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. Warmly, Teri Rose, CARE Nutritionist
For me, meal planning takes unneeded stress out of my week. When I have a plan, I know exactly what I am going to make/eat and I ensure I have all the necessary ingredients. When I don’t, it makes mealtime stressful as I try to come up with a healthy, balanced meal on the spot. This is especially so for dinner as I typically have a short time frame for preparing meals due to my work schedule and my kids activity schedule. Anything I can do to remove stress from my week is worth the time for me.
Removing stress… that indeed makes it worth it! Thanks for sharing, Holly!
Years ago I had a book called ” The Sidetracked Home Economist”. At least I think that was what is called. it talked about cleaning the house and other things to schedule throughout the day. One thing that I do remember was it talking about meal planning. It suggested putting meals on an index card. I’m thinking this might be a better plan for me than using the sheet that you have. I could put my three meals plus snacks on an index card and then rotate the cards. I’ll work on this to give an example of how it might work for others later this week.
Diane, I love that you are thinking of ways to make this fit best with your lifestyle. Some weeks I use this sheet, some weeks I pull a previous meal plan and just make it again (I make my shopping lists either on the back or on the side margin so that is always ready to go, too), and sometimes I just jot out the plan on the back of a napkin! The important thing is to find a tool that works for you and one that allows you to do it consistently. I think the index cards are interesting. I remember you telling me about these and if I remember right you print the recipe/food idea right on the back. Keep me updated of how this tool evolves for you; I love learning new tricks from members.