Meal Planning 101: Tips and Tricks to Master your Meal Plan
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
So, you want to get your eating in order but have no idea where to start? You’re not alone! When a new client steps into my office we always start with one simple, yet powerful concept: STRUCTURE. The foundation of any positive nutrition transformation is a structured meal plan. Every meal plan is individualized and unique, however they all have their similarities, too. They all consist of 3 meals and a few snacks per day. They all include balanced meals with carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fruit or veggies. And they all specify portion sizes based on your needs. But nourishing the physical body is only one of the many functions of your meal plan. A good meal plan takes care of your mind, too! It serves as a tool to normalize chaotic eating patterns by resetting hunger and fullness cues. It reduces urges to use maladaptive eating behaviors, and it incorporates foods you enjoy to make sure you stayed satisfied. Never underestimate the importance of satisfaction!
Having a meal plan is important, however it is totally useless if you are unable to follow it! Many of my clients do the deep therapeutic work needed to overcome the emotional roadblocks that fuel their disordered eating (this is the hard part), but then they get tripped up by making easily avoidable mistakes like not having food in the house, indecisiveness, or a lack of planning. Here are some tips and tricks to help you avoid those common mistakes so you can put all that hard work into action and see REAL change.
1. Start with planning a regular grocery-shopping schedule. Twice per week works best for most people. I like to do a big purchase on Sundays for my weekday meals, and then a smaller purchase on Fridays for weekend goodies.
2. Make a grocery list! I cannot stress this enough. I like to keep a running “master list” of my kitchen staples and build from there. Some of mine include milk, eggs, bread, avocados, salad greens, yogurt, granola, berries, and chocolate (don’t forget to include something sweet!).
3. Have your calendar out when planning for cross-referencing. You don’t want to make grand plans to cook dinner on a night you have a work event. This simple mistake can lead to food (and money) waste, which is a common point of resistance in meal planning.
4. Be realistic. No one wants to cook every night! Plan your meals to provide more than one serving so you can have leftovers later in the week. I typically plan 2-3 meals to eat through out the week, keeping in mind I usually eat out at least once or twice. I also recommend choosing 2-3 breakfasts you can keep on rotation during the week, as well 4-5 snacks you can mix and match.
5. Always have a plan B. Sometimes meals don’t work out the way we want them too. Sometimes our cooking skills fall short. Sometimes we simply don’t like what we’ve made or ordered. This is no reason to skip a meal! I recommend always having a few frozen meals at hand so you never go hungry.
Recovery is hard, but with these tips and tricks you can make it a bit easier. Do you have any meal plan hacks to add? We would love to hear from you! Comment below and let us know what has worked for you!