Hello and welcome everyone to today’s blog post on eating healthy. This is a huge topic so I thought I would start off small and just touch on the topic of meal planning. Meal planning is amazing. It’s saved my butt so many times and kept me on track to meeting my fitness goals. How, you ask? Because meal planning means I have everything I am going to eat for the week mapped out and ready to go so it takes the thinking and guess work out of what I eat in a day.
My typical strategy is to make all my breakfasts and lunches on Sunday, package them in Tupperware containers, and then nab them each morning as I race out the door. Dinners I tend to cook in smaller batches that only last for two or three days.
Now, this might sound dreadful, but not to worry, I’m not eating the exact same thing every single day. When I cook on Sunday I make several smaller meals all at once and bake them all in the oven together or on the stove top. For example, say I got a bunch of chicken thighs on sale at the store on Sunday. I’ll take aluminum foil and put some chicken, carrots, onions and cumin in one packet and wrap it like a Christmas present. Then, I’ll take another packet of aluminum foil and place some chicken in it with asparagus, mushrooms, shallots and garlic. I’ll keep adding different veggies and spices to each packet so that I can pop all of that in the oven together and have instant meals to eat throughout the week. But did you notice how each aluminum foil packet was different? They all may contain the chicken I bought on sale, but there is enough variety in vegetables and spices to keep it interesting and so I won’t get bored eating chicken all week.
I do something similar with breakfasts. I adore oatmeal- really, it’s my jam. So I’ll make a week’s worth of oatmeal, then add various fruits, spices or other ingredients to keep it interesting. Like this week, I added the following items to my oatmeal: cranberries (because why not), chia seeds, coconut milk, cinnamon, fresh mango, diced apple and raisins. See? Even a tiny addition can really change the flavor and texture of a dish.
However, if you’ve never done it before, here are some handy tips on how to meal plan. (I also did some digging and found an interesting read on the MyFitnessPal Blog that I’ve linked for you to read as well.)
First, take stock of the upcoming week. Whip out those phones and open your calendars. What do you have going on? Are you racing from work to soccer practice with the kids? Do you have late meetings? These are things you need to take into account when meal planning. If you are running with the kids to practice directly after work, you’ll probably want to make meals that are more portable and easier to eat from the stands while the kids practice. If you’re staying late at work, does your office have a refrigerator where you can put your lunch and dinner to eat later? Nothing kills good intentions better than having to get fast food for a meal rather than eating something nutritious and homemade. Also, look to see if you’ll have time to make dinner each night, or if you need to make a large dish that will last several days (like I do).
Next, poke around in your kitchen to see what you already have. I like saving money, so anything that I already have at home that I don’t need to buy twice is great. Try to think of meals that can incorporate what you already have to save money. Google is a great resource for finding yummy recipes using what you already have on hand. Another great thing for new cooks is that most recipes will tell you how many people the dish feeds (or how many days of leftovers you can expect), this is valuable information when planning your meals for the week.
Now it’s time to go to the store. If you don’t have a bunch of recipes memorized like I do, feel free to bring your recipe food lists with you to the store so you make sure you get everything you need for the coming week. I try to buy seasonal produce that’s on sale to further stretch my money. I do the same thing with the meat section. I head straight to the “Manager’s Sale” section and inspect the meats there for anything appealing to me. Remember those chicken thighs I was talking about earlier? I got those on sale for 50% off! The feeling of getting a pound of organic, non-GMO chicken for less than $5 is a great feeling.
You’re almost done! You’ve looked at your week, taken stock of the kitchen, gathered your bounty from the store, and now you are home. So let’s get cooking. Now you just need to cook all this great food and you’ll be done. Granted, depending on your recipes this may take a bit, but your Future Self will be so grateful to Past You for being able to open the fridge and see all this amazing food sitting inside ready to be eaten.
And you’re done! Let me know what you thought about this post in the comments.
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