“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” said Benjamin Franklin. This really applies to your meals. We really underestimate how much work it is to feed ourselves. You should plan to have 3 meals per day and up to 3 snacks – weekly that is 21 meals and snacks planned. But how many of us are doing that?
What happens when you don’t have your meals planned is indecision (not knowing what to eat), boredom (eating the same things) or skipping the meal altogether (because you just can’t deal). None of this sounds like fun and eating above all else should be enjoyable.
Meal planning (or the concept of it) has always been a struggle for me because I think I should be free to eat whatever I want. And yes, that is true. But I’d rather have something planned and then change my mind than not having anything planned at all. Trust me, it works.
So, here is how to meal plan. Sit down and actually write down what you are going to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week and what you will have for snacks. Of course, there might be nights when you get home later for dinner or will not be there for dinner at all. That’s fine. If you know you’re going to be working late one night, you can plan to have leftovers. If you know you’re out to dinner one night also plan that too. You’re more likely not to waste the food in your refrigerator when you have a plan for it all.
Here are some general guidelines for meal planning:
1. Three meals a day. At each meal, you should have a source of protein, carbohydrate, and fat.
2. Plan to have a fruit or vegetable at every meal. That’s right. AT EVERY MEAL. Do not question this rule.
3. Remember to have variety. Variety is the cornerstone of a healthy diet. I know, you love your oatmeal for breakfast, or your banana. However, try experimenting with different fruits. Or try having quinoa instead of oatmeal one day. If you don’t like it, don’t make it again. However, switching things up in your meals will allow you to experiment with new tastes and you will not get bored. Part of planning out your meals for the week will allow you to see if you are eating the same things or not.
4. Plan out your meals before you do your weekly grocery shopping. That way you can take stock of what you have in the house and what you will need. Going to try making a new recipe this week? What do you need for that? Add it to your grocery list.
5. Be realistic. I certainly LOVE taking my time and cooking a gourmet meal. However, that doesn’t work for me during the week. It may for some of you, and may not for others. You need to be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to your meals each week. Are you a person who despises leftovers? In that case, you might be better off cooking each night simple fast meals that take 20-30 minutes to make. Are you a person who likes to have meals cooked for the week in advance so that way food is already prepared? You may be better off cooking a big batch of meals on the weekend and storing them to have for the week. You have to figure out what works best for you. The best way to keep track of that is monitoring your system in a journal. That way you will come up with a system that works for you and your lifestyle.