Meal Planning Made Easier
How to avoid 12 common meal planning mistakes.
Meal planning is one of those things personal trainers ask their clients to do, but only a few ever comply. People who plan what they're going to eat, tend to be much closer to their ideal weight than those who don't. There's just one catch, meal planning is a little more complicated than it first appears. To save you time and frustration, here are the top twelve mistakes people make when meal planning and what you can do to avoid them.
Don't leave searching for the recipe until the last minute. When you see something interesting, save it in a recipes folder on your computer as a PDF file or print it out and set it aside. Then you've got someplace to go to when you're looking for ideas.
Don't make plans based on what you WISH you were eating. Be realistic about what you enjoy and what you're willing to do. If you're a meat lover, it's unlikely you'll be happy eating nothing but kale or spinach at every meal. Make it work by choosing healthier versions of the things you already like.
Don't rely on your memory. Write down everything you're planning. When you make your ingredient list, go through your cupboards and make a note of everything you've got on hand. Make a shopping list of the things you'll need, including containers so you can freeze the individual servings. Then when you go to the store, you won't have to worry about forgetting anything.
Don't start out with a bunch of complicated recipes. Look for recipes where you dump everything into a crock pot or cook it all in a single pan. Consider limiting recipes to 10 ingredients or less until you get comfortable with cooking.
Don't sweat the nutritonal details when you begin. Initially, look for meals that have a lot of vegetables and that are between 400 and 600 calories each. Don't worry about all the breakdowns of carbs, protein and fat. You're just trying to pick things that keep you nourished, without causing weight gain. (Or weight loss, if you're trying to put on a few pounds.)
Don't make plans for the next seven weeks. Start simple and just think about what you'll do for the next seven days.
Don't make your days too complicated. If you don't cook now, it would be crazy to think you'll suddenly start cooking three meals a day from scratch. In your meal plan start with just one change a day.
Don't think you have to plan everything around dinners. Try starting each morning with a bowl of oatmeal or scrambled eggs and vegetables. Maybe you pack a nutritious lunch a couple days a week. Just doing that is a big deal if right now your breakfast is a donut or lunch is a fast food burger.
Don't cook big meals unless you can save some for later. Look for recipes that make six to eight servings at once, that are labeled as freezer friendly. Then on those nights you're too tired to cook, you can just grab something from the freezer and be eating in minutes.
Don't cook more than you can store. You might have the time to prepare 30 meals in advance, but do you have the freezer space to keep them all?
Don't eat the same thing every day, but don't try to put something new on your plate every day either. When researchers tracked the food in-shape people ate, they found those fit people had about a dozen “go-to” meals that they routinely made. The key was keeping them on a regular rotation. The limited variety keeps things interesting, without the desire to overeat that new foods can trigger. Once you find something you like, put it on your meal planning calendar.
Don't think you have to change your meal plan every week. If you find something you enjoy that's working, keep it up. There's nothing wrong with repeating a successful meal plan.
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