If there was ONE thing we could all do to make our lives healthier, more sane, and create less work, it would be meal planning! Getting back in the kitchen is key… especially in these times of COVID-19, where health truly matters!!
Meal planning and prepping is an important part of creating healthy meals, saving money, and minimizing food waste… but it can also be overwhelming. Trust me, I get it!
However, spending a little extra time to plan and prep meals can actually help you feel less overwhelmed throughout your entire week. Let’s explore some of the benefits to meal planning…
Some benefits to meal planning are:
- Meal variety!
- Saves you money.
- You eat healthier.
- Helps prevent food waste.
- Preserves your sanity!
- You and the family know what’s for dinner!
All of these benefits are AMAZING! Many of us were never taught to meal plan or even how to cook our own meals! This is why I believe it to be paramount to get in the kitchen and nourish our families from real whole food. This will create a new cycle in the generations to come.
Now let’s explore HOW to meal plan, as it is simply comprised of the three following steps:
- Select your clean eating meals and their recipes.
- Shop for ingredients.
- Prepare those ingredients.
Step 1: Select your meals and their recipes.
If your spouse/family is doing the planning with you, have them hop on board in this process! It can be extremely rewarding when the whole family dives in together! Having a say in what’s being served is empowering AND helps you plan food that everyone will eat.
- First decide on how many meals to plan for. If you are new to meal planning start with three meals and 3 snacks to keep it simple.
- Using a 1, 2, or 3 week calendar (see below for calendar). Writing it down helps you plan and know what’s for dinner. You can also note on the calendar when to thaw, soak, or prepare food so that you keep right on track!
- Construct your meals comprised on the following components: Check out this post Simple Switches on how to source high quality food. I go into better options for fats and proteins!
- Protein – Protein is vital to our health and overall function of our body. It keeps us satiated and fuller longer. Choose the animal or plant protein that will be the star of your meal. Start there!
- Fat – Healthy fats are SO important to brain and cellular function. Choose a healthy fat to pair with your meal. This can be the fat/oil you are cooking with, in your salad dressing, or even drizzling raw extra virgin olive oil to the dish before serving.
- Fiber – Think plants and lot of them! Plants should take up 75% of your plate! View the list below for top fiber foods to consider adding to your meals!
- Dark leafy greens & reds – These plants also offer fiber and tons of nutrients that aid in the detoxification process. I highly recommend making them a part of every meal. Always source organic. Here are some tips on using them
- Kale – Throw in smoothies or if you put kale in salads, massage it first with EVOO to break down the fibers and make it more palatable.
- Swiss Chard – Lightly steam, roll with a rolling pin to break down stem, and use as a wrap!
- Arugula – part of the brassica family, this has the most bang for your buck! Put raw into salads, Throw on top of homemade pizza (the healthy kind), on pasture-raised eggs, and (gluten-free) pastas.
- Spinach – Super easy to add to the bottom of the plate/bowl of hot dishes/soups, since it wilts quickly. Do it raw to maintain nutrients.
- Microgreens – Sprouts are more powerful and nutrient-dense than the older versions AND so easy to throw on top of your meals! Opt for broccoli, arugula, sunflower, or radish sprouts. Avoid alfalfa.
What meals to pick?
- Choose meals that bless you with left overs. I always cook more protein like wild-caught salmon, pastured chicken, grass-fed steak than we need for the meal. Having extra protein can be a Godsend during busy weeks. So plan to always make a little extra.
- Shop in your kitchen! Literally, find what vegetables need to be eaten soon, or what meat you have in the freezer. Try and base your meals on what you already have to help prevent food waste and use what you already have!
Step 2: Make your list and shop for ingredients:
To help you in this process, I’m sharing with you my “Clean-Eating Pocket Card” to use as you shop! Always buy produce listed on the “Dirty Dozen” organic. It’s safe to buy the produce listed on the Clean 15, conventionally. Ideally, steer clear of the categories listed under “Avoid These” and use my label reading tips to carefully source packaged foods!
Here are a few links to two of my favorite health-focused online stores!
Step 3: Prepare those ingredients:
Taking a few hours during the weekend can be a life and time saver during the busy week. Consider:
- Making your grains ahead of time. Grains like quinoa, wild rice, or millet are great to have on hand. Not only cooking these items early on and cooling them for 24 hours, will make them into resistant starch (food for our good gut bugs), but they are easy to add to salads, soups, stir-frys, or other recipes.
- Cutting up and preparing veggies. I always cut up onions and get garlic ready to be pressed into dishes. Slicing up peppers, carrots, cucumbers, and celery for a quick snack for you and the kids makes eating healthy easy. My motto, use hunger as leverage and always offer and eat veggies first!
- Making Dips! Make your own hummus, cashew garlic dip, guacamole, vegan pesto, or white bean hummus, the options are endless! Dips are great for quick snacks and to top on salads.
- Double the batch! Weekends are a great time to make big meals that produce lots of leftovers! Think soups, stews, sauces, and cook or grill extra protein!
Here are some more resources to help you plan and stay on track!
Download this simple Weekly Meal Plan Template and 21 Day Meal Planner to begin your planning!!
Check out this Weekly Meal Plan Example: I use this for my detox programs, and want you to use this simple tool to help you plan meals for up to two weeks. Check out the calendar below to see an example of how it can be used!
If this already seems overwhelming, just start with 2 meals and a few snacks. Make large batches so your two meals can feed you for 4 meals! Trust me, the less time I have to cook, the better. Keep it simple and just make simple changes that move you and your family towards better health!
This meal planning & prepping guidance is included in ALL of my clean eating courses. Also included are recipes, shopping lists, tons of clean eating resources that make healthy eating fun and simple!
Remember that consistent daily steps create HUGE changes over time! Just start! I’m always here to support you!
With love and gratitude,
Nutritional Therapy Practitioner