Why Should I Meal Plan?
- It saves money because you shop from a list and a set a budget.
- You have time to think about and plan your meals, therefore including target foods.
- It prevents grab-and-go food or fast food which is typically lower in nutrients and higher in cost.
- Using a weekly meal plan means less stress at mealtime.
- Regulates appetite by setting a regular (approximate) time for meals.
- Cuts cravings as you only buy and eat what is on the list.
What Do I Need to Start Meal Planning?
Before starting your weekly meal plan, gather data on how to eat healthfully and how to integrate wellness into your daily routine. Read my in-depth articles here:
By visiting this link, you will arm yourself with information on building good habits and making decisions about supplements. You’ll find out what constitutes wellness. Once you are set up with your daily schedule (download the handy daily activity diary below!) and have prioritized sleep and self-care, you are ready to begin digging into better nutrition.
As you will read in my other articles, organization and forward thinking are essential to good meal planning.
- Find a grocery shopping list template that you can copy and write on each week or download the one below. It’s best to use a paper format that you print each week to use. See the YouTube video for an example. Writing down your tasks uses a different part of the brain than typing. Use an app on your phone if it’s your only option.
- Set a time to plan your grocery list each week.
- Identify a consistent time during each week to grocery shop.
- Set a weekly meal plan including breakfast, lunch, dinner. Keep it simple.
Weekly Dinner Plan Example (Winter version)
Monday: Sandwich and Soup (examples: grilled cheese, tomato soup), raw veggies, chips.
Tuesday: Tacos, Burritos, Quesadillas, or Nachos with refried beans, salad, rice, salsa.
Wednesday: Pasta with Garlic Bread, side salad.
Thursday: Pizza (homemade or frozen) with cut veggies.
Friday: Fish, broccoli, sauteed Potatoes.
Saturday: Pot Roast or Crock Pot Roast (either veggies or meat with carrots and potatoes), biscuits.
Sunday: Cooked breakfast! A weekly favorite pick for dinner. (This is the day you are more likely to have time to explore recipes or cook your favorite meal from scratch that simply takes too long on the weekdays. Make extra and take for lunch).
Breakfast this week: Smoothie, cereal, or oatmeal with 16 ozs water, juice, tea/coffee
Lunches this week: Mason Jar or sandwich with veggies, a piece of fruit
Mason Jar Layers – ideas for building your lunch
- Cold cooked pasta from leftovers
- Shredded spinach/lettuce/kale/greens/shredded cabbage/sprouts
- Tomatoes/cucumbers/other raw veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus
- Chickpeas, corn, canned cold veggies such as artichoke, peas, beans
- Cubed egg, ham, turkey. chicken, tuna
- Diced mango/apples/oranges/strawberries/grapes
- Bag your croutons, seeds, nuts – sprinkle on when ready to eat
*Don’t forget your dressing. Keep a jar at work or a little container
*Mason jar salads will stay fresh for five days
Final Thoughts on Meal Planning:
- Keep your meal plan simple. After some time you will learn the rotating menu.
- Have fruit for dessert if you’re craving sweet stuff. If you’re not worried about nutrition and just need to fill the sugar gap, have a frozen popsicle OR jello or pudding cup with cool whip. These are not to be considered healthful foods, but if they stop a craving, so be it.
- Change your meal plan seasonally.
- Hydrate to the max with water.
- Invest in a good lunch bag and water bottle. Stay away from plastic especially if it’s going in the microwave or dishwasher. Having something nice to eat your lunch from delivers a better eating experience.
- Use small bright plates to serve food. It will help you to eat less.
- Just like all of your other wellness efforts, this is about routine, consistency, and organization.
- When you grocery shop, stay away from the aisles. Shop the perimeter where you’ll find produce and dairy, as well as other ingredients to make from-scratch meals.
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Traci Baxendale Ball, LMSW, CAADC is the founder of Vibrant Health Company LLC
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