When you think "healthy eating," you probably think about getting a certain amount of fruit, vegetables, fiber, protein, vitamins and so on. But, for many of us, this is easier said than done. We tend to rely on fast food, restaurants and pre-packaged meals more than we're willing to admit. But these foods tend to be high in sodium, fat, calories and often aren't even particularly filling even when we eat them in high volumes. Well, how do you eat healthy, then? Well, here's a little tip: meal planning.
Planning out meals ahead of time takes the guesswork out of healthy eating. It also makes things easier if you're busy with work, school, kids or whatever else life hurls at you. How do you meal plan, you ask? Basically, you're going to want to have a plan that makes preparing food easier. You don't have to prepare every meal but you want to simplify your preparation and cooking process. The cool thing is that you can use whichever method works best for you. But we'll give you some tips on how to get started.
1. Journal it out
If you're a planner, journal-er or calendar-keeper at heart, then this method is right up your alley! Gather some recipes that suit your budget, time frame and taste. For example, overnight oats. They're filling and fiberous. In your planner, jot down "Breakfast: Overnight Oats" under Monday-Sunday. Maybe you can switch it up every morning and add fruit to your overnight oats one morning, spices another morning and so on.
Prepare your overnight oats on Sunday night, keep them refrigerated in 8 oz mason jars and have toppings somewhere easy to reach. If you're not a fan of organizing and like to be more "go with the flow," then this may not be for you. But, otherwise, keeping a planner can make deciding what to eat next a piece of cake.
2. Use versatile ingredients that can be used in multiple meals
This is another useful hack that makes meal planning fast and easy. For example, rice and beans are both cheap and can be used to make a variety of meals that can be suitable for different times of day. They can also can be paired with a multitude of ingredients and easily be prepared ahead of time and stored in containers in the fridge. For example, you can make shrimp fried rice and beans with an egg, red beans and rice, chicken and wild rice soup with beans, rice with chickpea curry, steak burritos with rice and beans, and so on. Sounds great, right?
All it takes is having the right ingredients, a decent amount of it, and letting your imagination go wild with ideas and flavors. This method is good for people who aren't as into planning and like to think on their feet but still appreciate the security of being prepared.
3. Come up with themes for different nights
Maybe you're not the best at coming up with ideas for what to eat and you don't have the time to sift through recipes. Well, having a theme for each night can help with that and make cooking fun! What about Spaghetti Saturdays or Soup Sundays? Taco Tuesdays or Meatless Mondays? These give you a general idea of what you need to shop for. You know that you'll need spaghetti and sauce for Saturday. You'll also grab the ground beef, shredded cheddar, sour cream, salsa and taco shells for Tuesday. Over time, you'll become a pro and meal planning will become a piece of cake.
Overall, you're going to want to have fun with meal planning and customize it to suit your schedule and household. Remember to keep in mind:
- Journal it out if you want to feel organized and not have to think about your meals during a busy week.
- Go for versatile foods that suit many dishes such as rice, beans, tomatoes, chicken and eggs.
- Need help thinking of meals? Go with themes for different nights of the week!
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