In busy families, healthy meals can often give way to take out as parents juggle work, child care and afterschool activities. But with meal planning, it’s possible for families to avoid the last minute, ‘what’s for dinner’ trap that leads to less than healthy meals.
Think of meal planning like a road map. The more you have mapped out and the more you can visualize yourself getting from point A to point B, the less likely you are to make undesirable turns along the way.
As a dietitian, one of the biggest barriers I hear when It comes to meal prepping is, “I don’t have the time.” But everyone’s journey is different and planning your meals doesn’t have to be anything crazy… it’s all about you and depends how much time you have to dedicate to it and how complicated (or not) you want it to get.
So how do I start?
1. Ask yourself what’s possible in your current situation in order to set yourself up to succeed. Do you want to prepare three fancy meals and snacks a day? Or are your looking for one quick and simple meal? Starting with one meal could be an initial step. Then, once you master that, you can add more to your menu.
2. Now it’s time for you to think about what you want to eat this week. Personally, I like to set aside 10 minutes on Sundays to find fun recipes that I know my boyfriend and I will enjoy. As I’m researching recipes, I also consider what my week looks like. On the weeks I’m busier, I opt for three meal options — either casseroles or crockpot meals that I can cook in bulk and have leftovers for the next day. Some of my favorite websites to find recipes are: paleomg.com, minimalistbaker.com, skinnytaste.com, eatingwell.com and Pinterest.
3. Once you have selected some meal options, make a shopping list of all the ingredients. This is an important step. Let’s face it we’ve all been to the store without a grocery list and either forgotten to get something, gone over our food budget or have somehow found ourselves in the middle of the grocery store contemplating what Doritos flavor to try.
4. Go to the store to pick up the ingredients. If you are someone who doesn’t like to go grocery shopping, you may like Hannaford to Go. It’s super easy to use and could prevent you from grabbing impulse items, so you can stick to your list and stay on budget. You can even schedule it for a convenient pick up time.
5. Cook, eat and enjoy! While you are cooking and cutting up veggies, fruit, etc. for your meal, you can always cut up more to have on hand as a snack. Why not? The cutting board is already out.
You should find that with a little planning you’ll save time, energy and money. Start off the New Year with the confidence and tools to fuel your body for your wellness journey.
Lindsay Hoar is registered dietician who works at Northwestern Medical Center.