Why Meal Planning?
To Always Be Prepared for Your Next Meal Before It’s Time to Eat
Last night, despite feeling like making popcorn and watching a movie, I grabbed a pen and scribbled out a quick meal plan, went into the kitchen and started to cook. Within 10 minutes I had the music turned up a little louder and had a renewed sense of control over my diet. I was determined to avoid last week: one that didn’t include a meal plan which I paid the consequences for by Friday night.
I am often asked why I think meal planning is so important. I am often met with skepticism that this, a lack of meal planning, could be a significant hindrance to someone reaching their health goals. Simply stated: with planning you increase the quality and balance of the foods you eat at each meal, consistently. You stay on offense. This is the difference between meal planning and doing a diet journal. Journaling focuses on what you already ate; meal planning has you focus on what you are going to eat (offense).
I understand the reluctance to try and fit another thing into our time-starved lives, but you are going to think about what to eat over 3 times a day anyway so why not consolidate all that thinking into just 20 minutes once a week? How might your weeks be different?
Here’s what happens when I don’t do meal planning and make-ahead cooking:
- Meals become too heavily grain-based – sources: previously frozen grains, sprouted tortillas, or pasta
- Carbohydrate servings increase – more grains are eaten to make up for the lost volume of produce
- Activity becomes more sporadic because energy levels decline
- Sleep is impaired from decreased diet quality and lack of exercise
- Caffeine (and sometimes alcohol) intake increases – mood becomes more impatient, more anxiety – creativity decreases
Here’s what happens when I do meal plan and cook:
- Meals are produce-based – 2-3 servings per meal (average 8 servings per day!)
- Whole grains are modestly enjoyed (at most) as only 1 carbohydrate serving per meal (1/3 cup)
- Within 48 hours, energy levels increase and being more active seems doable
- Sleep starts to improve
- Caffeine intake moderates (6 oz, 2x per day; total about 300 mg daily) – creativity replaces anxiety
When I see these lists, I’m amazed that I ever feel too busy to not prioritize meal planning and make-ahead cooking: it’s how I nourish myself and my family. That’s why I meal plan.
Use my free CARE Lifestyle Program 7-Day Meal Plan Template to help get you started. Then, make and compare your own list.
“I have tried so many different approaches to staying healthy and have never encountered something so useful as CARE. I thought I knew everything there was to know about health. I’m 57 and I’ve always been a nutritional junkie. When I finished my time with CARE, I felt like I had finished a college course packed with so much exciting new information….” Linda, Minneapolis, MN