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Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “...in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Obviously he wasn’t running a household because if he were, he would have included meal planning, or more appropriately, healthy meal planning, on that list!
In one form or another, meal planning has always been a part of human life. Picking up a week’s worth of groceries from a well-stocked supermarket has only been an option for the past 100 years. Before then, obtaining food and preparing meals for a single day took most of the day for someone in each household. Now whether popping a breakfast sandwich into the microwave, choosing lunch from a take-out menu or placing a grocery order online, meal planning is still an essential everyday activity.
How well you plan for your daily meals can have a big impact on how healthy they will be.
What’s Your Healthy Meal Planning Strategy?
The process of creating a healthy weekly meal plan can take many forms. It’s not just about writing out all your menus for the week and writing a shopping list to match, although that’s certainly a great way to get organized! If you’d like to try that, take a look at this blog by fellow dietitian Hope Warshaw to get more tips on how to create a meal plan.
If you’re one of those people who can’t think about what you’ll be eating for more than one day at a time, you are still planning ahead for meals if you:
- know how many days before you’ll have to buy more milk, eggs or bread for your household
- have a stack of menus in a desk drawer at work of restaurants that can deliver to your office
- prepare an extra piece of chicken the night before to put on your salad for lunch the next day
- made two pans of eggplant parmesan over the weekend so you could freeze one for a quick dinner later in the week
- update your shopping list (or app) whenever you use up an ingredient or need one for a recipe
- keep your grocery coupons handy so you can pick up things you need when they are on sale
The common theme here is the more you think ahead about your next meal, the more time you give yourself to make it a good one. You can also use the Easy Healthy Meal Planning Ideas below to make the best choices from one meal to the next.
Easy Healthy Meal Plan Ideas
Use these ideas to help you create your own healthy weekly meal plan:
- Include fruits and/or vegetables in every meal and snack
- Choose whole grains over refined whenever available (even whole wheat crust pizza)
- Make lean and low fat choices in the meat and dairy case
- Pick beans, nuts and soyfoods in place of meat for a couple of meals per week
- Enjoy dessert occasionally, not daily, with meals
- Use a sugar substitute, like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, to replace some or all of the added sugars in your foods and beverages
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.
For more meal planning tips, visit the Healthy Lifestyle section of this blog.