Meal planning can stray in two (2) ways – it can either be a fun-filled activity you can enjoy or be a hassle that can ruin your day. Let’s face it; life’s hectic, so we want to go the former’s way. Meal planning ahead of time can significantly help relieve any mealtime stress you’ve experienced before. Follow these easy steps and take meal planning to the next level. Let’s go ahead.
Steps in Meal Planning
Step 1: Come up with a Menu ListFirst, think about your approach to meal planning. Take a minute to put together a healthy meal, ensuring you’re getting the right amounts from each food group. Check in with your family and loved ones about their schedules and preferences. Weigh in and consider those factors in putting together your menu. Next, aim for variety. But, don’t hassle yourself that every day needs to be different. It’s good to have oatmeal or low-fat yogurt along with berries at other times each week for breakfast. The same goes for lunch; have a few options, then rotate them across each week. Jot down meal planning options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And, don’t forget about snacks. Try thinking about the weather, too. Hearty warm soups and stews are perfect for a cold winter’s night. Salad with lean pieces of protein makes the best entrées on a hot summer’s day. It would help to store perishables in a refrigerator or insulated bags with ice packs when packing lunches. Checking out sales at local supermarkets can also benefit your meal planning. Discounted prices can sometimes allow a treat for yourself and your family towards a special meal. Remember: in-season produce tends to be more affordable. It would be best if you also thought about handling leftovers. Whether you serve them again that week or store them in the fridge for another week, always remember food safety. Leftovers inside the refrigerator should be consumed within 3-4 days or frozen for later consumption.
Step 2: Complete Your Stock with the Five Food GroupsIn helping you get started with your meal planning, stock up on the basics. This food collection includes foods that you like but is healthy to eat and prepare. Stock up food from the five food groups, so you’re evenly spread out across the food board. Plus, add other items you prefer considering your health needs and food taste. Five Food Groups
- Vegetables: Always keep a variety of diced, crushed, whole, stewed veggies on the stock. Use them for flavorful soups, yummy stews, creamy sauces, mouth-watering casseroles, and so much more! Also, pick up cans and bottles of your favorite vegetables, best if natural, but can also be processed–be mindful, though. Dried-up versions of these veggies are another tremendous additional item because they can add flavorful depth and texture to your meals.
- Fruits: You can start with dried fruits – raisins, dates, dried cranberries, dried apricots, and others give you loaded options of dietary fiber. This food group adds flavor to your morning breakfast meals, midday salads, and dinner grains.
- Milk and Dairy: Milk – dry or wet, is also a tremendous backup item to have on stock. Use it in your coffee or tea. Boxed milk can be in single-serving packages and is excellent for lunch boxes. Evaporated milk, located in the baking aisle inside cans, can be liquid milk alternatives in most recipes.
- Proteins: Have lots of canned or dried lentils, black, pinto, cannellini, garbanzo, and kidney beans – legumes that are excellent protein sources. Toss some cooked beans in salads, soups, stews, and other dishes. It’s also a must to stock canned tuna, anchovies, and sardines — they’re quick ways of adding protein, healthy fats, and flavor to your every meal.
- Grains: Have handy stashes of oatmeal, buckwheat, and other whole-grain cereals on the stock. Add extra boosts with nuts and fresh berries to these tasty cereals. Barley, farro, quinoa, and other grains are great providers of healthy meal staples. Additionally, keep an array of rice on hand — long grains, short grains, basmati, and brown rice. Kinds of pasta like spaghetti, ziti, penne, and others are great for an easy, quick, and filling, heartful family meal. Give yourself that extra nutrition boost by stocking whole-grain pasta or those made from legumes.
Step 3: Keep Your Grocery List RunningKeep a pad and pen somewhere convenient, either in the kitchen or near the dining table or any other place you prepare meals. As you use up your grocery items, write down those already consumed on the list. It will help you not forget anything when you go back and hit the supermarket again. Or use an app for that. On your list for meal planning, compile all needed ingredients for your regular or even planned-ahead meals. Consider also how often you’re able to shop for stock. Remember to check the cabinets, pantry, fridge, and freezer for all the food you need to re-stock. Ideally, you want a continuous use of what you have on hand, so meals are made only using fresh ingredients, also helping reduce wasted food and ingredients.
Personalized Meal PlanningDesign a meal plan that meets your every health need, for you and your family, of course. Consider history, symptoms, and test results before meal planning. Here are some ideas for a more specific meal plan:
- Cardiometabolic – best to prepare a modified Mediterranean diet that focuses on the heart-healthy ingredients, has low glycemic impact, is personalized and has targeted calorie recommendations, considers blood sugar balancing, has high fiber and low simple sugars, balanced, quality fats, and condition-specific phytonutrients.
- Weight loss – can be as vast as possible, depending on the type of weight loss program you’re into: a regular, healthy diet; low-carbohydrate diet; very-low-calorie diet; low-fat diet; Ketogenic diet; Atkins diet; vegetarianism; and veganism.
- Anti-Inflammatory – this diet highly favors fruits and vegetables, containing vast amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, healthful fats, lean protein, whole grains, and spices. This meal planning discourages or at least limits processed foods, red meats, and alcohol consumption.
- Eliminate food sensitivities – this meal planning method is subjective and dramatically depends on and differs per individual. Considering food sensitivities and allergies, one can create entire meal plans to note these food restrictions.
- Detox plans – detoxification programs often suggest removing highly processed foods and foods to which some people are sensitive on a broad scale, such as dairy, gluten, eggs, peanuts, and red meat. Meal planning for this type also recommends eating primarily vegetables, fruit, whole non-glutenous grains, nuts, seeds, and lean protein that are organically grown.
- Cellular or Mitochondrial support – this diet plan considers protein rich in amino acids like glutathione that protects and nourishes the mitochondria. Remember, with protein – quality is as important as quantity, especially when you’re getting it from various sources. Food for meal planning includes fish, red meat, poultry, beans or lentils, seeds, nuts, and eggs.