Meal Planning 101

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Meal planning is a great way to improve your health, but it is one of the first things we neglect when life gets busy. Planning ahead will help you to eat well throughout the week. Meal planning is a vital part of eating a healthy diet and there are numerous benefits that come along with it.

Benefits of Meal Planning

Planning your meals saves time and makes meal preparation easier. It can also save you money and help to reduce stress during a hectic work week. Meal planning can have a big impact on your health and your budget, simply by eating at home more often. With meal planning, you know what your meals are going to be and what you need to buy. That makes grocery shopping more efficient and cuts down on last minute trips to the store. With a grocery list in hand, it’s also easier to resist impulse purchases.

Meal Planning Tips

Menu planning doesn’t have to be complicated. To get started, jot down some of your favourite meals. Cooking for a family? Ask them to suggest menu ideas. For more inspiration, flip through cookbooks, search recipes on-line or check out some of the recipes here at Peak Results Nutrition. Plan a week of meals at a time. Be sure to include side dishes as well as entrees and some healthy snacks too. When you have your menu plan filled in, create a shopping list of the ingredients you’ll need.

Some things to consider as you contemplate menu options: Are there any sales on this week at the grocery store? What is in season? What do you already have available in your pantry? Plan for something “old” and something “new.” Alternate old family favourites with new recipes. As you plan each meal, picture the plate. Keep in mind that vegetables should be the star of the show, with lean protein playing a supporting role. Simplify your search for recipes by using a theme. For example, designate Monday as “Meatless Monday”, Wednesday as “Pasta Night” or Friday as “Fun Night” where you try something new. Remember to plan leftovers into your week as well. If you know you are going to be making a big batch of chili for example, plan on having some the next day for lunch. Or if you are making chicken for dinner one night, plan on cooking extra to add to a salad for lunch the following day. And at the end of the week, don’t throw away your menu plan. File it and reuse it again later.

Like any new habit, menu planning gets easier with practice. Over time, you’ll figure out ways to make the process work for you. I found a great little menu planning pad from Chapters that I like to use. It has a magnet on the back so I post it on our fridge and it answers the “What’s for dinner, Mom?” question and keeps me accountable.

Have some fun planning your meals this week and happy healthy eating!

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