Sunday, Nov 28, 2021

Summer Slim Down Part 2: 6 Steps to Create Meal Plans That Work

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Jennifer Hunt, RDN, LD is a nutrition communications dietitian whose joy and passion is to empower women to live healthy, balanced lives that are fulfilling and free of guilt and shame. She loves sharing real-life strategies to choosing nourishing foods, fitting in fitness and looking beyond the mirror. Jennifer enjoys encouraging women on her blog, Healthy Inspiration, taking walks with her daughter, cooking with her husband and trying out different kinds of physical activity.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. — Benjamin Franklin

Meal Plans for the Win

Any accomplishment in life begins with a plan.  No one just “stumbles” into victory.  

If you want to improve your marriage, you evaluate and plan ways to intentionally live out love.

If you want to improve your blood sugar, you talk with a healthcare professional about substitutes for the foods that raise your blood glucose.  

If you want to eat more meals at home, you determine a plan to make cooking dinner a reality in your life.

Planning is necessary for success.

But, planning can also be intimidating.  It can feel overwhelming, especially if we don’t know where to begin.  The first place to begin is submitting your goals to the only One with the plans for success.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. — Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)

If you want to ‘slim down,’ clean up your eating habits, or address a health concern, He wants to help you!  God wants you to succeed!  He wants to help you create a plan of action!  God is thrilled that you want to steward your body well!  He is ready to help and cheer you on!

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. — Proverbs 2:6 (NIV)

If He is not a part of your ‘slim down’ yet, invite Him.

But, we all know that faith without works is dead.  Believe God will give you wisdom and insight.  And act according to the knowledge you have.

Now, let’s get practical…

Research shows that meal planning is associated with a healthier diet and less obesity. From my experience working with hundreds of individuals, meal planning is one of the most monumental practices that can transform the way you nourish your body.  If you and your family are not in the habit of meal planning each week, this step-by-step guide below will show you how easy it is to get started!

1. Evaluate Your Week

Meal plans don’t work if they conflict with your weekday schedule. Planning a new recipe on game night will only lead to frustration. Deciding on a 30-minute meal when you only have 15 minutes to cook will put a kink in your plans quick.

Before making any plans for meals, grab your phone, calendar or device you use to stay organized and view all events going on during the week. Consider the nights when a work project might cause you to stay late. Think about what time you arrive home from ballet or ball practice.  Consider Bible study, dinner with girlfriends, and ‘date night.’  Know what is going on so you can plan accordingly.

2. Determine When You Will Shop for Groceries

meal plan grocery shoppingIn order to cook healthy meals at home, you must have ingredients. Designate a day and time each week to shop. If you dislike the crowds, early morning and late evening tend to be the least busy times at the grocery store. But, the most important part is choosing a time that works for your schedule.  Your grocery shopping day may change each week so it is important to base this around weekly events AND to add it to your schedule, just like an appointment. Realistically estimate how long it will take to you to get to the store, arrive back home and put up groceries.

3. Choose to Make at Least 1-2 Meals that Will Provide Leftovers

While some individuals are not fond of leftovers, this strategy can save you hours of time in the kitchen.  Leftovers are perfect for ‘ballgame nights’ or evenings when you arrive home late.  If you like more variety, freeze leftovers so that you can defrost them on busy nights 1-2 weeks later.  

Leftover ingredients can also be easily morphed into completely different meals with a little creativity.  Here are a few ideas…

Uneaten Pasta from Spaghetti Night. Make pasta salad with diced grilled chicken, feta cheese, black olives, chopped zucchini and bell peppers and finish with a balsamic or Italian vinaigrette

Leftover Quinoa. Try out this Quinoa Edamame Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette for a fast and fresh vegetarian meal.

Extra Roasted or Grilled Veggies. Make a frittata with eggs, milk, cheese and any veggies you can find.

Roast Chicken. Slice up and add atop a salad with a small microwaved baked potato on the side for an easy meal in less than 20 minutes.

Check out this Meal Plan Blueprint Guide to see how easy it is to plan out your meals and leftovers fast!

4. Stick to Meals You Already Know How to Make

Beautiful food is everywhere.  You don’t have to look far to find photographs of gorgeous looking recipes that make your mouth water.  But, making new recipes takes more time than making the ones you already know how to make.  Trying out different recipes can be fun, exciting, and tasty, but it is up to you as to how often that should be.  Once a week? Once a month?  

Avoid planning to make a new recipe on those nights when you might arrive home frazzled or your time is limited. Instead, choose a day when you have more time to spare.  Make it a fun time to explore new cuisine, try a different ingredient or practice an unfamiliar cooking technique.  

If you are concerned that your typical meals are not healthy enough, there are many ways to easily tweak your recipes to improve the quality, reduce unnecessary fat, and minimize empty calories:

  • Use low-fat or reduced-fat milk, cheese, sour cream
  • Choose a leaner cut of meat – notice % leanness when purchasing
  • Reduce the amount of oil used by ½
  • Bump up the veggies to ½ your plate and reduce protein and starch to ¼ of the plate

This article will show you 3 Simple and Delicious Ways to Add More Veggies to Family Favorite Meals with ease.  

5. Engage Your Family in the Meal Plan

meal plansOne of the biggest barriers with meal planning is that it involves multiple people with different opinions, food preferences, and food allergies/intolerances.  Making an ‘ideal’ meal plan that no one else will want to eat will only cause resistance and frustration.  It is necessary for someone to lead in this area (often a mom or dad), but gaining some input from kids or your spouse can reduce complaints, tension, and mealtime behavior issues.  

Here are a few ways to invite your family to take part in helping with the meal plan without adding more stress:

  • Invite kids to choose from a list of veggies to help you determine what sides to have with several dinners
  • Ask a spouse to choose from 3 “new” recipes you found to determine which one is most appealing to try out this week
  • Rotate each week allowing 1 child to help plan and cook a meal- this gives mom (or dad) some extra help in the kitchen and empowers the child
  • Ask family members to suggest one way to make a current family favorite a little bit healthier – see what suggestions are made!

6. Create Your “Plan B”  

Even the best of plans don’t always work out.  Life is messy, non-stop, and sometimes a bit unpredictable.  This is why it is crucial to have a backup plan!  Determine 2 or 3 healthy meal alternatives when you are not able to follow through on your scheduled plan.  This removes guilt often associated with lack of follow-through.

Post these healthy alternatives in the kitchen (bulletin board, chalk board, or refrigerator) so that when you are in a bind, your ideas are right in front of you.  

Stress can alter our ability to make healthy decisions.  Go ahead and make the decisions in advance…what will you buy at a particular restaurant?  What healthy(ier) take-out options are nearby?

Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now. –Alan Lakein

So, what’s the play call?

You play a role in how your future unfolds.  Good health can be a wish or reality.  A slimmer waistline can be a dream or certain.  Every individual can give dozens of excuses for why they don’t meal plan or struggle through it, but those who choose to “commit their plans to the Lord” actually have plans.  

…Then He will establish them.  

Plan to WIN today!


Don’t miss Summer Slim Down Part 3 on July 28th!


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