When a schedule is already super busy, planning meals ahead of time may seem like just one more task to attempt to get done. However, there’s a reason why so many people do meal planning every single week. It not only helps them stay on track, but it takes the guesswork out of planning healthy meals and let’s not forget it makes it easier to reach our weight loss goals. Check out the Body Reboot book for some excellent meal plans on how to lose weight. When we know when and what we’re going to eat we’ll be less likely to grab and eat what we should be staying away from.
Medical News Today argues that meal planning makes life a lot easier, and we couldn’t agree more. It should make you stick to your diet because you already have a plan in place and that’s a good thing!
A meal plan can help make things easier.
Anyone trying to follow a low-carb diet could try mapping out their week and plan all meals before heading to the grocery store.
Planning meals in advance can help people stick to the diet.
Knowing what they are going to eat for lunch and dinner can help a person avoid making unhealthful food choices, such as stopping at a fast food restaurant.
If you have issues with willpower, you’re not alone. Having a lack of willpower is why Openfit says meal planning is perfect for someone like you. It’ll make it easier to say “no” because you already have a plan in place (more on this next).
It’s kind of a catch-22: Research shows we love having a ton of choices, yet those choices can stress us out and lead to decision fatigue.
All the food decisions you make throughout the day can slowly chip away at your willpower — but planning your meals in advance can keep you from having to rely on willpower in the first place. “Having the foods ready to go is half the battle,” says Lisa Hayim, M.S., R.D., at The Well Necessities. “The majority of less-than-healthy choices happen when we’re not prepared.”
Planning your meals may take a little extra effort at the beginning of the week, but it means you’ll know exactly what to reach for the next time you’re hungry. And you can save all that leftover willpower for when you really need it, like when your alarm goes off for a 5:30 a.m. workout.
Better food choices
Similar to helping you with willpower, setting up a meal plan also helps you make better food choices. Openfit reveals more on how to use meal planning to your advantage when you’re on a diet:
The idea of having infinite options sounds great in theory — but when you’re exhausted and hungry and you don’t have a game plan, you’ll probably just end up making the same old fallback meal (frozen chicken wings, anyone?) or ordering the usual takeout grub.
“‘Throwing something together’ will usually lead to unbalanced meals,” Schreiber says.
After all, it’s hard to make healthy choices when you’re hungry. Meal planning helps you get all those decisions out of the way at once — at the beginning of the week, while you’re still feeling relaxed and recharged and motivated.
And meal planning doesn’t have to be boring — research has shown that people who plan their meals not only choose more nutritious foods, but also eat a better variety. It may be a more structured way of eating than you’re used to, but think of it as an opportunity to finally try some of those healthy recipes you’ve had bookmarked for ages.
Ms. Skinny adds to these thoughts by making a point that if you already have something planned, then you’ll be less likely to go for an unhealthy version.
How many times have you opted to take a whirl through the fast food drive-thru in lieu of preparing a healthy meal? Probably more times than you care to admit. Meal planning eliminates the need to rely on this unhealthy last minute option.
You already know what you’re going to eat
Flying by the seat of your pants can be fun, but not when it comes to weight loss because it thwarts your plans! My Fitness Pal argues that knowing what you’re going to eat ahead of time can lead to more significant weight loss because you’re more likely to stick with your goals.
Using the list you have, choose meals that fit the bill. Look to family favorites or peruse recipe sites for ideas. Consider the time of year, what’s in season and what everyone will feel like eating. When scheduling, take shelf-life into account (i.e. make any fish dish within a day or two of shopping, plan meals with shelf-stable and frozen ingredients for later in the week).
Pay attention to how many servings a recipe makes and the nutritional profiles of the dishes you schedule to make sure you meet your healthy eating goals.
Consider overlapping ingredients to minimize waste and cooking with a plan for leftovers to make the most of your food budget and time. If you want to eat better for less, shop seasonal produce and sales.
Consider creating a master recipe list. Having a list of go-to meals you know work for you and your family is one of the easiest ways to expedite the meal planning process. Every time you find a new meal you love, add it to the master list. You can store recipes in your MyFitnessPal recipe box to quickly calendar meals directly into your food diary. Not only will this help you meet your goals, but it will also take the work out of logging at mealtime.
Saves money and time
Save lots of money (and time!) by regularly meal planning. Nerd Fitness also reminds us that life can get busy, but if you take 10 minutes at the beginning of your week to prepare your meals then you’ll have a lot more time for other tasks during the week!
Save some money! I’ll let you do the math about your specific situation, but when you do your own meal prep it is nearly always a strategy which saves you a ton of money compared to eating out. You can then spend that extra money on the important stuff (“Treat yo’self!”). And this doesn’t even factor in the costs we refuse to think about for some reason: the money we’ll spend on medication, hospital visits, surgery, and a shortened life span: you know, the REAL cost of living an unhealthy life.
It also saves you precious time! It seems like a large time investment up front, but you can make a week’s worth of meals in nearly the same time as it takes you to make a single meal. For the same reason the assembly line revolutionized mass production, the strategy of cooking everything at once will pay you dividends in extra hours in your week. Still complaining that you don’t have time to work out? Get a few extra hours back by meal prepping! Bazinga!
Azumio adds to Nerd Fitness’ thoughts on how having a meal plan will also eliminate food waste, because if you’ve already spent money on groceries why would you want to throw them out?
Having a meal plan prevents you from throwing out ingredients you forgot you had in the fridge. You can create meal plans that specifically allow you to use up whatever you have in your cupboards.
You can also start fresh by creating grocery lists based off your meal plans. This way you’ll go to the grocery store with purpose rather than on the whim and you won’t come out with a dozen of random unhealthy food items, most of which you won’t eat. In addition, your meal plan will save you money by preventing you from ordering costly last minute takeouts.
Azumio also says that meal planning can decrease stress, and if you think about it that makes sense. Sometimes it causes stress trying to figure out what to eat. Eliminate the anxiety by already having a weekly plan in place.
The daily “what’s for dinner” thought that plague our minds throughout the day is a constant stress to have, but it's easily prevented by having a plan. You can always reuse meal plans and grocery lists to help cut down on planning and prep time. A two-week seasonal meal plan may be enough variety for your family.
Similarly, Ms. Skinny argues that if you’re hungry and don’t have a plan, you’re more likely to make poor decisions. Plus, having a meal plan makes you feel better knowing you already know what to eat dinner.
Everyone knows how stressful it is to make a last minute decision about a meal. You race home from work frantic and hungry, knowing you have just a short time to choose a dinner and get it cooked and on the table. If you have a meal plan, you can take care of things in advance and all that is left at the end of a long day are those last few things to cook.
Meal planning can really help you stick to your goals and lose weight! We discuss how one diet, in particular, can amp up your weight loss. In the Body Reboot book, we lay out why the keto diet may be perfect for you. If you want a free copy of the Body Reboot book help us cover the cost of shipping and we’ll send you out a free book. Visit this page and find out if there are any copies left.
Sources: Medical News Today, Openfit, My Fitness Pal, Nerd Fitness, Azumio, Ms. Skinny
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