Updated: 8/22/18 A new school year is right around the corner! Meal planning isn’t only essential for losing weight, it is vital. In a study of 40,500 adults, published in The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity earlier this year, more than half of the participants reported they meal plan at least occasionally. Those who did so were more likely to eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight. There are several possible reasons for this association, study authors say.
- When you plan, you eliminate the “What should I eat for dinner today?” dilemma that keeps many from making their own meals, and resorting to overeating when they walk through the door at dinnertime.
- Meal planners may strategically pick recipes that take, say, less than 20 minutes to make, which means “I have no time; calling delivery is quicker,” is no longer a valid excuse.
- You’re prepared and have all necessary ingredients on hand when you plan ahead.
Meal planning nixes pretty much every excuse you have for not cooking. But just like your overall weight-loss plan, your meal plan needs to be individualized to work. Practice these three meal-planning rules and you will be planning like a pro in no time!
Meal Plans Need to Taste Good
You don’t need to be deprived to lose weight, but planning your meals to be delicious is a must. After all, you’ll only eat that zucchini pasta with marinara if it actually appeals to you. Otherwise you’ll be calling your favorite take out place.
The hard thing about this is you can’t always anticipate what will taste good later in the week. Just because you crave Mini Taco Salads on Sunday doesn’t mean you’ll want them on Wednesday. Learn how you can sub out different options that still meet your objectives for a healthy meal. This could mean everything from having lunch for breakfast and a smaller version of breakfast for snack, to choosing steak rather than chicken and quinoa rather than brown rice at dinner.
Delicious meal plans also include Lemon Meringue Cheesecake for dessert on Thursday or Apple Pie Pancakes and a Watermelon Martini for brunch with your friends on Saturday. Ditch the idea of deprivation and let yourself be excited about what you’re going to eat.
Develop an Adaptable Meal Plan
As much as meal planning is about, well, planning, it’s also about learning how to adjust when life happens. Specifically, it’s about learning how to make decisions in key moments so that, in the future, you know how to navigate those situations with a positive outcome.
Try this: Look at your day or week and be realistic. It’s not just listing each meal for each day. It’s thinking, ‘I know I have a work dinner tonight, so if I have the ravioli, what do I have for my snack?’ How do you make sure you cover your nutritional bases to stay satisfied and healthy? (Yes, you can have both.)
As you develop that skill, you’ll be able to better deal when life happens and you leave your healthy lunch at home or your manager declares she’s treating everyone to lunch. And you’ll know how to select an option from a restaurant near your office or off the menu that still meets your nutritional goals for a particular meal.
Meal Planning Isn’t Necessarily Cooking In Batches
Now about those color-coded containers. For some people, prepping meals for the week on a Sunday is easy. This could mean cooking and portioning out entire meals, or it could mean prepping vegetables, fruits, proteins and starches and keeping them separately in the fridge. Then, when it’s meal time, you toss things together and add your seasonings.
For others, this screams extreme boredom. There will be a day that week when you won’t want anything to do with that meal. This can backfire, especially if you get on the scale and don’t see any change, despite the fact that you’ve been eating greens, cauliflower rice and lean proteins.
What feels easy for you? A weekend warrior cooking session? Great! But that’s not the only way to succeed. If it has a stick-with-it-ness, your strategy won’t fizzle out after a week or two. Figure out your personalized meal plan based on what’s healthy and delicious to you - and consider talking to us! We can help!