By: Shaylyn Tinari, MS, RD, LDN Meal planning may seem like a daunting task. What do I eat? How much do I eat? When do I prep? How much should I prep? First step, take a deep breath. Meal planning does not have to be difficult. As a food and nutrition expert, meal planning has become a habit for me, but it wasn’t always that way. As with any new change in your life, it takes time. You may meal plan one week, and fall off the next. It happens. Believe it or not, establishing a new habit can take up to a year. Luckily, you now have a step by step guide to help you when you’re ready to get back into it! 1. Have a plan. Jill Weisenberger states in her book, Prediabetes: A Complete Guide, “Success starts with intention, so avoid the temptation to simply wing it.” Some things to brainstorm and write down: how often will you go grocery shopping, number of people you will meal plan for, how many meals per day, whether you’ll want to make bulk meals for leftovers, and what your budget is for the week are some ideas of where to start. 2. Write out your meals for the week. Again, it’s all about having a plan. List 1-2 options for breakfast, 1-2 options for lunch, and 3-6 options for dinner. Everyone is different when it comes to meal planning for dinners. Step 1 will help you decide if you need closer to 3 options or 6 for dinners. When writing out your meals use Yummy Body Nutrition’s approach: have half your plate come from fiber, ¼ from lean protein, and ¼ from healthy fat. 3. Look in your own kitchen. Take note of items in your refrigerator, pantry, and freezer to avoid spending money on items you already have and to avoid food waste. 4. Make a grocery list. Now that you have your meals listed you can do 1 of 2 things. Take the list to the store and use that list to purchase items. The other option is to organize your meals into a list based on the layout of the grocery store. The latter is useful for when you are familiar with the grocery store so you don’t find yourself going back and forth into the same aisle. 5. Stock up on freezer items. Always have at least a bag of frozen fruit and a few bags of frozen vegetables in your freezer. When you run out of fresh produce you have backup! 6. Stock up on pantry items. Beans, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, Banza pasta are shelf-stable food products. Think ahead – whenever you make quinoa, brown rice, or Banza pasta – make more than you need so you can have leftovers for the week. The key is to make it easy for yourself while eating healthy! 7. Think positive! Similar to exercise, people feel like “they should be meal planning”. Change the “I should be” to “I choose to”. When you choose to do something, you are in control. Who doesn’t want to feel in control? Think back to why you choose to meal plan in the first place and remind yourself of all of the benefits you would receive from it. Sometimes even a step by step guide like this can seem challenging. Want help? Contact Yummy Body Nutrition dietitian’s – we are happy to help set up a plan with you!
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1.Understand that learning how to eat healthy is a process. It takes time and practice to overcome a lifetime of poor food habits. You can't expect to something you've done over years to change in a week, but you can chip away at it little by little. Most of us eat 3 meals a day and every meal is a chance to make a better choice when faced with temptation. You can view it as a challenge. Can I challenge myself today to choose the spinach over the romaine? Or can I challenge myself to get no cheese on my hamburger? The small changes add up and over time, they won't become a challenge any more but a habit. 2. Start now, not tomorrow, or the next day. People have a tendency to self sabotage. If you mess up at one meal, it doesn't mean you messed up for the entire day, entire week, or even the entire month. Hit the reset button at the next opportunity you get to eat. If you went out and had Belgian waffles for brunch, well, there's always dinner to have a better meal! 3. Practice balance. It's unrealistic to ask yourself to eat rigidly 100% of the time. You don't have to cut out foods from your life or avoid social settings. Here are examples of being balanced versus unbalanced during a dinner out. Example of being unbalanced: Appetizer: Fried calamari Entree: 16 oz porterhouse steak, side of whipped mashed potatoes, and side of vegetables Dessert: Chocolate lava cake with whipped cream Drinks: 3 cocktails Example of being balanced: Appetizer: Sautéed calamari, salad with dressing on the side, or raw oysters Entree: Split a 9 oz filet mignon, baked potato + small pat of butter, and a side of vegetables Dessert/Drinks: Choose between drinks or dessert. Which one is more important to you? OR split the chocolate lave cake with no whipped cream and enjoy 1 cocktail You can see here that practicing balance allows you to still go out and indulge but not over do it. You'll leave the restaurant feeling proud of yourself, satisfied, and not deprived. 4. Be realistic. Studies show that people can underreport how much they eat by about 25%. So if you think you're eating 1500 calories each day, you could actually be consuming 1875 calories daily! Practice reading the serving sizes on labels. You may be surprised at how much you usually eat versus how much you actually need to eat to feel full. Another tool you can use is, using a calorie tracking app. I like the Fat Secret or My Fitness Pal app. Logging helps you stay on track by keeping yourself accountable. It's kind of like having your own checkbook for calories. Just like how you shouldn't spend more than you make, you shouldn't eat more than what you're body needs. 5. Set an intention. Right before you go to bed, think about what you're going to eat the next day. Make a mental checklist of what you are going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and perhaps, snacks. You can do this while you're brushing your teeth or as you doze off for bed. I promise, it will take only 1-2 minutes! If you have a meeting at 12pm the next day but usually eat lunch at that time, decide if you will eat lunch before or after the meeting. If you decide to eat lunch afterwards, will a snack be beneficial to help off-set your hunger and to have a more productive meeting? If so, what snack will you have? Let's say you plan to meet a friend for dinner later that evening. Think about some healthy menu options that you can order at the restaurant. Now, whether or not you will choice that menu item when you arrive, who knows. But just setting an intention beforehand helps reduce any bad temptations when you arrive to dinner. Setting an intention has more to do with thinking than doing. It's not about meal prepping or food shopping. It's just an attempt to make better choices that are not impulsive because you're deciding on these choices in a clear state of mind.