If one of your goals is to eat healthier, meal planning is the easiest way to achieve this goal. By planning out breakfast, lunch and dinner, you have more control over what food you and your family eats. I know this may seem daunting. I mean, who has a ton of time to meal plan?
There are so many benefits to meal planning beyond just eating something healthy. Meal planning results in:
Reducing food waste
Improving gut health
Weight management or maintenance
The health benefits from meal planning are real! When we plan the menu for the week, we have foods that taste great and don't cause us any negative side effects. I know when I am rushed to grab food from a cafeteria or restaurant, I don't think about the nutrients (or lack of) in what I am about to eat. Instead, it is all about speed and convenience.
Eating quickly and not thinking about the ingredients never ends up well for me. Instead I get nasty side-effects that are embarrassing to try to cover up during the work day. Symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, anxiety, frequent belching or stomach gurgling are just a few of the uncomfortable facts of eating foods that are cooked for the masses.
In fact, those symptoms are a warning sign that something bad is happening in the gut. Our body wants to be healthy and fights for us every single day. But when we treat our body poorly by giving it foods that cause us not to feel well, we go down a path that eventually will lead to illness and disease.
Can meal planning improve gut health and digestion? Absolutely!
Not sure where to start? I am here to help! I am a Certified Holistic Nutritionist teaching people just like you how to stop suffering from embarrassing symptoms such as bloating, gas, belching, constipation, diarrhea, moodiness, anxiety and fatigue so you can get back to living.
The TAKE YOUR LIFE BACK coaching call is a FREE 30 minute call where we will talk about your specific symptoms and start creating a crystal clear vision on how to overcome your challenges and start feeling better.
Using the Simply Great Gut Health framework, we'll discuss the 5 Steps that helps you gain optimal health while living your busy life.
It’s very simple. No jumping through hoops and NO PRESSURE.
If we determine it’s not a fit, we’ll go our separate ways for now.
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Now, back to meal planning! There are 3 super simple ways to become an expert at meal planning. But before you read the below and try to do all 3 steps ASAP, I highly recommend taking it slow. The best way to make meaningful change in your life is to start slow until the new habit is simply part of your routine.
So maybe out of the 3 steps, select one that you will focus on for 3 meals during the week. Maybe you will only meal plan breakfast and it will be for Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Maybe you will only meal plan dinner and it will be for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The point is that by taking small steps and giving yourself the flexibility on how you start meal planning, will help avoid frustration and disappointment if it doesn't go well the first couple of times.
Here are my tips:
1) Make a big batch of something that has multiple uses.
Roast a whole chicken. Roasting a chicken means you'll have dinner one night but then you have additional chicken to use in other ways. Maybe make a batch of chicken salad by chopping up some of the chicken, mixing it with onions and mayo, then put it on a bed of lettuce with other raw veggies. Or eat the chicken salad with celery sticks. If chicken salad is not a favorite in your household, then maybe chicken wraps work better for lunch. Here are a few recipes to try:
Overnight Oatmeal. This is so easy and can be eaten cold or heated up in a microwave. No cooking involved! One serving is simply 1/2 cup oats mixed with a 1/2 cup dairy or non-dairy milk. Add in anything you like as a topping: chopped nuts, defrosted fruit, fresh fruit. This only takes 15 minutes to make 3 breakfasts that are grab & go or heat & eat for busy mornings. Here are a few recipes to try:
Taco meat (or meat-free crumbles for vegetarian nights). One night have tacos for dinner. Use left over meat to make enchiladas or taco salads or mix it with brown rice & pinto beans for a quick Mexican stir-fry that can be served with broccoli. Plus, you can make this with ground turkey or chicken if your household doesn't like ground beef.
Dinner Ham. At the local grocery store, there are small dinner hams that can be really inexpensive when they go on sale. The great part about these are you can serve ham for dinner one night, then make ham sandwiches or have eggs & ham for another dinner. Another quick idea is to make a ham stew in the crock-pot with the leftovers. Simply throw in chopped up ham with potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions and let it simmer on low in broth. Serve with crusty bread. Here are a few recipes to try:
Lasagna or Ziti. Pasta dishes are always better reheated. So why not make a tray of lasagna or baked ziti and then reheat it for 2 dinners during the week. Here are two vegetarian recipes to try:
Prepare ingredients ahead of time. While we think about making a big batch of something that can be reused, this can also mean simply prepping ingredients for quick use later in the week. If I have fresh vegetables, I will chop and store them in a container in the fridge. If I need to make a sauce for a recipe, I will make that so all I have to do is add it when cooking. Think about how to reduce the number of steps you need to take during the week to make a healthy meal easy.
2) Rely on frozen vegetables.
When I am short on time, frozen veggies come to the rescue. Today, there are so many great frozen veggies on the market. Costco even sells a huge bag of frozen butternut squash. The best part of frozen veggies is they are already chopped! Cutting down on meal prep time. Below are a few recipes:
Healthier Broccoli Chicken Casserole From Gimme Some Oven. From the first step, use left-over chicken, chop it up, mix with cooked pasta (gluten-free if needed) and frozen broccoli.
Skinny Broccoli And Mixed Vegetable Stir Fry From Averie Cooks. This recipe relies on broccoli and mushrooms, both of which can be bought frozen and chopped.
3) Schedule time to meal plan.
A key to meal planning success is to schedule it. It doesn't always have to be the same time or day. Typically, Sunday works for me. But there are weekends when it doesn't. So I will do planning and prepping on Saturday. Or maybe I will take a night during the week to"catch-up" on prepping meals.
Having a plan every week of how and when you are going to meal plan is worth the effort. I always find that if I write it down on my calendar and block out the time, I am more likely to stick to the schedule.
I hope this post inspires you to try meal planning. Cooking an ingredient that has multiple purposes, relying on frozen vegetables and scheduling time to meal plan are the keys to becoming a meal planning expert.
Do you think you will try to meal-prep? Let me know in the comments below.