Today I want to hone in on the importance of planning your meals. Let’s face it, we are ALL busy. Career, kids, working over-time, under-paid, long days, responsibilities, etc. This is life. But what does it mean to live? To me, it means enjoying the quality of life while minimizing everyday stress. This is why we must take care of ourselves! So, today I will touch the surface of meal planning for a week in order to help you reduce your time spent on such tasks during the week.
For some this may seem a daunting task, and even ridiculous, time consuming, expensive, unreasonable or boring (all things I have heard recently), BUT what this really amounts to is: more time during the week for other activities, less stress of “to-dos” like making dinner, packing lunches, etc, more money saved, more energy, and a healthier you!!!
The basic goal of planning your meals ahead of time involve the idea that you are conciously making decisions of what you are going to put into your body. This is one of the common excuses that I hear from people: “I am so busy, and I have to eat quickly on the go. I just don’t have time to eat healthy!”. Really? I challenge you otherwise. You CAN eat healthy on the go IF you prepare ahead of time. Pack snacks! Use tupperware, ziplock baggies, keep food in the car or your purse ladies if you have to.
The truth is, if you purchase your foods with a goal in mind (like a list), you will purchase foods that will be healthy, energizing and help you function more efficiently. If you don’t purchase foods with these goals in mind, you will likely always be stopping somewhere quick for a snack like a fast food chain or gas station (we’re all guilty of this!), or on the flip side you may not eat for a long period of time and then binge later on. This is not good either.
Not everyone is the same. We all have different metabolisms, activity levels, medical concerns, and innate cravings / needs. It is important to get in tune with your body and your needs in order to find a program that works for you. The key is BALANCE. (I will continue stressing this concept throughout my blogs).
Balance with food is: Protein, Carbohydrate and Fats. It’s important to understand that your body needs all 3 of these nutrients for different reasons whether you are active or inactive. Your ratios, caloric intake, and percentages, or how you divide up these calories will be specific to you and your needs. It seems complex, but really it’s not. For those of you “health gurus” you know what I am talking about. For those of you who are already confused, have no fear! We will explore some general guidelines. As you become more in tune with yourself and your body, you will gain a better understanding of your own needs.
If you are at a complete loss speak to a Personal Trainer, Dietician, or research yourself. Be sure that what you are researching is valuable information based on science. Not just someone’s opinion. I have provided a couple of links below.
(Be your own advocate)
First, consider your goals ie: weight loss, weight gain, maintanance, or maybe blood sugar management for you diabetics. Ok, now what does that mean to you? Increase calorie DEFICIT, decrease calorie deficit, maintain calories or spread calories and sugars out more evenly for glucose management? Whatever it means to you, just be aware of it.
- How many days / week will you be cooking ?
- How many days / week will you be shopping for produce?
- What is your grocery budget?
- Gather coupons or sift through grocer specials for best deals
- Have a plan of what stores you’re going for where.
- Seperate your list by store.
First, make a list. If you like to cook, gather some healthy recipes and add to your list that way. If you don’t like to cook, consider foods that you like that you can package in tupperware or ziplock baggies to take on the go. If you know you have trouble snacking on unhealthy foods between meals at work, make it a point to add high protein snacks to your list. Some examples of my own snack list include: turkey pepperoni, low-fat mozzeralla string cheese, fresh fruit / veggies, almond butter, peanut butter, protein bars (for when I`m really busy), almonds, mixed nuts (unsalted), or smoothies with protein powder. Get creative! Snacks generally are 200-300 calories for most people. I always try to limit my fat intake at snacks because I know I am getting more at my meal times. Balance is important here.
This is a main concern of most people, and one of the most common excuses I hear is “Eating healthy is just too expensive!” To that, I ask you:
- How much per week do you spend on coffee, gas station snacks, energy drinks, etc?
- How much per week do you spend on a quick lunch / dinner?
- How much per week / month do you currently spend on groceries?
I gaurantee that you are spending more on all of these items combined then you will spend to prepare your own meals. Period. Eating out is one of the biggest ways to waste your hard earned money. Is it really that convenient?
WEEKLY CHALLENGE!: If you are guilty of this, save all of your receipts this week. Time yourself at each location to see how long it takes you to wait in line to get your food / coffee. Write the time on the back of the receipt when you get it, and add them up next week. I dare you!!
Set a day and time aside. For me, I always cook on Sunday evenings around 7 as I wind down for the night. Sundays are my only day off, so it works best for me. I also find myself cooking more meat on Wednesdays nights (my off night from the gym). I love to cook so I like my meat juicey and fresh! Choose what works well for you.
Choose cooking methods such as baking, steaming, broiling to avoid access fat and calories. I personally use a rice cooker with a steamer for chicken, veggies, and my rice! Chop everything up, put it in the cooker, time it and wait! Minimal work to be done!
Spice up your life! Use spices and blends!! Don’t let yourself get boring. This is so much easier than you think! Try to avoid using any mixes with salt; especially if you are concerned with high blood pressure or water retention.
Make sure to clean all of your veggies before you chop them! I recommend chopping all of your veggies and putting them in tupperware. You can add them as a side dish to an entree, eat them as a snack, or even add them in your omeletes or scrambles like I do. No matter what, you have them ready to go!
Variety! Make sure with your meats you are cooking a variety. For example: tonight I made chicken. I steamed a couple of chicken breasts flavored with lemon juice, and then I cut strips of other chicken and made it over the stovetop with a little redwine and some spices. This strips I will add to my salad or over rice. This adds variety. I also made turkey burgers with Mrs. Dash and other seasonings. I made 4 different kinds to choose from: Fiesta Lime, Lemon Pepper, Tomato and Basil, Original. I also usually have ground turkey made. For my breakfasts, I use ground turkey sausage or all natural beef sausage (every other week) and package that up. I can add it to omeletes, scrambles, rice, or even have it by itself on the side with a smoothie.
- Clean up as you go! Rinse your dishes as you are done with them, load the dishwasher and start it at the very end!
- Always go shopping with a list.
- Choose a good time to go shopping. Avoid lines, frusteration.
I encourage you to set a timer to see how long your prep for the week takes you! You will be surprised!
Remember: You are your own best advocate. No one knows your body better than you do! We are our own worst critics, but we also go too easy on ourselves. Our bias allow crutches. Stop making excuses and DO SOMETHING!!!
NUTRITION IS AT LEAST 70% of your results that you will see regardless of your goal.
Eat breakfast within 1 hour of waking, and meals / snacks every 3-4 hours thereafter. Do NOT skip meals!