If eating more healthily is your goal, then meal planning could be the answer. Planning your meals in advance means there’s less chance you’ll turn to takeaways or processed food to fill you up. Knowing what you’re going to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, also makes it easier to count calories or stick to a plan that involves eating smaller, more frequent meals. A meal plan also means the food you have in your house won’t go to waste.
How do I create a meal plan?
1. Create a list of recipes
From family favourites to new things you’d like to try, write a list of “master” recipes that you can look to when you’re low on inspiration. These can come in handy when you’re stuck for time or ideas.Check out our range of “Free From” recipes for more inspiration.
2. Take stock of your fridge and cupboard
Most of us don’t tend to keep track of what we’ve already got in our fridges, freezers or kitchen cupboards. Go through the shelves and you’ll most likely discover things that you’d forgotten you had. As the saying goes, “waste not, want not” so you can create a meal plan that allows you to use up what you’ve already got. You’ll save money since you won’t fill up your trolley with unnecessary items.
3. Keep a supply of basics
With a few basics in your cupboard, it’s easy to create a tasty, nutritious meal in no time:
- Tinned items like tomatoes, tuna, beans and vegetables
- Kidney beans and chickpeas add extra fibre to curries, shepherd’s pie and chilli so you’ll feel fuller for longer.
- Grains, brown rice or wholegrain pasta are also full of fibre.
Don’t forget herbs and spices like chilli or thyme for a boost of flavour.
4. Plan the easiest meals firstAs most people tend to eat the same things for breakfast or snacking, these are usually the simplest meals to plan. If weight loss is you goal, a high protein breakfast could be the answer. In one study, women ate 400 fewer calories a day by increasing their protein intake from 15 to 30% of their total daily calories. They also lost 11 pounds (5 kg) over the course of 12 weeks. When planning snacks, go for options that are easily prepared at home and packed with nutrients like protein and healthy fats. Vegetable sticks with hummus or apple slices dipped in yoghurt or peanut butter are great choices.
5. Get creative with dinner
Experiment with new recipes, try new ingredients or even cook food in batches that you can eat later on in the week. Leftovers are perfect for lunch or eaten again for dinner throughout the week. For days when you’re short on time, plan slow cooker meals that will be ready to come home to. Protein sources like beans, pulses and grains, like quinoa, are particularly important for vegans and others who follow meat-free and dairy-free diets.
6. Have leftovers for lunch
If you eat lunch at work, make packed lunches so you’re organised and less likely to grab something processed that is high in saturated fat or hidden salt. Use leftovers from the night before and add a salad or a jacket potato for a meal that’s filling but not too heavy.
7. Write a shopping list
This should be much easier now you know what you need and what you need to use up. Next, you’re ready to go food shopping organised and fully prepared. Writing a shopping list will also prevent you from accidentally missing out any vital ingredients, which can be a real inconvenience once you’ve already started cooking!
Planning your home cooking and carefully selecting healthy food ingredients could help you keep pounds in your wallet whilst dropping pounds off the scale. Simply set out some time one day a week and you’ll be able to feed yourself and your family delicious healthy, meals for the rest of the week.Take a look at our healthy food recipes for instant inspiration, and share your meals with Our #21Days community. Shop our Food & Drink range.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16002798