What do you think of when you hear the phrase “meal plan”?
Is it a stack of plastic Tupperware filled with identical meals of chicken and sweet potato? Is it a tattered page out of your notebook with words like “salad” or “oatmeal” on repeat? Is a confusing app on your phone that you downloaded but never use?
Does the whole idea of meal planning make you feel a little bored?
We so get that.
At BCSF, meal planning isn’t a diet scheme or an unbendable set of rules. Rather, it’s a constructive tool to help design a healthy diet. It’s a system put in place to make healthy choices, save time in the kitchen, spend less money at the store and reduce waste.
So, you’re on board?
Now, let’s make you a pro.
Here are 5 steps to plan your meals like a nutritionist:
#1 Start with dinners: Dinners are the easiest meal to plan in advance. We usually know our favorite go-to meals and are more likely to have the time to cook at home.
Turn it pro: Plan your dinners for making lunch leftovers. All of the dinners you make, make enough for leftovers for lunch the next day. Dishes like soups and stews are easy choices. But even dinners like fish and vegetables can be doubled up too. If you can get in the habit of cooking once and eating twice, you’ll never be tempted by greasy takeout for lunch again.
#2 Modify recipes: It’s easy to lose interest in meal planning when you feel the pressure to only plan your healthiest meals. I don’t know anyone who wants to eat a salad 3 meals a day. Instead, try to include some of your favorite dishes, but with healthier substitutions. Try zucchini noodles with your favorite pasta sauce, wrap your favorite enchilada ingredients in a collard wrap instead of a tortilla, try a socca pizza crust for your family pizza night. Get creative and choose foods you enjoy.
Turn it pro: You’ve probably heard that you should always “make ½ you plate veggies”. But that can be a hard goal to wrap our heads around. Try re-framing that statement to “make ½ your recipes veggies”. Adding in extra vegetables and leafy greens to your go-to recipes is an easy way to sneak in those daily servings of vegetables.
#3 Don’t forget your PFC! A balanced diet is made up of proteins, fats and carbohydrates (PFC). While the amount of each of these can change from person to person, we all need all 3 everyday…every meal and every snack.
Turn it pro: If your meal is missing a healthy fat, some go-to favorites are avocado, olives, chia seeds and olive oil! Keep your pantry stocked with these staples and use them to balance your meals and snacks
#4 Plan for snacks: We’ve all been there. It’s in-between meals, you’re starving…so you reach for that pastry or sweet just because it’s what’s around. Instead, plan to have 1-2 different choices for snacks per week, so you don’t have to turn to whatever’s convenient.
Turn it pro: Always have one savory snack and one sweet snack on hand to satisfy your cravings (extra points if you make your snacks meet the PFC rule too!)
#5 Add a to-do: Putting it on paper is one thing, it’s a whole separate task to make it happen. At the bottom of your planner or on a separate piece of paper, make a list of everything that you need to do to in advance to prep your snacks and meals. Do you need to set aside a couple hours on Sunday to batch cook? Do you need to chop vegetables for Wednesday dinner that morning since you get home late that day?
Remember: meal planning doesn’t have to feel like a drag. Be flexible about it. At the end of the day eating a healthy meal is something we will never regret.
Now it’s your turn. We challenge you to take the next 5-10 minutes to jot down your meal plan for the next 5 days.
P.S. We’re in love with this meal planning notepad!