Meal Planning....it's something that I don't necessarily LOVE doing; but, it's something that is a necessity, for me. I talk and teach about meal planning in my accountability groups because it has been such a strong factor in getting me and my family on track to a healthy lifestyle. It has also allowed me to free up time during the week, especially on the nights that we are busy with the kids activities. I will admit, it can be a tedious process but once you get in to the groove, it's really not bad at all! And, it's totally worth it! So, today I am going to share with you my tips on getting started with your plan...
Find a template that works for you. Sure, you can THINK about what you plan to eat throughout the week but having it in writing is so much easier, especially if you are following any kind of nutrition program. I personally prefer a template that I created on my computer. I pull it up each week and delete / add my new meals. It's a quicker process, especially when a lot of your meals are generally the same. Another planner that I have grown to love, especially if you are a pencil / paper person, is the Erin Condren Wellness planner. It's a small, thin, handheld booklet that is pretty inexpensive. It will fit in most normal sized purses so you could even take it with you and track throughout the day!
Map out your meal times and work outs. This is SUCH an important step! I often hear people say that they will work out "in the morning" or "after work." It makes sense. I get it. I used to do the same. But my times were never planned out. I would get up, do what I needed to do in the morning then get a workout in; or, I would go through my day knowing that I would squeeze my workout in later. That resulted in missed workouts and me justifying it by saying "I didn't have time I'll double up tomorrow." (and we all know that the "double" didn't happen the next day). Now, I put a time to my workouts. I know that at 6:30am each morning I have an appointment with my cross trainers, laptop, and weights. It's an appointment that is scheduled and that, unless an emergency, I don't cancel. But here's the thing. Sometimes 7:00am simply can't happen. THAT is why having a plan is AWESOME. If I know that I won't be available at my "normal" time, then I make sure I have it scheduled in at a different time when I do my plan.
-->The same goes with my meals. I am able to look at my week ahead and know when I will have the time to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and also my two snacks throughout the day. If something comes up, if I get too busy and have to switch times, it's not a big deal! BUT, having that plan in place provides me a structure and something that I can follow. If you have a consistent work schedule then you probably don't have much control of your breakfast, snacks, and lunch time, which essentially may make things easier.
Plan your dinners first. This may be a personal preference, but, I tend to have my most variety in my dinners. So, I plan those out AND I decide if I am going to make extra to have for leftovers. Why? Because leftovers can be used for lunch the next day, making my planning even easier! A past meal plan of mine is posted below. I personally follow a portion controlled nutrition plan so if you don't understand the number and letters under my meals that's what it is. I am a huge fan of this system because it has truly helped me understand what foods are most nutritionally dense and how much of them I should be eating in order to meet my goals.
Step 4: Plan out breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Once my dinners are planned I am able to go in and add in the other meals. I personally find it easier to plan for the same breakfast (or two) throughout the week to simplify the process. The same goes for lunch with the exception of the days where I may have leftovers. Plan in bulk - what does that mean? Unless you are someone who HAS
to have a ton of variety in foods throughout the week, I recommend
sticking to the same one or two breakfast / lunch / snacks throughout
the week and varying your dinners. By doing so you have less planning,
less prep, and it's cheaper!
Meal Prep. This is a big one! Prepping as much of your food for the week as possible can be a lifesaver! Obviously there are foods that can't be prepped so focusing on what you CAN prep is key. Here are some ideas:
* Egg Muffins: I prep up to 8, which is 4 days worth.
*Overnight Oats can be prepped in mason jars.
* Chicken - you can grill a few chicken breasts to chop in to salads or have in wraps throughout the week.
* Veggies - chop veggies to have as snacks or for upcoming recipes
* Ground Turkey - like chicken, you can cook up some ground turkey to have in wraps, on salads, or in sandwiches
BONUS TIP: If you are able to prep snacks like fruits and veggies, keep the baggies or storage containers at eye level in the fridge. Don't hide them away in the drawers at the bottom! That way, when you open the refrigerator it's right there waiting for you with nothing else tempting in the way.
Hang your plan on the refrigerator or place on your kitchen counter. This is the easiest step! Having that plan in the kitchen, where you will see it every single day will help to keep you on track. Obviously the most important part is actually sticking to it, but I find it easier when that plan is in my sight any time I walk in the kitchen.
There you have it! Those are my meal planning tips that I follow pretty much every single weekend. Yes, it looks like a lot but once you get in to the habit it becomes second nature. Once I find a meal / snack that I like, it goes in my rotation list so that when I sit down to plan, I check that list out and pick what I want! They are foods that I know I like, that fill me up, and that have already been implemented in the past. The longer you meal plan the bigger your list will come. Trust me when I say, once you get in to this habit, on the weeks that you DON'T plan, you'll see what difference it makes.
I encourage you to give this meal planning process a try. You can check out the Clean Eating recipes tab above for some of my favorite meals and snacks or hop on Pinterest for a plethora of recipes!
If you are interested in getting specific support and trying out one of my online accountability groups, feel free to fill out the application below! I am starting a new group on March 20th called March Meltdown. Throughout the group we will be focusing on meal planning, daily exercise and I will be providing you with tips, motivation, and accountability throughout the process.