How to Master Meal Planning

Photo: Brook Lark

Photo: Brook Lark

Maintaining a healthy diet can be challenging, especially in the beginning of your health journey. One way to make it simpler is to plan your meals ahead of time so you're never left scrambling when you get home from work, trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. When left to the last minute our impatience can get the best of us, and it's when we're most likely to opt for something easy and fast rather than something nutritious.

The great thing about meal planning, however, is it gives you the best of both worlds—fast, easy, and nutritious meals.

As a health coach I am asked over and over to create meal plans for others. Frankly, it's not what I do. I prefer to teach my clients how to create their own plans and support them as they integrate this time-saving tool into their week. It's part "teach a man to fish" with a heavy dose of "I don't want that extra tedious work". The truth is, food is very personal. Guessing which meals will appeal to each person is not where I want to spend my time. Meal planning is such a helpful tool to learn and incorporate into your own routine, but nobody knows you and your families tastes like you do.

A simple way to get started is to devote one day a week to your plan and prep day. Then, start by using that time to research what meals you want to make, and what ingredients you need to make them. This is the most time consuming step, but thanks to the internet there are a lot of amazing resources out there that you can use to do this part of the work for you, like Real Meals.

Once you've researched what meals you want to make, you can get to planning out your week in advance. Having a separate calendar dedicated to meal planning makes this part easier, and helps keep everything on track. Then, it's time to make your grocery lists and get shopping! A helpful tip is to try to focus your meals around natural, fresh ingredients with a special focus on what's in season that time of of year.

Once you've got your food, it's time to prep! Get started on anything that can be prepared in advance, so there's less to worry about later. Wash and cut your veggies, prep your meat if you've got it, and organize your food into reusable containers in the fridge— now when it's time for dinner you can simply grab and go.

If you're new to the meal planning world, a great way to get started is using one of the digital services that do some of the heavy lifting for you like I mentioned above. My go-to at the moment is Real Plans. After you tell them a bit about yourself, they design a custom meal plan tailored to you, complete with your own grocery lists and easy to follow recipes.

The best part about Real Plans is they focus on real, unprocessed, wholesome ingredients, so you can rest easy knowing your nutrition is in good hands. Their plans are well thought out, and you'll end up wasting less food because everything you buy will have a purpose and a designated meal. You can even customize your meal plans to your diet preferences or allergies; whether you're vegetarian, pescatarian, paleo, or Whole 30— they've got you covered.

Meal planning is such a great way to stay on track with your health journey and take away the daily burden of what to make for dinner. It can really simplify your life, and make your path to wellness that much more attainable. If you decide to give it a try I hope this helps, and if you have any questions about meal planning, feel free to leave a comment!

Jen King