for maintaining good health and preventing chronic diseases. When planning your meals, it's important to choose nutrient-dense foods that provide a variety of essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Here are some tips on how to choose nutritious foods when planning your meals:
Include a variety of fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and they're also low in calories. Aim for at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and choose a variety of colours to ensure that you're getting a range of nutrients.
Choose whole grains: Whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread, are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They also provide sustained energy and can help keep you feeling full for longer.
Select lean proteins: Choose lean proteins, such as skinless chicken, fish, beans, and tofu, to get the nutrients you need without excess calories and saturated fat.
Incorporate healthy fats: Healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil, are important for brain function, heart health, and hormone production. But remember, fat is calorie-dense, so be mindful of your portion sizes.
Avoid processed and high-calorie foods: Processed foods are often high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats, and they're low in nutrients. Try to avoid them as much as possible and opt for whole, unprocessed foods instead. Similarly, high-calorie foods, such as fried foods, sugary drinks, and desserts, should be consumed in moderation.
Throwing away food is not only wasteful but also harmful to the environment. When food goes to waste, it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and wastes the resources that went into producing it. Using leftovers is a simple way to reduce food waste and save money. Here are some tips on how to use leftovers as a base for your next meal:
Get creative: Leftovers don't have to be boring. With a little creativity, you can transform them into a whole new meal. For example, leftover roasted vegetables can be used in a frittata or added to a soup. Use your imagination and experiment with different flavour combinations.
Plan ahead: When you're planning your meals for the week, think about how you can use leftovers in your next meal. For example, if you're making roasted chicken for dinner, plan to use the leftover chicken in a salad or sandwich the next day.
Store leftovers properly: To ensure that leftovers are safe to eat, store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Label the containers with the date so you know how long they've been in the fridge or freezer.
Use leftovers for lunch: Leftovers are a great option for lunch. Take them to work or school in a reusable container and heat them up in the microwave or eat them cold. You'll save money on lunch and reduce waste at the same time.
Prep Ingredients in Advance
Preparing ingredients in advance can be an incredibly useful strategy for anyone looking to save time during busy weeknights. By taking care of tasks like chopping vegetables, marinating meats, and cooking grains ahead of time, you can streamline the meal preparation process and make cooking dinner a less stressful experience. Here are some ways in which prepping ingredients in advance can be beneficial:
Time-saving: By prepping ingredients in advance, you can cut down on the time it takes to prepare meals. For example, if you have already chopped vegetables for a stir-fry or salad, you can simply toss them together when it's time to cook. This can be particularly helpful if you have a limited amount of time to prepare meals during the week.
Reduces Stress: When you're pressed for time and trying to get dinner on the table, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. By prepping ingredients in advance, you can eliminate some of the stress associated with meal preparation. You'll know exactly what needs to be done and have everything ready to go when it's time to start cooking.
Better Meal Planning: Prepping ingredients in advance can also help you plan your meals more effectively. By taking the time to prepare ingredients ahead of time, you can ensure that you have all the necessary components for your meals on hand. This can help you avoid last-minute trips to the grocery store or ordering takeout.
Consistent Quality: Prepping ingredients in advance can also help ensure that your meals are consistently high quality. By marinating meats ahead of time, for example, you can allow the flavours to fully develop, resulting in a more flavourful and tender final product.
Healthier Choices: Prepping ingredients in advance can also help you make healthier choices. By having pre-chopped vegetables and cooked grains on hand, you can easily incorporate them into your meals. This can help you increase your vegetable and whole grain intake without having to spend a lot of time on meal preparation.
Make a Shopping List
Making a shopping list before heading to the grocery store is a great way to save money, time, and ensure that you have everything you need for your planned meals. When you have a list, you are less likely to make impulse buys, which can lead to overspending and buying items that you don't need.
To make a shopping list, start by planning out your meals for the week. Look through your recipes and take note of the ingredients that you need. It's also helpful to take an inventory of the items you already have at home, so you don't end up buying duplicates. Once you have a list of the ingredients you need, organise them by category, such as fruits and vegetables, dairy, meats, and grains.
When you're at the store, stick to your list as much as possible. Avoid buying items that are not part of your meal plan, even if they seem tempting. If you do see something you want to buy that is not on your list, ask yourself if it is necessary or if you can do without it.
It's also important to be mindful of sales and promotions. While they can be a good way to save money, they can also tempt you to buy items that you don't need. Only take advantage of sales and promotions for items that are already on your list or that you know you will use.
Meal Prep Containers
Meal prep containers are a nifty tool to help you plan and organise your meals ahead of time. They come in different sizes and materials, like glass or plastic, to suit your needs. These containers help keep your food fresh and tasty, making it easier to stick to a healthy eating plan. You can even use them to portion out your meals, making it simpler to stay on track with your calorie intake. With meal prep containers, you can save time and money by cooking in bulk and storing the meals for later. So if you're looking to simplify your meal routine, consider investing in some meal prep containers!
