A few weeks ago I posted Staying On Track With A Busy Schedule and I mentioned about how making a meal plan is absolute key. Now it’s confession time, I have been slacking off in this area. I’m still sticking to my elimination diet 100%, but most days I’m just winging it and deciding what to have moments before I start cooking. I might know that I’m having chicken, but not how. It has pros and cons. I’ve been a lot more creative because of this, but it’s not so ideal because I’m less prepared and it makes meal times a little stressful.
So this week I’m back into my meal planning and I thought I’d share how to do it. When I first started on my healthy journey a lot of advice I received was to meal plan, but no one really told me how. My very first meal plan was quite a mess. I wrote down what I was having for breakfast, lunch and tea each day, but I wasn’t very specific, I didn’t include snacks and I ended up spending most of the week struggling through each meal because I hadn’t really planned it at all.
I learned from this. I learned that personally, I need to be OCD with my meal plan. I need to have everything detailed so that I know exactly what food I need to buy, what I need to prepare ahead of time and ultimately this makes my life a lot easier. Obviously you don’t have to go into as much detail as I do, but I think that for someone starting out with meal planning and a healthy lifestyle, it’s definitely helpful to be as specific as possible until you get into a routine.
I start my meal plan by making a grid in my planning book (yes, I have a book). If you want something that’s done for you, try Googling: Meal and exercise plan template. I found the one in my image here. If you are printing a template off the web, try laminating it and using a removable marker, that way you can use it again, week after week. You can also use a whiteboard and update it each week as well, the choice is yours.
Once my grid is ready and labelled with meal times and days, I like to make a few notes of what I want to eat in a week on a separate page that I can cross off as I go. For example, I aim to eat fish and beef for two dinners each week, chicken and pork for one dinner each week and vegetarian all day Monday. Some weeks I might mix it up, but having this plan takes some of the decision making away from the word go.
Now we get to the business end. I start with breakfast. Personally, I like to eat something different for breakfast each day. Even if the base is the same, I’ll have it with different fruits or vegetables to make it more interesting. Write down what you will eat for breakfast each day and be specific, for example if you are a porridge person, note what fruit you will have with it so you can plan your shopping better.
After breakfast I like to write down my snacks. Snacks are pretty easy, but often overlooked and that’s when we can run into trouble. My snacks are similar most days, but I like to mix them up a little and I also always take something extra each day, just in case I get struck by unexpected hunger. It happens a lot. My go to snacks are fruits, carrots and dip (peanut butter to be exact), homemade muffins, bliss balls, muesli bags and roasted chickpeas or raw nuts. Even if you’re having the exact same snacks almost every day it’s still important to write them down so that you know how much to get.
Next step dinners. The reason I do this before lunch is so that I can plan for leftovers. Leftovers take a lot of the work out of lunches, it’s as simple as making a little extra at dinner time which really doesn’t take any more effort. I’ve noted down what proteins I want so now I just need to expand as to how I’ll have them and with what vegetables.
Working out lunches is easy from here. If I’ve had steak for dinner, I’m not going to make an extra one for lunch because I like my steak freshly cooked. But if I’ve had curry for dinner as you can see I plan to on Thursday, it’s nice to have leftovers the following day so that’s my lunch automatically sorted. For the remaining days I’ll choose easy options that I can make ahead to also save time in the mornings.
I like to note down my planned exercise too. This way I can make sure I’m allocating all the different exercises I want to do in a week like cardio, yoga, core work etc. if you’re not ready to exercise or prefer to wing it, just skip this part.
After I’ve made my meal plan it’s easy to make a grocery list, I just go through each meal/snack and note down what I need. No more struggling to make a list and forgetting half of what I need anymore. I also know exactly what I need to prepare ahead of time, for example in the week planned in the pictures I’ll need to make soup, pizza, bliss balls and muffins. Of course all of these will be elimination diet friendly and healthy too.
The best part about a meal plan is you can mix it up. If you get to Wednesday and you don’t feel like fish for dinner like your plan states, then don’t have it, swap it with Thursday, there’s no harm in that. It’s the planning that’s important and ultimately what will assist in sticking to a healthy diet. Happy planning!
Smiles and Sunshine