Have you ever thought about getting into meal planning? Some people swear by a weekly meal plan as a way of moderating what they eat, sticking to their dietary goals, and simplifying their meal prep process. In this article, we’re giving you everything you need to know to get started on your healthy meal plan, including whether or not meal planning is for you!
Why Should I Meal Plan?
First things first, why should you have a healthy meal plan? Meal planning offers several benefits that all pertain to creating and sticking to a diet that you choose. It offers a way to create nutritional goals, and to create a healthy meal plan that sticks to those goals. It also offers the benefits of simplifying your meal prepping process, as well as your grocery shopping process. If this sounds like it could work for you, then check out our top tricks to be a pro meal planner.
Step 1 – What is Your Diet? Do Your Research
Before you come up with meal planning ideas, you have to know what you are meal planning for. What this means is that you need to have a diet or nutritional outline for healthy eating that you are planning around. After all, the “plan” in meal planning is only relevant if you have a goal that you are planning toward.
What this means is that your first step is to outline your nutritional goals. This depends wholly on your lifestyle and your personal goals. Whether your goal is to lose weight, fuel an active lifestyle, eat more healthy food, or just to save time by planning your meals, you need to outline these goals before you get started so you can plan properly.
Step 2 – Set Aside Time to Plan
Next up is that you need to set aside time once a week to make a weekly menu plan (or at whichever interval works for you). Pick a day that works best for you. Many people choose Sunday, as it represents the start of a new week, and it’s a day where many people have a lot of spare time to come up with different meals.
Pick a day that works for you, and one that you know will work for you going forward. It’s a lot easier to stay consistent if you know you have a certain day each week to get the planning done.
Step 3 – Stick to It, Make It a Habit
Building on the last point, you need to turn each week’s meal plan into a habit. Whichever day you choose, stick to it, and make sure you do it each week. The most important part of meal planning is making sure that you stick to it. Habits are much easier to keep if they cease to become an option. So whichever schedule you choose, stick to it, and do it every time. After a while, you’ll simply be on auto-pilot.
Step 4 – Plan
The next step is to actually plan! Once you’ve set aside the time, you need to actually plan your meals in accordance with your dietary goals. Many prefer to plan lunches and dinners for the week, but you should plan as many meals as you are comfortable with. Try using a grid calendar to simplify things. Plan meals in accordance with your goals, but also try to give yourself variety, and try to choose meals that you actually enjoy.
The basis of a good meal planning routine is in choosing meals that you can stick with. So be sure to actually choose meals that will meet your goals, without sacrificing on taste too much. Of course, the more you do it, the easier it become.
Step 5 – Purchase and Prepare
Just like the planning stage, you should also set aside a time to do a weekly grocery shop. This way, you might only have to go to the grocery store once a week! Once you’ve planned out your meal ideas, make a list of all the ingredients you need, and get shopping. If there are ingredients you know you will be using regularly, then you might want to buy them in bulk, so you’ll have them for future weeks.
Your next major decision is how far ahead of time you want to prep your meals. Many find that meal planning goes hand-in-hand with meal prepping for the week. However, it’s up to you. You can prep all your meals for the week, or you can prep them day of. It’s all about sticking to whatever schedule you chose.
Step 6 – Adjust as You Go
Of course, you’re probably never going to plan your meals perfectly. Any good plan allows for some leeway. After all, you’re never going to perfectly predict what your week entails. So, leave some room for adjustments as you go. If you feel like switching it up one day, go for it. Just be sure to try your best to stick to your initial menu plan. The more closely you stick to your meal plan, the easier it becomes to stick to the habit, and keep it going in future weeks.
Step 7– Reflect
When you’re still new to meal planning, it’s important to take time to reflect. What worked for you? Was the planning process effective? Are your dietary goals sufficient for your lifestyle?
Take some time to reflect on your goals and also on the planning process, so that you can adjust them for future weeks. Look at your vegetable, fruit, and protein intake to see if you’re getting enough and if you need to change up your grocery shopping list. It is all about getting closer and closer to the point where your meal planning for the week is a breeze! Nutrition is always a work in progress, but the more you do it, the better you get at it!
Step 8– Repeat
And finally, repeat the process! Once your planning period is complete, start again. As we’ve mentioned throughout this article, meal planning is all about turning a routine into a habit. It’s a way to turn your nutritional goals into things that you can actually achieve. So, once you’re done with your first round of meal planning, get started on the next one!