Many times our well-intended goals of losing weight, eating better, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are thwarted by real life responsibilities. Making meal planning part of your routine is very important in supporting your efforts to achieve your goals.
We all know that home-cooked, fresh, nutritionally-balanced meals are healthier than fast food or many restaurant choices, not to mention easier on the wallet. You can control the amount of saturated fats and sodium in your meals when you prepare them yourself. Preparing your own meals also allows you to incorporate as many nutritionally dense foods as possible such as dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and colorful berries or citrus. Sometimes, if your recipe doesn’t have some of these items, you can prepare them as a side dish to serve alongside the main dish. However, cooking does require time which is tough with today’s busy schedules, so design a strategy for meals that works with your life.
How I do meal planning
Here is my typical meal planning strategy. Every Friday night or Saturday morning, I collect 4-5 recipes that I would like to make for dinner that week and a recipe I can make for prepackaged lunches. I make a grocery list based on the recipes and check the grocery store ad to see what their best deals are for the week. I will often stock up on an item when it is at a great price. Then, I hit the grocery store Saturday afternoon. Sunday is spent preparing any recipe that can be made ahead time and kept in the fridge or frozen until needed. For instance, this week I made Lasagna, Chicken Korma with Rice, Crock-Pot Beef Bourguignon, and Shrimp Fajitas.
I only buy the leanest proteins and dairy, fresh vegetables and whole grain products. This way, if I have to make dinner on the fly, I have healthy ingredients stocked in the freezer and pantry. For most recipes, vegetables and meat can be chopped and prepared 2-3 days before cooking as long as they stay in airtight containers in the refrigerator. This is a huge time saver. It can cut your weeknight cooking time down by 15 to 20 minutes. If the meal is not going be served within a couple of days, it is best to freeze it.
All in all, I spent an hour planning, an hour or so shopping, and 3-4 hours prepping throughout the course of the weekend and now I am ready for my week which is busy with work, the gym, the kids, the dog, the house, oh, and squeezing in a date with my honey.
This plan might seem overwhelming at first but I bet if you spend some time thinking it through, you can design a meal planning strategy that works for you and your family. It doesn’t have to be every meal every week, but even being half-prepared is better than nothing. Small changes can yield big results! Good luck to you as you journey into this new year. Bon appétit!
Sara Klingelberg is the Patient Care Coordinator at Queen City Plastic Surgery. Her background is in nutrition and she enjoys crossfit and spending time with her two boys.