L-glutamine (or simply glutamine) is one of the biggest buzzwords in the health field today.…
Meal planning and prepping are wonderful skills to have in your personal health and wellness tool kit. Having basic meal plans is always a good idea and they can help you choose from a variety of healthy meals. You don’t have to follow the plan exactly but using a meal plan as a guideline can definitely help you stay on track.
A well-thought-out meal plan can also help you improve your diet quality or reach a specific health goal while saving you time and money along the way.
Here are my 5 simple tips for developing a successful meal planning habit.
1. START SMALL
Developing a meal planning habit is no different than making any other positive change in your life. Starting small and slowly building confidence is a great way to make sure your new habit is sustainable.
Begin by planning out just a few meals or snacks for the week ahead. Eventually, you’ll figure out which planning strategies work best, and you can slowly build upon your plan by adding in more meals as you see fit. An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing.
2. CONSIDER EACH FOOD GROUP AND KEEP A WELL-STOCKED PANTRY
It’s important to make sure each food group is represented in your plan. You want to eat a variety of foods and especially plants to make sure you nourish your body and get in all the essential nutrients. In my opinion, the healthiest meal plan emphasizes whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, high-quality protein and healthy fats, while limiting sources of refined grains, added sugars, and excess salt. Think about each of the food groups as you plan you meals. If any of them are missing, make a point to fill in the gaps.
Maintaining a baseline stock of pantry staples is a great way to streamline your meal prepping process and simplify menu creation.
Here are a few examples of healthy and versatile foods to keep in your pantry:
- Whole grains: unrefined grains, brown rice, quinoa, oats, bulgur, whole-wheat pasta, polenta
- Legumes: canned or dried black beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, lentils
- Canned goods: low-sodium broth, tomatoes, tomato sauce, artichokes, olives, corn, fruit (no added sugar), tuna, salmon
- Oils: extra virgin olive, avocado, coconut
- Baking essentials: baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, flour, cornstarch, nut flour, unrefined flours
- Other: Almond butter, peanut butter, tahini, mixed nuts, and seeds
- Fresh fruit and vegetables: I always make sure to have fresh fruits and veggies in my fridge
- Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, curry spices, dried herbs etc.
Keeping some of these basic essentials on hand can help reduce stress and improve the efficiency of your meal planning efforts.
3. GET ORGANIZED
Good organization is a key component to any successful meal plan. An organized kitchen, pantry, and refrigerator make everything from menu creation, grocery shopping and meal prep a breeze, as you’ll know exactly what you have on hand and where your tools and ingredients are. Also, it’s very important to invest in good quality containers to store your food.
Always remember, there’s no right or wrong way to organize your meal prep spaces. Just make sure it’s a system that works for you.
4. CHOOSING YOUR MEALS
What’s the easiest way to fill out your meal planner?
I usually start my meal plan and shopping list on a Friday or Saturday. Have this done and ready! This can even be done during the week if you have extra time and if you’re extra prepared. I find it best to go grocery shopping on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
Firstly, when planning my meals for the week, I like to start with breakfast. My tip is to include a complex carb, healthy fats, some form of protein and fresh seasonal fruits in your breakfast to give you sustainable energy.
Secondly, I go to dinners because I can then put some left overs into the lunch sections (so I can save time and money). Same rule apply for lunches and dinners, make sure to include healthy fats, lean proteins, complex carb and obviously lots of fresh veggies. After you’ve chosen your dinners and lunches, fill the spots with some of your other favorite meals. For dinners, I usually choose something light and packed with veggies and a lean protein.
Lastly, you can pick your snacks. I typically go for the same snacks all week so it’s super easy and I’m not prepping too much. My favorite BEND snacks are fresh fruit with yoghurt and nuts, a smoothie, kale chips, whole-grain cracker with something savory or a delicious and nutritious rusk or cookie. Go check out our recipe section for more balanced, easy, delicious and nutritious recipes.
5. HOW TO PLAN OUT YOUR PREP DAY
Always have a list! Start with any grains that need cooking and get that going or anything that needs slow cooking can go first, so you can get this out of the way.
Next up, meats or anything that needs marinating – get that started and put away. Cleaning up as you go is important to not hating meal prep.
Anything that needs to be baked, get that in before you start with the smaller stuff. For example, a healthy bread, cookies, rusks etc.
Lastly, prepare you dips, sauces and dressings. For example, if you’re having salads during the week – prepare your dressing before hand (saves times). Prepare any dips like hummus, tzatziki etc.
Most importantly, don’t stress about meal prepping. Make it fun. You’ll get quicker and quicker every time and you’ll learn what is best to start with and how you like to set things out.
Happy Meal Prepping Foodie Friends!