Meal Planning. It’s a term you’ve no doubt noticed growing in frequency in Instagram stories, or articles in your favourite wellness blogs, and with good reason.
When I mention meal planning to my clients, I often get a blank stare, as if they are hearing the words in slow motion. Meal planning can be intimidating: the never-ending grocery list, the lengthy ingredient list with items you’ve never heard of, and prepping a zillion different meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. What if I told you that it can be easy? Would you give it a shot?
With the fall upon us, this is the perfect time to get into the habit of meal planning. Think of those warm, home cooked, mom and dad comfort meals you grew up on. You can do it too! I’m going to break it down for you using three of my favourite meal planning words; prep, batch, and repurpose.
Prep, prep, and more prep. This is the key to successful meal planning and changing your lifestyle. (I say lifestyle instead of diet because that term is a bit dated and tends to make us think of calorie restriction versus a way of life.)
Prepping will allow you to have meals and snacks readily available for you to grab and go, instead of opening and closing the fridge several times before you actually choose something to shovel in your mouth.
Chop up a bunch of your favourite fruits and veggies and store them in the fridge so you can easily grab them to chomp on by themselves or to dip them in something like hummus. Boom. Easy peasy right?
If you’ve picked some recipes that call for ground turkey/chicken/beef, cook up a pound of each and divide them up into servings and freeze them. They defrost in no time. I like to use ground turkey in tomato sauce, tacos, in a quinoa salad, but there are endless options.
Saturday is a good day to get stuff organized. Plan what you want to have for the week and hit up the grocery store with your list. You can start to prep when you get home or get to prepping and cooking on Sunday.
Another great tip for prepping is choosing several recipes that have similar ingredients so that your grocery list stays short and sweet.
Batch cooking is my jam. If you see a recipe that only makes 2-3 servings you can easily double, triple, quadruple (you get the picture) that recipe to make more. Some awesome choices are hearty chili’s, soups, muffins (yes, muffins can be healthy) and dips. You can eat all of these throughout the week or you can freeze portioned meals and just grab and heat it up.
Repurpose and batch sort of go hand in hand but what I love about repurposing is that the same food/ingredient can totally level-up your meal. I will make a big batch of things like quinoa, lentils and roasted chickpeas and use them in different recipes.
One night I might have a side of quinoa with my grilled chicken and then the next day I’ll add some into my salad for lunch. You can even use quinoa when you’re batch cooking soups and chili’s if you’re looking to add some more carbs to your meal.
Meal Planning Tools
As a nutritionist, I use a variety of tools to get the best meal plans to my clients. I get my inspiration from so many cookbooks but here are some of my favourites:
- Joyous Health + Joyous Detox by Joy McCarthy
- Meals that Heal Inflammation by Julie Daniluk
- The UnDiet Cookbook by Meghan Telpner
- Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo
I also use meal planning tools like Meal Garden and That Clean Life. Through these platforms, you can search through thousands of healthy recipes and design meal plans right in the platform. They also have meal plans already created for you.
Getting creative in the kitchen is my favourite thing to do. While it gives you a chance to really get to know what you’re putting into your body, it also makes you feel like you are in complete control. Planning ahead gives you that sense of accomplishment and once you feel that, you’ll be a pro at meal planning and you’ll never look back!
Photo credits: The lovely Jennifer Barr from The Planted One (Instagram: @theplantedone)