Have A Plan to Eat Well?

I believe that it is safe to say that most of us recognize the need to eat well, and I daresay many of us have purposed to improve our choices and support our bodies with better food.

How is that going for you?

What obstacles are you encountering that undermine your efforts? I daresay you have done well for several days and then hit a snag in your schedule or an unexpected stressor and, suddenly, your good intentions are set aside and you are operating in default mode. Sound familiar?

Some of my clients have expressed frustration at the perceived expense related to eating healthy foods. I get that. The processed foods you have been buying may seem less expensive, but when you evaluate them based on the nutritional value and number of servings, convenience foods are almost always the priciest items to buy.

So how do you reign in the food choices at the grocery store and shift toward eating real food? One of my best tips is to plan your meals. Before you put your hand on your forehead and imagine yourself fainting at the effort required, let me share a simple process that I have used.

To make your own (non-digital) healthy meal plan:

  • Collect 14-28 recipes that your family likes that include minimum processed ingredients. If your budget is tight, choose recipes that are less expensive to make.
  • Think in terms of a protein source (can be legumes instead of meat), and vegetables (some cooked, some raw), and perhaps a whole grain to complete your meal.
  • Collect index card (3×5″ if you write small, 4×6″ if large) and write each recipe on the front of the card. Also note what you would include with this recipe to round out the meal.
  • On the back of the index card, list the ingredients for the recipe and how much you will need to make it for your family size. You may also want to consider making extra to have leftovers for lunches.
  • To plan your meals: once a week (or biweekly or monthly), pick out the number of meals you need and put them in order for your plan. Turn the cards over and create your shopping list by adding up the amount of each ingredient you need (omitting those that you already have on hand).
  • Stick the cards in order on your fridge or a bulletin board so you know what you are making each night. When the meal is over, put the card back in your recipe box so you will have it available for the next planning session.

This simple system can help you create a framework for your meals AND give you a specific list to take to the grocery store. When you have a list, you are less likely to buy extra stuff on impulse and spend more than your budget.

Note that not everything in your meal should need a recipe. Vegetable side dishes can be as simple as roasted sweet potato or steamed broccoli. Likewise, proteins don’t need to be fancy – grilling your meat with some seasoning, and broiling fish with some butter and lemon, can provide a very satisfying food.

As you come across new recipes or ideas you want to incorporate in your meals, create an index card to add to your collection and use it in your next menu plan.

You aren’t locked in to what you plan – sometimes things change during the week and you can adjust as necessary. Having a plan to work with will greatly reduce your stress each evening and that’s good for your health as well.

Each step you take toward removing processed, convenience foods from your diet is a step toward a happier body. Changing your approach takes some practice, and I know that if you will make this a priority you and your family will begin to reap the benefits.

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