Meal planning is a crucial element to any healthy eating plan. All of us lead busy lives and, after a day crammed with work, kids, errands, and whatever else might fill a day, the last thing anyone feels like doing is figuring out what’s for dinner. My mom once told me that hearing her children ask, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” filled her with so much dread, that she'd rather hit up McDonald's than face the kitchen.
So what’s the answer?
Sounds like a daunting task? Rest assured, it's not hard to do at all! Here are three easy steps to get you started.
- Pick a day of the week for planning. I do it on Sunday and this day works for most of my clients; however, it’s all about what works for you. Take a look at the week ahead and, based on your schedule, decide which days can be dedicated to cooking and which days will be for leftovers or dinner out. Be realistic! Cooking every night of the week isn’t necessary.
- Now, start simple. What are some meals you can prepare without having to scour cookbooks? Spaghetti and meatballs? Grilled chicken with rice and steamed vegetables? Steak and potatoes? Whatever it may be, always have some easy meals in your week. Every meal does not need to be a showstopper. Now that you have some simple meals, choose a couple of recipes you’ve wanted to try. A couple of my favorite magazines include Cooking Light and Eating Well. They both contain healthy recipes that often have 5 ingredients or less or take only about 20 minutes to prepare.
- Lastly, the cardinal rule of meal planning: COOK ONCE, EAT TWICE. Double the recipe and eat the leftovers for dinner on a busy night or eat it for lunch the next day. My meal planning always contains one big salad or vegetable dish, as well as a main course like soup, chili or a casserole. These two dishes will feed my family for at least three, if not four, meals.
That’s it! Three simple steps and your meal plan is complete. Now – get cooking!