Meal planning has a whole bunch of benefits but today we’re focusing on healthy eating and specifically, weight loss.
Planning and preparation are key for success in anything – eating healthy is no different.
We all fall into eating habits. And if you’re busy, those eating habits might naturally include convenience foods that aren’t all that good for you.
And they’re not usually good for the budget either.
It can take a fair bit of effort to break free of our habits and form new ones. That’s where the planning comes in.
Meal planning and meal prep make forming new eating habits easier because they help you stock your kitchen with the right kinds of foods.
Healthy eating isn’t rocket science. It involves lots of vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains.
None of which are very convenient. So a little planning and prep will make eating healthy a whole lot easier.
4 Steps to Eating Healthier
Before we begin, I want to tell you what I learned when using calorie counting apps and how to use them the right way.
Calorie Counting Apps (MyFitnessPal is the best in my opinion) can be really useful to give you an idea of portion size and exactly how many calories are in the foods you eat.
Just like budgeting, tracking real data can give you a good idea if you’re on track to reach your goal. But it’s important to use this data to plan ahead for success.
You don’t want to fitness apps to track how much you ate (past tense). Instead, enter what you plan to eat tomorrow and see how the calories and nutrients stack up before anything passes your lips.
Then rather than looking back and regretting what you ate, you can make adjustments to your plan before you eat.
Here are some other tips for success.
1. Plan your meals
In order to break a habitual eating pattern and create a new one, you need to spend a little time at the beginning researching new meal ideas, getting familiar with ingredients, recipes and preparation techniques and planning your meals around your family’s routine.
The less you have to wing it at the last minute, the more likely you’ll choose healthy eating options.
Before you can fill your kitchen with healthy foods start by gathering recipes and meal ideas that are full of vegetables and suit your tastes and your budget.
Then fill in your meal plan with these meal ideas. Don’t forget breakfast, lunch and snacks – it all adds up.
See further: Plan Cook Save – a complete meal planning strategy.
2. Shop for Health
New meals often call for new ingredients, so to ensure that they are on hand write a comprehensive shopping list at the same time as you write your meal plan.
Then it’s important to have a strategy to stick to that list!
Don’t shop hungry (you’re more likely to pick up unhealthy snacks if you do). Pack a healthy snack in your bag to ward off the munchies if necessary.
Finally, avoid the aisles with all the junk food and stick to the perimeter where you’ll find the healthy whole foods.
3. Stock your kitchen with good snacks
The key to success is to engineer your environment – that’s just fancy talk for stocking your kitchen with good foods and not the bad ones.
Not eating ‘naughty’ foods all the time is easier if you don’t have them on hand.
It’s hard to snack well if there is too much temptation to eat cookies or whatever in the pantry.
The other thing I find about snacking well is that if you have good snacks on hand, you don’t tend to overeat at dinner time because you feel starving.
4. Prep ahead for success
More than just having the right foods in the kitchen, having them already prepared will make eating them as easy as opening a bag of potato chips.
Set aside a time each week – mark it in the calendar, a routine is great for getting things done – to prepare some healthy food for the week.
- Pre-wash fruit and vegetables.
- Pre-cut fruit and vegetables and store properly.
- Make ahead snacks like cubed cheese, dips, trail mix so it’s easy to grab and go.
- Pre-marinate and freeze meat for easy stir-fries.
- Roast a tray of vegetables for easy weeknight pizzas, frittatas, omelettes, wraps, sides etc.
- Plan to double or triple a meal and freeze to make next week easy, save time cleaning and save electricity too.
Meal planning is essential for healthy eating and weight loss if that’s your goal. Use it to plan healthy meals and snacks and prepare them ahead of time so eating healthy is as easy as convenience foods.
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.