Are You Neglecting Your Meal Planning?

Appears courtesy of Athlete at Heart.

How often have you let your pantry and fridge run out of good healthy foods and instead of

Depositphotos_6542876_XL heading to the store right away you go out to eat?  How often have you failed to plan ahead or pack a lunch and end up in the workplace cafeteria giving in to unhealthy options or making friends with the vending machine?

These are pitfalls for everyone trying to eat healthy.  I know I struggle with them on a regular basis.  This past week I ate out far too often because I didn’t have good food at home.  I also didn’t pack any lunches during the week.  This is not just unhealthy, it’s expensive!

Last night I went shopping and loaded up on healthy, yummy foods and snacks.  When I got home I made sure I had everything I needed for the dinner I wanted to cook tonight and I spent about 15 minutes making and packing my soft-sided cooler (my office doesn’t have a fridge) with a healthy breakfast, lunch, and snack.

Today I am not spending any money on food, I’m eating healthy, and I’m staying within my daily calories.  I’m not grabbing candy out of the office candy dish because I have good snacks to keep me satisfied.  I know exactly what I am making for dinner so I won’t be tempted to go out or order in.  All this benefit for just a 15-20 minute time investment the night before!

The truth is that if you take the time to plan your meals you will be much more likely to stick with your healthy eating plan.  There are lots of ways to do this.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Pick out a Few Meals for the Week – Pick out a few recipes or meals you’d like to make for dinners during the week.  They don’t have to be fancy.  Tacos are a staple at my house!  Look at your schedule and decide what nights you will cook these.  Shop for these recipes so you have all the ingredients close at hand and no excuse not to make them.
  2. Make Enough for Leftovers – Dinner leftovers make great lunches!  This also gives you something quick to grab on nights when you are busy and don’t have time to cook.
  3. Cook Meat Ahead of Time – Having already cooked meat on hand makes for quick meals.  Pick a night when you are home and marinate and grill some steak or chicken for the week.  I recommend just having grilled steak or chicken one night early in the week and making a few extras.  You can use the extra for dinners and lunches throughout the week.  Eat it plain, on a sandwich, dice it up and throw in on a salad, etc.  There are lots of quick and healthy ways to use it up.  You can also cook rice ahead of time!
  4. Wash & Cut Your Produce Right Away – Take a few extra minutes to wash and cut up any fruit and veggies right after you get home from the grocery store.  This prevents you from opening the fridge to get a snack and passing on the watermelon because it isn’t cut or the celery because it isn’t washed.  It is cheaper than buying precut fruit and I find I eat much more and throw away much less produce when I take the time to do this.
  5. Keep Quick, Easy Options on Hand – While your preference may be to cook your meals using fresh veggies and the like, that is not always an option.  Keep some frozen steamed veggies, quick cooking rice and oatmeal, and other easy options on hand for when you don’t feel like starting from scratch.
  6. Pack Lunches the Night Before – Mornings can be hectic and rushed.  Don’t wait until then to pack a lunch or you’ll often find yourself out of time. It only takes 10-15 minutes to put together healthy food to take with you, especially if you have healthy snacks, leftovers, and meat on hand.  Some easy, healthy lunches include soup, sandwiches, salads, savory oats, and wraps.

Hopefully these tips give you some useful ideas for planning your meals ahead of time.  It is a small investment of time and energy compared to the big payoff of healthy eating and all the benefits that come with it!

What are your tips for planning and preparing meals ahead of time?

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  1. I was doing sooo well with Meal Planning. Each week I planned out the meals, shopped and it went on perfectly. Summer kind of ruined that. I meal planned less, went out more and was just too busy. Now I’m trying to get back at it. It really does help.

  2. This is fantastic advice. I preach it myself. :)

  3. Great article. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen diets fail from a lack of meal planning – both the macronutrient planning and the physical cooking of the food.

    It makes it much easier to stick to your diet when you cook your food in advance and store it in containers. Just reheat and eat – what could be easier.

  4. Actually writing it all down. I feel like once my meal plan is written, I have no choice but to stick to it!

  5. The simple potato soup is a great idea! I have a recipe for Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana potato and sausage soup. It’s delicious and with less or no sausage it is quite healthy!

  6. You’re welcome! Thanks for reading :)