The benefits of creating a meal plan

A meal plan can help you avoid added sugar and refined flour. Knowing where your next meal is coming from helps you control food cravings and impulse eating.

Do you tend to grab your meals from a vending machine or a drive-through? You know it’s not good for you, yet you continue to do it. Eating healthy meals throughout the week takes some planning to avoid the pitfall of convenience eating.

When you plan your meals, you are better able to make sound food choices and avoid less-healthy food products like added sugar and refined flour. Knowing where your next meal is coming from helps you control food cravings and impulse decisions.

If it’s 10 a.m. and someone walks in with doughnuts, you’re more likely to be able to avoid those sweets if you can picture your next meal: “I don’t need those; I’m excited about my pork chop with roasted potatoes and seasoned Brussels sprouts I’m having for lunch.”

Tips for a Weekly Meal Plan

  • Know your schedule. You have to know where you’re going to be throughout the week so you can plan accordingly. You’re not going to plan the same meal for a leisurely night at home as you would if you have an evening meeting.
  • Get a meal planner. You can buy all sorts of fancy meal planning pads and apps, but all you really need is a pen and some paper. Do whatever works for you, but you have to actually do the work of planning out what you want to eat for each meal.
  • Recipes and meal ideas. This is the hardest part for most. We run out of ideas. Keep your menus fresh by using magazines and social media accounts like Instagram’s @healthyfoodvideos. Or see below for some interesting recipes.
  • Pre-made grocery list. The pre-made grocery list is your ticket to easy grocery shopping. Make your own the way you like it! Put it in order of the grocery store layout and the way you shop. Add your staples so you remember to check on them each week. My staples include my family’s breakfast needs, which typically stay the same each week — bananas, spinach, peanut butter, kefir, almond milk, yogurt, eggs, bread, avocados and cow’s milk.

Now, it’s time to hit the grocery. You may like to do it yourself, but there are services that allow you to pick up a custom order and make grocery shopping a breeze!

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Post-Grocery Duties

The fun doesn’t stop there. When you get home from the grocery, make sure to get yourself ready for the week. Wash and display your produce so that you don’t forget about it. Complete any meal prepping that you need to, like putting together these make-ahead breakfast burritos filled with almost 6 grams of fiber and only 21 grams net carbohydrates. If you are using any meat you bought that week, don’t bother freezing it — this will just make it harder to cook when it comes time.

Habit, Habit, Habit

The meal planning process is cyclic, just like the laundry. It has to be done each week! Work on improving your process each time — you will get better and better. Also, don’t forget to plan some nights off — head out to your favorite restaurant and let someone else do the dishes!

See these great ideas to add to your meal plan:

Erin Wiedmar is a clinical nutritionist with Norton Healthcare.

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