When you're looking to make healthier choices, the last thing you need is to be stressing out about meeting your diet goals.
Meal planning is not only known for cutting down on the amount of time you spend preparing food, but it can also help you lose weight! The key to meal planning is finding the routine that works for you and your busy life.
Habits can be hard to build, but you'll be motivated to prep and plan with this simple guide in no time! If you want to stick to your healthy eating habits, here are a few steps to help you implement meal planning into your routine.
Choose Your Method
After deciding to take control of your health and create your meal plans, you get to choose what planning method you want to use! Your method will depend on your daily habits and eating preferences, so choose one that best fits into your lifestyle rather than what sounds like the "right" option.
You could plan recipes for each day of the week with the ingredients already prepped or make big batches of food that you individually portion and consume throughout the week. The options are endless, but the key is to make it easiest for you.
Set Aside Time
Meal planning takes time. However, it happens all at once rather than sporadically throughout the week. So, while it may seem like a few hours on a Sunday is a lot of time to spend preparing your food for the week, it takes much less time than if you were doing it on the fly every day.
Sit down with a notebook, your grocery store's weekly ad, or new recipes you've wanted to try. First, write out your intended meals and then write up the grocery list to match.
Then collect your ingredients, and set aside a specific time of the week that you'll be planning and prepping meals. It will make meeting your healthy eating goals more manageable and attainable!
Plan Your Grocery List
Speaking of grocery lists, before you can start prepping your food, you have to plan out your meals. Whether they're from specific recipes or just some healthy staples, make sure you're shopping with a purpose.
Ensure you only buy what you can use or freeze until your next grocery trip—wasting food wastes money. It would be really discouraging for your healthy eating if you look in the fridge after a week and all the groceries you bought had gone bad. Only purchase what you know will stay fresh or be able to be frozen until your next scheduled grocery trip.
Then, have a game plan going in. Plan your recipes, meals, or batches of food ahead of time so that you have all of the ingredients you'll need to prepare. You'll be much more likely to actually make the meals if you get everything you need at once.
Pick Ingredients Wisely
As mentioned, you want to make sure that whatever food you buy to prep won't go bad before you have a chance to eat it. To avoid food waste, plan out what things you can prepare ahead of time and what you'll need to keep frozen or uncooked until you're ready to eat.
Certain vegetables like onions, peppers, broccoli, celery, potatoes, and carrots keep really well in prepackaged containers. Meanwhile, others like lettuce, berries, avocado, and tomato tend to spoil quickly. For the ones that keep well, you can also save yourself time and chop, slice, or dice them ahead of time to toss them into a recipe or have as a snack.
But don't avoid buying those other fruits and veggies! Simply, eat them earlier in the week, or just wait to chop them up until you're ready to eat them. That way, you're still allowing yourself plenty of variation but not letting anything go bad.
Prep with Purpose
Now that you've bought your ingredients and have a plan for your meals, where do you start?
Look at your first meals or recipes and the parts of it that you can do ahead of time. If you're planning to cook the week's meals completely, you'll want to look at your plan as a big picture, deciding which things will take the longest to cook and which appliances they'll require.
Make sure dishes are clean, and you have plenty of storage containers for your fridge or freezer. Cook or prep in multiple places at once, don't just do one thing at a time. Make the most of your time and use as much space as you need to complete all the little tasks.
Don't Forget the Snacks!
Even the healthiest diets should include snacks! There's no need to starve in between meal times. The trick is to choose high-energy, low-carb, and low-sugar snacks.
American Dream Nut Butters are macro-friendly and packed with protein. They're enriched with grassfed, lactose-free whey protein, sweetened with stevia, low-carb, and gluten-free. Our handcrafted nut butters even come in a wide variety of flavors that satisfy whatever you're craving!
Blend our nut butters into a smoothie, use it as a dip for celery or apples, or have a satisfying spoonful straight from the jar! Each jar of nut butter is made with wholesome, USA-sourced ingredients and the perfect solution for a sweet tooth! They're even great for a post-workout boost of protein.
Allow for Variation
If the thought of eating the same thing at every meal bores you, you're not alone. Most people shy away from meal planning because they can't fathom the thought of having such a restricted diet.
But meal planning doesn't have to be boring! The point is to help you reach your nutrition goals, so the easier it is for you to stick to it, the easier it will be to continue.
Even if you're not in the mood for the recipe you have planned for that day, it's okay! Be flexible, and don't be afraid to switch around recipes in the week if you're not feeling something. Keeping meal planning a positive experience will be the easiest way to stick to it.
Allowing for variation in your weight loss meal plans will also give you more motivation to keep creating delicious and nutritious meals. You can even try new recipes and ingredients to help switch things up!
Measure Portion Sizes
When planning for your meals, keep portion sizes realistic. Even nutritional meals won't do you any good if your portion sizes are too big or small to sustain a healthy lifestyle.
Use a small kitchen scale or measuring cups to make sure you're keeping the portions perfect for you or your family. If you're on a calorie deficit or increase, planning portion sizes will also make sure you're meeting your goals.
This can also help reduce the amount of waste you produce throughout the week! Only eating what you actually need keeps leftovers from spoiling, and you may even save money at the grocery store.
Stick to It!
Once you've successfully planned and prepared your meals, it only gets easier from there! Stick to the plan you established in your planning session. Making it visible on the fridge or somewhere in the kitchen may even convince you not to order that takeout you were craving and make one of those delicious pre-prepped dishes you've already got on deck.
Once you get into the rhythm of planning and shopping with purpose, the process will get easier and faster!
And don't forget to allow yourself some slack. You can still practice healthy living after a Saturday cheat meal. The point is not to restrict yourself or punish yourself.
If you get hungry, eat a nutritious nut butter snack. If you want to go out to dinner for your birthday, go for it! Meal planning already helps save you time; now, it can help you meet your nutritional goals!
Meal Planning Made Easy
Meal planning is the perfect way to help you develop and stick to healthy eating habits. Having good, nutritious food ready to go when you need it can lift a huge weight off your shoulders throughout the week.
You'll save time and help meet your weight loss goals. It's not restrictive and even allows for delicious snacks like American Dream Nut Butter.
For the perfect addition to your meal planning routine, check out some of our gluten-free, low-sugar, low-carb nut butters! Take a look at some of our favorites like Mint Chocolate Dream Almond Butter and Gimme S'more Peanut Butter. From almond to cashew to regular creamy peanut butter, you'll find a spread worthy of fitting into your meal planning!