Meal Planning For Slackers
Written by Angela Silva
Meal planning doesn’t require coordinating black portion-control containers or lots of boiled chicken and broccoli. It doesn’t mean eating the same thing every day, and it doesn’t mean giving up your favorite foods. It means being more mindful of what you eat, and how food makes your body feel. It means understanding how nutrition affects your body and eating the best foods in the best amounts for your body. And this doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s how to create a simple meal plan to help you meet your health goals.
Review Nutrition Recommendations
Don’t get caught up in the marketing world that tells you that you need fancy shakes and dense protein bars to get your nutrition. Stick to the basics that you’ve been taught all of your life. Calculate how many calories your body needs and what your intake should be. Build your menu around this. As far as what you eat, the general rules, according to choosemyplate.gov, are:
- Half of your plate should be fruits and veggies, with more veggies than fruit
- The other half of your plate should be grains and protein, focusing on whole-grains and lean protein
- Dairy choices should be low or fat-free
- Try to avoid drinking your calories, reaching for water as much as possible
Obviously the plate represents our diets in general, so with this information, ask yourself if half of what you eat is fruit and veggies? How lean is your protein, and how often do you consume whole grains? This can give you a good baseline of what you need to focus on when planning meals.
Track what you eat
Counting calories can be a helpful tool for awareness. For a week, use an app like MyFitnessPal or a Fitbit to easily log what you eat as a baseline for what your diet is like right now. This will help you identify common foods that you eat that are high in calories, or even times of the day where you tend to eat more. This is especially helpful if your goal weight loss. While this doesn’t have to be a long-term practice, seeing your food as a source of energy can help you to stay on track and avoid excess calories that can lead to weight gain and other health problems.
Make a list of your Favorites
Not every meal you eat has to be your favorite. Realizing that will help you when you’re trying new things or are short on options but need to make healthier choices. That being said, when you do have time to plan, plan around foods you enjoy. Make your vegetables raw baby carrots, asparagus, or whatever vegetables you like. Try to incorporate foods you enjoy into each category. It’s easier to make healthy choices when they’re choices we enjoy.
Make a list and stick to it! Don’t forget to plan for snacks and treats, as well. If you find yourself with a sweet tooth or wanting a snack but don’t have anything healthy on hand or only have foods with lots of sugar and fat, then that’s probably what you’ll eat. Consider buying Halo Top Ice Cream, low-calorie popcorn, having a small cup of chocolate chips, or even watermelon or your favorite fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth without consuming too many calories.
Prep in advance
As much as you can, make it convenient to make healthy choices. Put a serving size of baby carrots or your favorite raw veggies or fruit into snack-size zip lock bags so you can grab them on the go. Fill up water bottles in advance so you can keep water handy, and pre-cook part of your dinner in advance if possible.
Try new recipes
Remember that eating healthier does not necessarily mean eating less. The size of the food does not correlate with the amount of calories. You can eat larger portions of fruits and vegetables that will make you feel fuller but only have a fraction of the calories as other foods that are high in sugar and fat. Use this information to discover new foods that you like that are alternatives to higher-calorie foods you normally enjoy. For example, you could use a spiralizer to use vegetables as a base to make pasta dishes.
Start meal planning today to stay in control of your food choices and to ensure you’re getting adequate nutrition or your body’s needs.