Nutrition is a tough piece of the “health” puzzle.
Mostly because we are awake for so many hours, and there are so many options and rules that it becomes overwhelming.
Eat this, don’t eat that. Eat now, don’t eat then.
And how the heck is someone supposed to keep up with eating healthy, since it takes so much time and effort to do so.
And along with nutrition there is workouts, water, sleep, stress, family, work..so much on one plate to juggle.
But I promise, taking the time to plan things out makes it so much easier.
It takes out the guessing and the time consumption each day and let’s the week go a little bit smoother.
So let’s talk about meal planning, it’s importance, how how you can do it to simplify your nutrition.
Meal planning is simply taking time to plan out meals for the day, week or month, in advance.
This can take 10 minutes, or this can take an hour. Just depends on how much you are planning and how specific you are.
If you are someone who is planning foods and also needs portions/measurements, then it is going to take a little bit longer.
But if you are someone who is just planning what is going to be eaten for the week, it can be much quicker.
This is important because it saves you time and energy during the week.
So instead of every day/night searching the fridge and pantry for what is for dinner, you just go to your plan and throw it together.
Meal planning isn’t 100% necessary to be “healthy” but it does make it much easier to stay on track.
When we are hungry we tend to just eat whatever is there or sounds good.
But if you create a plan ahead of time, it is much easier to just go through the motions of cooking what is planned rather than what is an easy grab or take out.
In my experience as a coach, the answer here is really “it depends”.
Meal planning is effective if you stick to it and do it regularly, just like anything else in a health and fitness journey.
If you do it one week, maybe 2 weeks you might see the effectiveness or the benefits.
But if you do it for 1 month, 2 months; then you will start to see the changes it can make in your day to day life.
The effectiveness comes down to the effort you put in.
If you plan out only a few meals a week, you may find yourself not following the meal plan at all because it isn’t “worth it”.
This is why I encourage my clients to pick the meals that they usually struggle with and plan them out.
As they get the hang of it, they can start to plan more and more.
It’s effective if you do it – if you put in the effort it takes to make it effective.
Let’s start with – you don’t have to meal plan to be healthy.
It is something that can make eating healthier meals easier, but it isn’t necessary. Just like meal prepping isn’t necessary to be healthy.
If you have the right mindset around meal planning, it can be sustainable.
Taking the have to pressure off of it makes it more sustainable.
Not to mention that it is a practice that makes your health journey easier, not harder.
It isn’t counting calories or tracking everything you eat – it is simply just writing down the meals you are going to eat for the week.
Based on what my clients have said – meal planning really does make or break your healthy eating/diet.
Let’s list out the advantages of meal planning and you can decide for yourself.
Pros of Meal Planning:
• It saves time during the week guessing/wondering what to eat.
• Save money on groceries since you know exactly what you need.
• Saves you the last minute scramble when you forget to thaw the meat for dinner.
• Reduce food waste because ingredients are being used in meals in the plan.
• More variety in your diet/meals because of planning ahead.
• Avoid things like frozen pizza and dinner meals because of planning ahead.
So now you ask yourself, are the advantages of meal planning worth it for a little extra effort up front?
There aren’t too many disadvantages of meal planning, because it isn’t something you have to do but it is optional because of the advantages it offers.
The only disadvantage I can think of is the time it takes to plan ahead.
It can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on how much you are planning and how specific you are being.
But again – the more you plan, the easier it is going to be for you during the week. Especially if you are someone who eats out often because of long hours and late nights.
Meal planning can also be challenging with kids – schedules change often, and not all kids are willing to eat what you plan.
So it will take more effort cooking for kids and cooking for you, but if you are serious about getting healthy, you will make it happen.
To make it easier, I am going to share with you my tips and templates to make planning a little less daunting for you.
You may be thinking that you have no idea where to start or what to do.
I get it – it can be totally overwhelming.
You may have actually had “meal planning” on your to do list or goals for weeks and you still haven’t done it.
So let’s break it down and make it easy to do!
• Start with 1 meal for the week – planning just dinners or just lunches makes it easier to start.
• Write down meals that have carb, fat, protein and veggie incorporated in them. Even making it as simple as chicken, potatoes, asparagus and cooked in ghee.
• Pick 1 thing to eat for the whole week (if you can) to put energy into other meals. I eat the same breakfast daily, plan out dinners and then lunches are leftovers.
• If you are bored with meals – surf pinterest (or the Collective recipes) to find something fresh. Trying just 1 new meal a week can make things more fun!
• If you hate cooking or don’t have time, don’t pick meals that take a lot of prep. It’s okay to find some easy options like banza pasta with chicken sausage, shrimp and rice bowls or 1 pan chicken and veggies.
Hopefully these tips give you an idea of where to start and what is going to work for you.
Don’t get overwhelmed by the process, just start where you are able and build on it as you can. There are no “have to” or rules that you have to follow to be successful.
For me, it’s easy to just add a note in my phone to plan out my meals. Then it is for sure with me at the store, and I can share it with my husband so he also knows the plan and has the grocery list.
But I know a lot of people are visual, pen to paper people. So I created a simple meal template download you can print out and use to plan your meals for the week.
There is also a blog that breaks down things a little bit more, so you feel more confident in your planning.
If you feel like pen to paper or a note in your phone ins’t going to work for you, there are apps that can help you plan out meals.
I have never personally tried any of these, but I will share a bit about each one so you have an idea before doing a trial or paying for one of them.
Paprika – this app is one of the best meal planning apps out there. It automates your meal planning, cooking and recipes all in one place. It also helps organize your kitchen and what you already have to help create meals.
Meal Board – this app is best for budget cooking. Some of the features of this app include storing recipes you create or save from the web, move meals around in your calendar easily, create grocery list, track what’s in your pantry, sync between your devices and more!
Big Oven – this app is best for using up leftovers. It helps make cooking simple, plan meals, create grocery lists and more. It also gives you a bunch of tools and a community to help making cooking easier for you.
I hope you found this blog helpful and gets you started on your meal planning journey.
Remember – don’t over do it and don’t get overwhelmed by feeling like you need to do it all. Just start small and build on it.
Leave a comment on this blog if you found it helpful!