If you asked me some of my best tips for losing weight- after telling you to exercise and eat healthy foods (duh), I’d tell you to meal plan!
This is what has worked for me in the past because the structure has not only kept me “on track” but it has also forced me to put the time into thinking about what I’m going to eat before that moment arrives.
However, I think that meal planning is important for not only those of us who want to lose weight. Recently I haven’t been sticking to a plan at all, and I’m realizing now that I need one. Here’s why.
Benefits to Planning Ahead
Makes Dinners a Breeze
Thinking ahead can be helpful for a number of reasons. The first is that meal planning gives you a sense of what groceries you will need for the week. I find this especially helpful for planning dinners. Honestly, the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is go to the grocery store. I’d much rather come home, assemble some ingredients and call it a night.
Additionally, I find that in the evenings I’m much more likely to grab things that are convenient or less healthy because I’m tired and hungry. If the meal is already planned and the ingredients are purchased, then I know that I have to use them so they don’t go bad.
Helps Your Creativity
I don’t know about you guys, but when I don’t plan snacks and meals, I find that what I grab on the fly to be very boring. No lunch planned? Ok, I’ll grab a yogurt, some crackers, and a piece of fruit. That may sound fine in the morning, but then around lunch time when everyone is eating sandwiches and salads, I feel kind of sad. This might lead to me wanting to go out and grab a replacement lunch. Usually the replacement lunch is not the healthiest choice, and then I’m out $5-$10 bucks.
When I take the time to plan my food, I’m more likely to come up with good ideas for what to eat. I can create inventive and healthy snack ideas instead of just going with what is convenient. I can look up recipes online or page through a cookbook for inspiration. When I dig into a lunch bag that is planned versus one that I haphazardly put together, I KNOW the difference. And ultimately those planned days leave me more satisfied and with more energy.
Meal Planning versus Intuitive Eating
Often I’ve found myself trying to go the more “intuitive” route when it comes to eating. Furthermore, many of the books I’ve read about overcoming emotional and binge eating advocate this kind of approach. (Geneen Roth for example). While I believe that intuitive eating is an important step in finding a healthy balance, I still think that there can be a place for meal planning.
Since I’ve become pregnant, I’ve become an intuitive eater more than ever, but I also haven’t been a very good planner. I basically just eat what I feel like eating and I don’t give myself a hard time about it because most of my favorite foods are healthy for me and the baby.
Yet, lately I’ve found that my lack of planning is shooting me in the foot. I’ve started to end up with meals that are less balanced and less nutritious. This usually happens because I didn’t make sure to have good ingredients in the house, or I didn’t get creative in my snacks and ended up grabbing something packaged. Now that I’m working full time again, I really need to prepare ahead of time in order to ensure that I can put together healthy, balanced meals.
The New Plan
As of today, I’m going to start writing out my meals again to help eat better and plan better. I’m not counting calories, and my meal structure is mostly based on the times of day that I typically get hungry. As of now I’ll be eating 3 meals and 4 snacks (the last snack of the day is usually my dessert). I also am not worried about veering off this plan, it’s really just there to help me, not to tell me what to do.
When I go to grocery store, I’ll have more of a plan, but this will certainly not stop me from picking up random items and treats if I want them.
This is actually one of the most fun things I’ve allowed myself during pregnancy. For example, yesterday I picked up a box of delicious spice cookies (like gingersnaps) that I always see come out around this time of year. In the past I wouldn’t let myself buy them, but now I say yes to keeping more treats in the house.
Are you a meal planner? If so, how do you do it?
If you’re not a meal planner, can you share how your daily meals come together?