While meal planning can be considered a chore to add onto your “to-do list,” this is one chore that should be at the top of that list! Here are 6 reasons why you should start planning your meals a week in advance:
1. Improve your nutrition
By planning in advance, you can aim to have nutritionally well-balanced meals throughout the week. For example, you can make sure each of your dinners have the requisite veggies, protein, and grains. Planning your meals ultimately allows you to take control of your own personal nutrition needs. Whether you have to stick to a lower sodium diet or want only to eat whole grains and veggies, you can plan for it!
2. Make healthier choices
If you have to come up with something to eat last minute, you'll find yourself probably going out for dinner instead. As a result, you are most likely to end up exceeding your daily calorie and sodium intake! Even just stopping at the grocery store to pick up a last minute dinner may lead to poor choices. When you shop hungry, you are more likely to throw junk food into your cart.
3. Eat high quality foods
Homemade meals are almost always more nutrient-dense and filled with less calories, salt, and fat than takeout or quick ready-made options at your grocery store. Choosing your own recipes and ingredients for the week allows you to make important food choices, such as buying local meats or organic produce.
4. Save money
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.
5. Save time
Your set grocery lists will prevent you from wandering around the grocery store aimlessly and your meal plans will save you from having to think about what to eat every day.
If you find yourself quite busy during the workweek, take some time out of the weekend to prepare most of your meals. Oats and frozen berries with yogurt in mason jars serve as great breakfasts for on-the-go. Prepared quinoa or pasta salads with mixed veggies and beans can serve as a work lunch for multiple days.
Cook one or two larger dinners on the weekend so you'll have something for when you arrive home exhausted and don’t feel like cooking. Pre-portion and split appropriate servings for your family between the fridge and freezer for easy dinners. Soups, chilli, meatballs and marinated chicken breasts are all great for freezing. Re-heat while you prepare a quick salad or veggie slices, and you’ll have a delicious homemade meal!
6. Decrease Stress
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.Jennifer is a registered dietitian, registered nutritionist, and a member of the Alberta College of Dietitians and Dietitians of Canada. Combining her personal and professional passions, Jennifer loves to blog about food and eating during pregnancy and for young kids and families. You can find her on First Step Nutrition.
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