Set yourself up for healthy eating with a meal schedule. Meal planning will not only remind you of when you need to eat, but it will also help you to create a healthy balance of essential foods.
4 Steps to Healthy Meal Planning
Schedule a time to plan. That sounds redundant doesn't it? It's not. You need to set aside 30 minutes each week to plan your meals and create a shopping list. I find that it's easiest to do it on Sunday mornings. I create a workout schedule and an eating plan at the same time. You can either use this template if you have Microsoft Office or create one of your own.
Once I have a meal schedule, I create a shopping list. That way, I buy only the food that I need for the week (no additional snacks!) and save money by not buying food that will go to waste. It's best to do this step when you are not hungry.
- Evaluate your meal plan. You may have a diet plan in place. If so, make sure each day's calorie count and nutrient balance follows that plan. If you don't have a specific diet to follow, you can still evaluate each day's intake on your meal plan. Does each meal include fruits and vegetables? Have you included enough lean protein in each meal and snack? Are you eating the right number of calories each day? Use the MyPlate icon (pictured) as a guide for your meals and make adjustments as needed.
- Shop and cook. One of the reasons that I like to plan my meals on Sunday morning is that I spend Sunday afternoon shopping and cooking my meals. I cook in large quantities and then divide the food into individual containers to eat throughout the week. This saves time later in the week when I am too busy to cook a healthy meal and I find myself tempted to eat higher calorie, convenience meals.
- Lay out the day's food. I usually do this step the night before, but you can also do it when you wake up each morning during the week. Refer to the meal-planning schedule that you created in step one, and set out the food that you are going to eat the following day. I pack my lunch and place the foods that I'll eat at home in the front of the refrigerator or pantry. That way, the food that I should be eating is the food that is easiest and most convenient for me to grab when I'm hungry.
Benefits of Planning Your Meals
Everyone has good intentions when they are trying to lose weight. We usually want to eat the right foods. But when healthy food is hard to find or when it takes too much effort to organize or prepare, poor food choices (that are usually more convenient) win out. Meal planning and scheduling removes the temptation to eat quick, high-calorie, high-fat meals.
Need more information to plan your meals? Use any of these resources from the MyPlate.gov program and from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.