Whether you are planning to lose weight or simply want to include healthy meals in your lifestyle, meal planning can help you with your goals. This strategy is also useful for busy individuals engulfed in tight schedules who struggle to prepare and eat home-cooked meals every day. When done right, meal planning can help you save a lot of money and time. Moreover, you get to eat healthy, home-cooked meals on a daily basis. If you have considered meal planning before, this is the sign to get started and incorporate this effective strategy into your lifestyle. Here are some useful meal planning tips from experts.
- Make a Food Diary
The first and most important step towards successful meal planning is creating a meal plan. If you decide and write down the meals you will be preparing in the coming week, it becomes easier to stick to the plan. When making a meal plan and assigning respective ingredients to them, consider your schedule and lifestyle to allow enough time for meal prepping. Do you go out often with your friends? How many family members do you have? When can you spare 3 to 4 hours to make your meals? Consider every aspect when making your food journal to simplify the meal planning process.
- Measure Your Nutrients
When preparing a meal plan, you must incorporate a healthy balance of macro and micronutrients. This is also a major benefit for people who fail to stick to a healthy diet and hog on junk food instead. Depending on your goals, measure your macros and micros before planning your meals and finding recipes. If the process gets overwhelming, you can also get a customized eating plan from a nutritionist or a certified trainer to suit your needs. You can also use online tools to determine the amount of protein, carbs, and fat you need based on your height, weight, and health condition.
- Make a Shopping List
Once you have the right amount of nutrients you need to maintain your health, research your options, and find the right ingredients to make a shopping list. At this stage, you will also find and save recipes to make delicious and nutritious meals with the ingredients you will buy. To simplify your shopping experience, prepare a list based on the nutrients and food type. For example, place dairy and meat under the ‘protein’ section and fruits and vegetables under ‘fiber’. With this, you can also find ingredients with ease and save time when shopping. Stick to the list and stock your pantry to avoid visiting the store again and again.
- Prep Ahead of Time
Once you have your ingredients on hand, it is time to prep them to save time when you actually get to the cooking stage. For instance, chopping vegetables and storing them in air-tight containers can save time on your weekday. Similarly, if you prep and grill your chicken ahead of time, you simply have to toss it in your salad to make a healthy meal. To make it easier, prepare your meals during the weekend and pack them in containers. Before you leave for work, simply pick one prepped meal from your fridge and pop it in your bag. With this, you get healthy, ready-made meals without wasting any time.
- Invest in a Crockpot or a Slow Cooker
Buy a large crockpot and throw all your ingredients in it to make a healthy stew or curry for the entire week. At times, you may get bored of the usual chopping and dicing ingredients, which is where a crockpot can come to your rescue. Add some chicken stock, raw veggies, and a few pieces of chicken breasts with seasoning to make a simple and delicious meal within no time. You can also add the cooked meat between bread slices to make a healthy sandwich. If you are out all day and need a tasty meal when you return home at night, throw in some basic veggies in your slow cooker with some seasoning and come home to a delicious, hot meal.
Even after careful planning and consideration, you may still fail to follow the plan at times. To combat this situation, fill your pantry and fridge with some ‘backup’ ingredients that can be quickly assembled to make a meal and have it on the go. You can also consider preparing some meals with leftovers to reduce waste and save time. With meal planning, you can reduce your dependency on takeouts, eat healthy food every day, and save a lot of time and money. Over time, you will also reduce food waste and build a healthy relationship with your hero ingredients. Use your weekends and free time to plan and prepare your meals for the upcoming week.