- Planning and preparing your own meals ahead of time can save you time, money, and effort later.
- It even teaches you to balance your meals, thus ensuring you get enough nutrients.
- Meal planning also serves as a guide to understanding that protein sources don’t just come from meat but also from seafood, beans, nuts, and soy products.
When it comes to preparing and cooking your own healthy meals, planning is key. By definition, meal planning is simply knowing in advance what you’ll be eating for the next few days or weeks ahead, along with a plan for how to accomplish it.
When done the right way, planning your meals ahead can help save you time, money, and calories later. It also helps ensure that you’re getting enough nutrients on your plate by keeping your pantry and refrigerator well-stocked with fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-rich foods.
Although meal planning may sound challenging, anyone can master meal planning with a bit of practice. Here are some practical tips from a registered dietitian to make meal prepping a breeze.
1. Figure Out How To Get Your Meal Proportions Right
The 50/25/25 rule, according to the USDA’s MyPlate food guide, means allotting 50 percent of your plate to fruits and vegetables, 25 percent to whole grains and 25 percent to lean protein. Following this not only helps you balance your meals, but also aids in organizing your shopping list.
2. Take Note that Meat Isn’t Your Only Source of Protein
Besides beef and poultry, foods like seafood, eggs, beans, peas, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products, are all excellent sources of protein. Because beans, peas, and lentils also belong to the vegetable category, you can enjoy two food groups for the price of one.
3. Eat Foods That You Actually Like
It’s important in meal planning to enjoy the foods that you love instead of opting for ones that you think you should be eating. Choosing and preparing menus that aren’t satisfying to you makes it harder to maintain a healthy diet.
4. Plan Out How to Season Your Dishes
You may find yourself adding condiments or sauces to give your meals an extra kick. Creamy and salty sauces may be savory but their high fat and salt content don’t make them the healthiest additions to your plate. To season your dishes, go for light and satisfying options like fresh fruit juices, herbs, and spices.
5. Save Some For Leftovers
Double your recipe if you’ve chosen a dish you know you can reheat and eat as lunch the next day. And if you’re already a fan of leftovers, consider including that dish in your meal plan twice to save time and effort to prepare it.
6. Stock Your Kitchen With Healthy Beverages
Your daily meals may be nutritious and healthy but your drinks are not. Instead of consuming sugary drinks and alcohol, make sure to stock your pantry with healthier options, such as milk and 100 percent fruit juice.
7. Make a List Before You Go Grocery Shopping
Before heading to the grocery, do a quick inventory of what you have on hand in your kitchen and refrigerator. After planning out your meals, make a grocery list of everything you will need to prepare your food for the coming days. This saves you from any last-minute supermarket runs and also stops you from buying anything you don’t need.
8. Get a Meal Planner
There are a myriad of meal planning resources available (Facebook, Pinterest, Blogs, Google searches) to help you kickstart your healthy eating goals. If you find meal planning on your own challenging, investing in a meal planning book like 52-Week Meal Planner ($11) greatly helps.