Meal planning is vital to weight loss and weight maintenance. However, meal planning can be quite a daunting task week after week. Here are a few tips to make meal planning a cinch:
1. Prepare ahead of time– If you know you’ll have a little more time at some point during the week, make some of the dinners and freeze them or chop some of the veggies to save time later. You can even make some of the sauces or dressings for use later in the week.
2. Stock your cabinets– Make sure you have easy to prepare (but healthy) meals that can be made even if you’re not prepared. Keep quinoa or brown rice in the cabinet, along with spices and seasonings. Keep a stock of canned vegetables and beans (low sodium). Freeze your own or purchase frozen poultry and meats. Buy frozen vegetables and use as needed. All of these have a very long shelf life, but are healthy and quick to use.
3. Shop smart– Look for recipes that use similar ingredients and use them both in one week. This prevents you from over purchasing items or buying the same item multiple times. You can also cook up a couple extra pieces of something earlier in the week to use at another time (ex: extra grilled chicken breasts from Monday’s dinner becomes chicken salad for Wednesday’s lunch).
4. Theme nights– Theme nights are a fun way to get everyone in the family involved and to scale down the number of recipes you’re choosing from. Pick a different genre of food to cook from each night of the week, but choose different recipes each week. This adds variety, but also keeps things manageable. (ex: Monday night is Italian night, Tuesday night is Mediterranean).
What are your favorite tips for meal planning?
Katherine Horner, MS, RD, LD
St. Francis Surgical Weight Loss Dietitian & Exercise Specialist