Planning is half the battle….How do you know what you are eating for dinner tonight?
Oh no… the dreaded words… MEAL PLANNING! I bet many of you cringe at the mere thought of doing meal planning. But honestly it doesn’t have to be done a certain way and whatever works for you is what is best. There is no right or wrong way to meal plan. The most important thing is doing some type of planning or thinking ahead. Because when we are left to spur of the moment food decisions, most times the eyes and stomach over ride what you are wanting for health!
I ask clients all the time if they are meal planning and most of them say “no”. Then I ask well… “How do you know what you what you are eating for dinner tonight?” They say something to the fact of “I thawed out some meat last night” or “I put chicken in the crockpot when I went home at lunch”. My response to them is then “yes you are meal planning”. They just didn’t realize it because they weren’t sitting down once a week and writing out the menu. So how does this whole meal planning thing work?
Here is how to get started
Determine what meals you need to plan, not everyone will plan 3 meals and 3 snacks a day. Identify which meals you tend to struggle with the most. Your struggles can be identified by meals you tend to over eat at, meals you skip or meals that you end up eating out, driving thru or ordering in for. Some people need to plan breakfast others may need to plan dinners… some may need to plan snacks. Plan what matters to you.
What to consider when planning
Who will be eating the meals, who will be cooking the meals? What activities are planned for that day/evening, what is the weather predicted to be? Weather, you might ask. Well if it is nice outside than grilling is a quick healthy way to prepare your meal. What are your health goals? Determine your budget, are you going to use coupons, check the local grocery ads and try to use current food inventory.
Some families do well with structure and consistent meal themes ie. Italian night, Mexican night, etc. It can also be helpful to involve family members. Research supports when family members help plan the menu and cook the food, they are more likely to eat the food they prepare. You can do this by assigning certain people to cook on specific nights ie Monday night is Dad’s night to cook which can make it easier for Dad to remember when it is his turn.
I recommend families move away from Friday pizza night to Friday sub sandwich night or Salad bar night. There is nothing wrong with planning a night or two out to eat especially those who are busy in the evenings. Just because you eat out doesn’t mean you are eating unhealthy or overeating, it is all about what you choose to eat and when you choose to stop eating it. I recommend clients try to eat out 3 times or less per week as this equates to only 14% of their total nutrition intake for the week when they are eating 21 meals. Here is a menu planning outline that can walk you through the steps and web sites for more direction.
Menu Planning Outline:
· Find a day each week/month to plan meals __________________________________________
· Prioritize and make TIME to do it!
· What meals, how much time do you have each day, what is the schedule for the week, etc… ______________________________________________________________________________
· Who will be eating, what family members will be around
· Who will be cooking the food
· Get the family involved in the process, theme nights or people nights
· Get the grocery ads, coupons, and online deals
· Do inventory at your home
· Keep a Coupon Book/check online coupons
· Pen & Paper
· Computer spread sheet
· Website planning & phone Apps
o www.emeals.com – 5$ per month
o www.plantoeat.com – 4.95 per month
o www.relishrelish.com – 7$ per month, has app for smart phones
o www.ziplist.com online and phone app for grocery lists & meal planning
Do: Make menu & then make your grocery list based off of your menu
As mentioned before meal planning done right is whatever works for you. You may have to try several methods before you determine what works, so don’t get frustrated if planning a week at a time doesn’t work. Just try a different method of planning and see what is easiest for you. Some weeks I plan more than others, so be flexible with it. As long as you are thinking ahead you can have the power to make healthy choices and be in charge of your nutrition.
This article is written by Registered Dietitian Jessica
A. Wegener RD, CSSD, LMNT you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org , 402-669-2705 or visit www.pnomaha.com for more information on Jessica and her services. She will be at Square1Club every 4th Wednesday of the month for one complimentary 15 minute session.