Build a Healthy Foundation with Meal Planning

Guest post by Alexa Guelig

Image credit: BudgetBytes

Start the new year by kick starting new kitchen habits. With our everyday bustling lives and these unprecedented times that have thrown our schedules completely off, our food choices can often be put on the back burner. Meal planning is an effective way to keep your diet in check and you feeling your best. Preparing your meals, or even just staples ahead of time sets you up for success and helps you avoid resorting to convenient processed food. Contrary to what you may believe, meal preparation does not have to consume hours of your time.

Research shows meal planning leads to healthier outcomes including nutrient variety, diet quality, and body weight status. These simple tips and tricks to plan your meals will make it easy for you to choose healthy options all week long. This month’s challenge is to make eating healthy more efficient, without the expense of taste. 

Step 1 – Check your Kitchen

Take inventory of your kitchen a couple of days before you head to the store. Compost or throw out any expired goods. Make a physical or digital grocery list. I recommend using the notes feature on your phone to have an ongoing list of all your staples that can easily be added to and checked off. 

*Pro Tip: Produce, such as berries, leafy greens, and bananas, close to expiration dates can be put in the freezer and used in smoothies to eliminate waste.

Step 2 – Revive Recipes

Meal planning and preparation does not have to be boring. Plan ahead and explore new recipes to try out. Use recipe books or checkout some recipe creator bloggers. Some healthy recipe developers to check out include: @ambitiouskitchen, @rachlemansfield, and @rachaelsgoodeats.

Supercook.com and Whole Foods Market recipes are also great resources. Now that you have an idea of what you’re going to make, add any ingredients to your grocery list and head to the store.

*Pro Tip: Do not overbuy if you don’t have a plan on how to use the extra items. Stuff is on sale all the time, so be a savvy shopper and use your coupons if you got ’em, but forego any in-store specials if it means you’ll be taking home things you don’t need.

Step 3 – Prep Produce

Once you have obtained your groceries. Prepare your produce for quicker access in the future by washing it and cutting up if necessary. This will make you more likely to choose healthier options instead of reaching for convenient packaged foods. 

Step 4 – Cook for Convenience

Refer to your meal plan recipes and snacks. Start prepping what you can. Start that pot of chili, begin steaming the string beans, mash up those sweet potatoes. And if there are folks in your house you can recruit to help you out. Separate items into smaller packages and store them in the refrigerator or freezer so when you are on the go, your meals can be too!

*Pro Tip: Batch cook items proteins and starches, think chicken, rice, potatoes, that are versatile for many meals.

Image credit: Greatist

Some healthy staples to keep on hand:

  • Spinach and other leafy greens
  • Limes/lemons 
  • Avocado 
  • Fresh herbs
  • Variety of fruits and vegetables- aim for different colors
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Organic/Grass fed meat- turkey, beef, chicken
  • Bone broth
  • Sourdough or 100% whole grain bread
  • Cooking oils- coconut, avocado, extra virgin olive
  • Raw nuts and seeds
  • Canned legumes- chickpeas, blackbeans, etc.

One of the barriers to healthy eating is convenience. Simply planning ahead and taking out some time in the beginning of the week will save you time in the long run and benefit your health. Getting organized in the kitchen and preparing food for the week will set you up for success as nicely stated by one of my favorite quotes, “fail to plan, plan to fail.” Making these simple steps a habit will start your year off on a healthy note!

Serious about getting your meal planning together? Head to our Instagram or Facebook page to join our January Challenge for a chance to win a free copy of Jessica Levinson’s 52-Week Meal Planner: The Complete Guide to Planning Menus, Groceries, Recipes, and More!

Alexa Guelig is a dietetics student with the University of Wisconsin – Madison who is also pursuing a degree in entrepreneurship.