Updated: Jan 14
Meal planning is a really simple tool to help you implement changes to your diet. Once you have a dietary plan (or an idea of the changes you want to make), developing a weekly meal plan is a natural stepping stone, helping you take the stress out of implementing changes.
Although it may feel like another thing to add to your to-do list, meal planning really will SAVE YOU TIME in the long run and help SIMPLIFY the process of making changes. Ultimately setting you up for success to achieve your health goals.
Meal planning helps you to blend your healthy eating habits into your lifestyle, making it a natural part of your daily routine without creating overwhelm.
Meal planning works in your favour, helping you make healthy food a priority, whilst allowing for some good old fashioned TREATS along the way. I believe it's important to plan those in too!
Not only will it ensure you have a good balance of foods in your cupboards, but it can help to minimise the anxiety of preparing new meals and changing up your diet.
You will feel better ORGANISED and PREPARED for the week ahead, making the whole experience of evolving your diet, that much easier and more enjoyable.
Meal planning is really helpful when you want to include more WHOLE-FOODS in your diet and cook more meals from scratch. By planning your home-cooked meals in advance, you can limit the number of processed foods you buy, including those impulse-buys.
This can be a huge help with WEIGHT LOSS and WEIGHT MANAGEMENT, since YOU are in control of the food and what you are putting in your body. As I talked about in my last post, whole-foods can help boost your energy at breakfast, lunch and dinner and snack-times.
My meal planning tips:
1. Get yourself a meal planning pad: It always helps to have a nice paper pad I think. Ideally you want one with 7 days and space for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Most come with space for a shopping list too. You can buy these from most stationary shops or find printable ones online.
2. Pick a day to be your menu planning day: I normally plan on a Sunday to start on a Monday, but it will vary according to your lifestyle. If you're doing a weekly shop, do your plan a day or so before.
3. Plan out your breakfast, lunch, dinner AND two snacks: Don’t leave out breakfast as it's a key meal of the day and don't forget snacks either. It's much better to have lots of healthy snack options in the house, so you have choices and are less drawn to convenience snacks. Having a planned snack, mid-morning or afternoon can stop you from suffering a blood sugar low/high, resulting in dips in mood and energy. However, you should be guided by your lifestyle, meal times and your hunger.
4. Give thought to meals you often skip or struggle to enjoy: Consider why you often skip them? Are you bored of having the same thing? Or is just down to time? Do you need a meal you can prep in advance to work around your work day? Do you need to alter the time of some meals? Maybe you need to rethink what you eat or mix up your meal options.
5. Plan around your lifestyle: Plan your meals around slow periods and more hectic evenings. There are nights where you may just want a quick healthy evening meal. Slow-cooker dishes, stews or a quick stir fry are great for these days. Maybe on a weekend though, you'd like a healthy 'fakeaway' option...so plan that in too.
6. Plan in the foods you most enjoy: Include the foods that you love in your meal plans. Pick your real favourites and make it really special. Healthy living is about allowing yourself all foods and indulging from time to time. If we restrict certain foods, it just makes us want them even more.
7. Start with recipes that you know: For convenience, you could start with tried and tested recipes and see what you could ADD in to enhance the nutritional value. Adding in more plants is an absolute winner for elevating the nutritional value of your diet, improving gut health and obtaining more phytoestrogens, which support hormonal health.
8. Think of colours: Eating a rainbow of different coloured fruit and vegetables throughout the week, should ensure you get a good mix of vital vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. ADD 1 or 2 new colours and switch them around each week.
8. Collect new recipes: Start building a collection of recipes you like and add to these little by little from cookbooks, recipes online or your social media faves. Or talk to me about a getting a bespoke set of recipes and meal plan tailored to your needs.
9. Cook Once, Eat twice: Plan in leftovers by making double of one meal to have the next day. Having dinner as a leftover for lunch the next day is a good option. You also have the option to freeze some of the leftovers to use the following week if you prefer.
If you are new to meal planning, it might be a bit daunting at first. Start by planning a few meals each week, maybe starting with dinners, and go from there. It will all make a difference.
10. Be Flexible: Rigid meal plans don't work, because we often just change our minds. Some days we just fancy something different don't we. So you could make a generic 7 day meal plan and then keep it flexible as to which day you have them.
I hope you have found these points helpful. Meal planning really can take the stress out of your week. Taking an hour to plan your meals for the week will save you much more time and energy in the long run. Once you start implementing a weekly meal plan, you should notice you feel less stressed around meal times, allowing your mind to focus on other things.
Need help with a meal plan?
Meal plans and recipe packs are included in my 1-2-1 coaching plans, which are tailored to your specific dietary needs and lifestyle. My online courses come with a 7 day meal plan and over 60 recipes for you to try. I also provide a stand-alone meal planning service.