Today, I'm sharing the basics of meal planning to help you eat better and be more prepared with healthy whole food options for you and the family. So sit back, grab a green tea and read through this post. You may want to screenshot or have a notebook with you to jot down ideas and important tips.
Meal Planning 101
Meal planning might seem like a bit of a bother, but I cannot stress how easy it can be and how effective it is in helping you eat better. When we start meal and menu planning, it is basically taking into consideration the number of people you are planning for, or if it is just for yourself. Meal timing, special dietary concerns, and your grocery budget are all considerations. It's also good to make a list of the recipes you will use, and likes and dislikes of everyone in the family.
Begin by choosing foods and recipes that you like and know how to prepare well. Recipes that fit into everyone's dietary plans are best to keep things simple. You can try experimenting later on when you have the basics down and working well for you.
If one or other family members have special needs, like diabetics, plan ahead for substitutions either in the food preparation or food substitution for that individual or for those individuals. Be sure to add these substitutions to your shopping list so they don't get forgotten.
Flexibility Makes It Easier To Implement
When I write meal plans, it's all done for you like paint by numbers. Super easy peasy. But when you are creating your own meal plan, there will always be a few things you will need to remain flexible with and make allowances for. For instance, that gourmet omelette your found on Pinterest, can be served for dinner, not just breakfast. And those breakfast waffles can be made from healthy, high fibre grains, gluten free flours, and eaten for lunch with fresh fruits instead of sugary syrup and heavy butter for breakfast.
When you are putting your favourite recipes together, ask yourself how you can improve the recipe and make it more whole food based. Can you sneak greens and more dietary fibre into those muffins? Will swapping rice cakes for bread reduce the carbs and make an avo smash more low calorie? Can you make your own ice blocks with the kids and drop all the unnecessary sugar?
Add in variety, too. Have other family members jump in and prepare meals some nights and on weekends. Kids enjoy making macaroni and cheese, so host mac-n-cheese night on Wednesdays, for example. But choose a whole wheat, gluten-free or alternative grain pasta, add in finely chopped spinach or kale. We call it Oscar the Grouch Mac & Cheese. Kids love it, and get them the ones adding in the green stuff!
Think about how you can mix up other recipes, alternate different vegetable combinations, colors and textures to vary the menu on a weekly basis (no need to let boredom take over on Wednesdays with the same routine!)
Yes, You Can Be Thrifty To Be Super Healthy
Think healthy means more money at the grocery store? Think again. If you shop for seasonal food selections , you'll save money. Buy local from the markets, buy in season. This is usually when produce is at its cheapest. Buy in bulk, whenever you can, and freeze the surplus. Create menus and meals based upon what is on special that week or month. You can stock up and store or freeze special-priced items and family favorites when possible and your budget allows.
It's unfortunate, but fast foods, especially those that are high in fat content (fried, greasy foods), are often cheaper than good, healthy food choices. Lean beef costs more than high-fat beef; high fibre, whole grain cereals high in nutritional value are often priced much higher than the low-cost, sugary brand names.
The minute the label says 'all organic', or 'superfood' on the packet, the price soars. It's clever marketing to make you feel like you're buying the healthiest option, but all too often these so called superfoods are full of sugar and misleading nutritional information. So be choosy and look for items you can sweeten yourself at home using stevia, raw honey or agave. It might seem like a bother, but baking your own potato crisps (or veggie chips) is a far better option for the family over greasy, MSG laden store bought ones. Experiment with thinly cut sweet potato (more nutritionally dense than regular), kale, carrot and zucchini chips.