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.