I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.
Imagine: It’s around six o’clock on just about any weekday night. Are you asking yourself what’s for dinner? Do you then head home and put together a planned-in-advance healthy meal? Or do you cave in to an easy route to dinner that varies between picking up a ready-to-eat meal at your local supermarket - perhaps a roasted chicken or meat loaf and sides, calling in an order for pizza to be delivered to your doorstep in a flash, or stopping by a neighborhood restaurant to eat in or take out?
Yes, this is the six-o’clock scramble.
With the variety of foods and restaurants available today just about 24/7, you’ve really got to be dedicated to put healthy meal planning strategies into motion to eat more healthy prepared-nearly-from-scratch dinners at home. Research shows that restaurant meals are often higher in sodium, fat and calories and light on those nutrient-dense lower calorie healthier foods – fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy foods and whole grains. This is in part due to the foods typically served in restaurants and the usual huge portions.
When you cook and eat at home you’re in the driver’s seat. You control the amount of fat, sugar, and salt that goes in your foods. Another added plus? You plate the food and have ultimate control over the portions you serve.
Is it easy to put healthy dinners on the table night after night? No, it’s an unending grind! But, in the long run it’s worth it for your health and pocketbook.
How to Get Started with Healthier Meal Planning
First, think through the actions you’ll need to take within your harried and hectic life to put healthier dinners on the table lickety-split. If planning, shopping regularly and stocking your kitchen entered your mind then you’re on the right track.
Here’s the Action Plan for Healthier Meal Plans that works:
Plan a Time to Plan – Choose a convenient and similar time each week to plan. Planning sets you up for success.
Select Dinners in Advance – Think through the dinners you’ll make this week. Choose quick-to-fix recipes that require only a few ingredients. Generate a list of five to 10 of your favorite quick-to-fix recipes. Make sure you always have the ingredients on hand for a few of them. Take advantage of ready-to-eat supermarket items that save you time. Perhaps it’s that roast chicken but you pair it with sides you make from scratch or create an entrée salad topped with diced chicken. Prepare dishes that allow you to cook once and eat twice. Yes, leftovers! Enjoy them another night that week or stash a meal or two in the freezer. Prepare double and triple batches of whole grains and vegetables.
Need new ideas? Search online for recipes featuring SPLENDA® Sweetener Products at recipes.splenda.com. Yes, there are recipes for appetizers, soups and entrees (click on “Browse Categories” right next to the Search box). How about making a batch of Santa Fe Veggie Chili one weekend?
Beyond Dinners – Think about the other foods you’ll need in stock to make healthy breakfasts, brown bag lunches, and snacks for the week.
Take Stock, Stock Up – With the list of foods you’ll need on hand to make healthy eating happen, take stock of what’s in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer so you know in advance what you need to buy. Put together a complete shopping list to speed shopping trips and save you money. It’s ideal to create a written inventory of the foods and items you want to have on hand as well as the foods you buy nearly every week. Make copies of this. Post it in the kitchen. On an ongoing basis when you run out of an item, jot a note to replace it. Stay stocked up and at-the-ready.
Ready, Set, Shop – With your shopping list in hand, you’re ready for an organized, time-efficient supermarket venture. These wise moves can ease your excursions: shop at the market you know and that carries the majority of what you buy. Avoid shopping at crowded times and when you’re hungry. Let your shopping list guide your trip.
At first these steps may seem arduous and time-consuming. However, give them a try. If you put them into action week after week they’ll become habitual. They’ll help you put healthier meals on the table just a bit quicker and easier.
Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, BC-ADM, is a nationally recognized dietitian and diabetes educator who applies nearly 35 years of expertise as an author, freelance writer, media spokesperson, consultant and diabetes educator. Hope notes: “Healthy eating today is one tough job! The good news is simple tweaks in your food choices and how you prepare foods can often set you on a path to healthier eating. A step in the right direction for a long and healthy life.”