When it comes to meal prep, storage time is critical for maintaining the quality and safety of your food. It's essential to keep your perishable items such as meat, poultry, and fish in the fridge or freezer within two hours of cooking them. For best results, it's recommended to consume your prepped meals within three to four days if stored in the fridge and up to three months if stored in the freezer. By planning and prepping ahead, you can save time and money while ensuring that you always have healthy and delicious meals on hand. So, don't forget to store your meal prep correctly and enjoy a hassle-free eating experience.
"The groundwork of happiness is a healthy lifestyle"
Don't Skip Meals
Skipping meals is a common habit that many people fall into, but it can have negative effects on your health and wellbeing. When you skip meals, your body is left without the energy and nutrients it needs to function properly, which can lead to overeating and poor food choices later in the day. In order to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, it's important to make sure that you include three main meals and snacks in your meal plan.
When planning your meals, it's important to consider the types of foods you are eating. A balanced meal should include protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues in your body, carbohydrates provide energy, and healthy fats help your body absorb important vitamins and minerals.
In addition to your three main meals, it's also important to include healthy snacks throughout the day. Snacks can help keep you energised and prevent overeating during meal times. When choosing snacks, opt for foods that are high in protein and fiber, such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables. These foods will keep you feeling full for longer and prevent cravings for unhealthy snacks.
By making sure to include three main meals and snacks in your meal plan, you'll be providing your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to function properly throughout the day. This will help prevent overeating and poor food choices, and keep you feeling full and energised. Remember to focus on choosing healthy, balanced meals and snacks to support your overall health and wellbeing.
Here are some examples of healthy and balanced meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner:
- Greek yogurt with berries and granola
- Whole grain toast with avocado, sliced tomato, and a boiled egg
- Oatmeal with chopped nuts, dried fruit, and a spoonful of nut butter
- Smoothie bowl made with frozen fruit, almond milk, and topped with nuts and seeds
- Veggie omelet with whole grain toast
- Grilled chicken or tofu salad with mixed greens, veggies, and a vinaigrette dressing
- Whole grain wrap with hummus, sliced veggies, and grilled chicken or tofu
- Quinoa bowl with roasted veggies, chickpeas, and a tahini dressing
- Lentil soup with a side salad and whole grain bread
- Sushi roll with a side salad or miso soup
- Baked salmon or tofu with roasted veggies and quinoa
- Turkey with a side salad and cornbread
- Stir-fry with mixed veggies, tofu or chicken, and brown rice
- Grilled chicken or veggie kabobs with a side of roasted sweet potatoes
- Whole grain pasta with homemade tomato sauce, veggies, and grilled chicken or tofu
Remember, these are just a few examples, and there are countless possibilities when it comes to healthy and balanced meals. It's important to focus on incorporating a variety of nutrient-dense foods into your meals, such as lean protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Don't forget to Stay Hydrated
Drinking an adequate amount of water is crucial for maintaining good health. Water helps in regulating body temperature, digestion, nutrient absorption, and transportation of waste products. It also helps to keep our skin healthy and vibrant. In addition, water plays a vital role in maintaining the balance of bodily fluids, including blood and lymphatic fluid.
To ensure that you are drinking enough water, it is important to include it as part of your meal plan. You can also include other hydrating drinks such as herbal tea, coconut water, and fresh fruit juices. These drinks can provide additional nutrients and antioxidants that promote good health.
It is important to avoid sugary drinks like soda, energy drinks, and sweetened fruit juices. These beverages are often high in calories and can lead to weight gain and other health issues like diabetes and heart disease. Instead, opt for unsweetened beverages like water or herbal tea.
Limiting your intake of alcohol is also important for good health. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to dehydration, liver damage, and a weakened immune system. It can also increase the risk of developing certain cancers and other health problems.
How much water do we need to drink? 💦
The amount of water a woman should drink as a minimum can vary depending on several factors such as age, weight, activity level, and climate. However, as a general guideline, it is recommended that women drink at least 2 to 2.5 liters (8-10 cups) of water per day to maintain proper hydration. This can come from a combination of water and other hydrating fluids such as herbal tea, coconut water, and fresh fruit juices.
It's also important to note that some women may need to drink more water to meet their individual needs. For example, pregnant and breastfeeding women may need to drink more water to support the increased fluid requirements of their bodies and their baby's. Additionally, women who are physically active or living in hot climates may need to drink more water to prevent dehydration.
In any case, it's important to listen to your body and drink enough water to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. If you are unsure about how much water you should be drinking, you can consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian who can provide personalised recommendations based on your individual needs.
Read more about the health benefits of water here
Meal planning is a great tool for achieving a healthier lifestyle. By setting realistic goals, choosing nutritious foods, using leftovers, prepping ingredients in advance, making a shopping list, not skipping meals, and staying hydrated, you can make better food choices and improve your overall health. Start small and gradually build your meal planning skills. Your body will thank you for it!