Meal Planning: Your Ticket to Freedom
By Linda Dessau, the Self-Care Coach
It's 5:30 p.m. and you're heading home after a long, full day. All of a sudden
your mind turns to the daily question, "What's for dinner?"
Whether it's just you or whether you're preparing a meal for a whole gang,
it's not an energizing prospect to imagine planning, shopping for or cooking
a meal from scratch at the end of a long day.
That's probably why the fast food businesses are booming and why our health
is suffering from the effects of these "easy" foods.
If you think meal planning is an unnecessary step, or that it would create
a strict regimen that you'd be trapped by, read on about how meal planning
can free you from worry and improve your health and well being.
REASONS FOR MEAL PLANNING
Less time and money spent at the grocery store
plan your meals out a week at a time, your trips to the grocery store become
much more manageable. You know exactly what you'll need and
less susceptible to "impulse" buying. Sometimes, when I'm feeling
REALLY efficient, I even write my list in order of where I'll find it in
the grocery store. Plus, buying the ingredients to cook a meal from scratch
costs much less than the ready-made version.
Healthier meals = healthier you and your loved ones
When you're planning ahead, you'll have much more control over what you eat,
and you can consciously choose to improve the health of your meals.
If you BEGIN planning and cooking dinner when you get home, it could be quite
late before you're sitting down to eat it. The closer to bedtime it is when
you finish dinner, the less likely you'll have time to properly digest and
for your body to absorb what you've eaten. For breakfast and lunch, having
the meals planned out can help remind you to STOP and EAT them.
When we choose our meals in the moment, based on
what's fast, easy and enjoyable, we tend to stick to a few standby's and
don't branch out very much. Nutritionally,
this leaves us lacking. We also risk getting bored with our food and looking
to fast food or unhealthier options for "excitement".
HOW TO PLAN YOUR MEALS FOR THE WEEK
- Keep some spontaneity. You could just plan one part
of the meal. For instance, if you know that you always have plenty of fresh
of frozen vegetables that you can choose from, then simply plan "chicken,
potatoes and vegetables". Then you can still have some spontaneity
in your meal.
- When you have time, make "frozen dinners".
Make a double or triple recipe; package the leftovers in single (or family-size)
servings and freeze.
- Factor in schedule changes. Maybe the night after the
big meeting or the night of the soccer tournament aren't the best nights to
cook a meal from scratch. Plan a quick meal, take-out or your own "frozen
dinner" for those nights.
- Aim for balance. With the week spread out before
you, look for balance between heavy and light meals, vegetarian and meat-based
and a variety of different-coloured fruits and vegetables.
- Plan while you're in the kitchen. That way you can
easily check for the ingredients of the dishes you're planning. If they're
add them to your grocery list immediately.
- Keep an active grocery list through the week. That
way, when staples run out you can add them to list.
- Grow your recipe collection. Use the Internet, the
cookbooks of your friends and family, magazines, etc. and find new things
to try. One
new recipe a week will keep things exciting!
- Get some expert advice. Consult a trusted source
such as Canada's Food Guide, or better still get individualized meal and
suggestions from a registered dietician or a holistic nutritionist.
- Make it a team effort. If you're feeding others as
well as yourself, make the planning a team effort so that everyone gets
their favourites through the week.
- Always follow your plan, except when you don't.
There are going to be things that come up, days that you just don't feel
what you've planned, or days when you've forgotten to do your nightly prep.
Create a list of healthy stand-by's that you can throw together with the
staples in your own kitchen. If you're on the go, be prepared by having a
list of healthy
choices at your favourite restaurants.
A meal plan is not a rigid "diet" or set of orders. The meal plan
serves you, not the other way around.
Start now with tomorrow's meals. What can you defrost or partly prepare tonight
to make tomorrow's meals easier and healthier? •
© Copyright Linda Dessau, 2005. 07/08/05
About the Author | More by Linda Dessau
Linda Dessau, the Self-Care Coach, helps artists enhance their creativity by addressing their unique self-care issues. Feel like your creativity is blocked? Sign-up for the free e-course, "Roadblocks to Creativity" by visiting www.genuinecoaching.com.