Sticking to a healthy diet requires a great plan, especially during this busy and festive holiday season. Without a plan, it's too easy to overeat, make unhealthy choices, and pack on a few added pounds.
I have developed a simple and efficient strategy to plan my meals - for the WHOLE month! I use this strategy all year, but find it even more critical during these next 4 weeks.
Money and time are definitely in short supply this time of year, but sticking to a plan helps me save on both. A good plan lets me easily create a shopping list that fits in my budget. Following this list while at the store keeps me on task and shortens the time I spend wandering the aisles. This also insures that I have everything I need for the week, avoiding the need for multiple trips.
Unfortunately, I can't control the long lines to check out, but I make sure I shop on "off" times. I have also started using some of the pick up services many stores offer. I just plug in my grocery list, schedule my pick up, and pay online. A definite time-saver, and also a money saver as I avoid the impulse purchases that somehow jump into my cart while I am shopping!
A good meal plan puts you in control of what you are eating and gives you the freedom to make healthier choices. Your meal will be packed and ready at work so you won't have to give in to the "chef's choice" for lunch. And, even if you have some seemingly healthy choices, do you know if the salad dressing is made with soy bean oil or olive oil? How much salt was used to prepare the chicken salad? Fat, sodium, and calories can add up quickly even in foods you might think are healthy. A little planning lets you control these and know exactly what you are eating.
I have developed a simple strategy to make meal planning a breeze. It all begins with my calendar.
On my calendar, I highlight the days that might be challenging. Yellow means I have some choices - maybe I am bringing a dish or maybe it's a simple get together and I can eat before I go. I mark them in yellow as a warning to myself to pay extra attention. I may have healthy options, but I must choose them! This doesn't mean I will give up all of the great foods of the holidays. No way! Of course I will be enjoying some Christmas cookies and maybe even some eggnog. But knowing I might splurge a little helps me plan to eat healthier throughout the rest of the day.
Red - well, that's a definite splurge. I am not going to overplan those days, I am going to enjoy them. Highlighting those days in red clearly reminds me of these splurges and gives me the opportunity to plan around them. Since all of my splurge days are lumped close together, I will plan to be more vigilant about eating healthy, controlling calories, and drinking plenty of water the days the precede and follow the splurges.
Once I have the days highlighted, I begin to fill in.
For this month, I am going to make a big pot of soup most Sundays. That will give me a warm, wholesome dinner for Sunday night and serve as a few lunches during the week. Mondays will be meatless meals - stuffed portobello mushrooms one night, veggie burgers another, etc. On Tuesdays, I have a little more time in the evening, so I will throw a bunch of ingredients onto a sheet pan and bake them. Yes, these meals will take about 30 minutes to cook, but I will do all of the prep on the weekend. When I get home from work, I will preheat the oven, put everything on the sheet pan and bake. Simple and very little clean up. Fajitas, Greek chicken, and honey lime pork tenderloin are simple, healthy and delicious.
I continue this way for the remaining days and then begin to add specific meals. First, I check what I have in my freezer and pantry and start from there. A recent purchase of a couple of pounds of salmon means I will have salmon for one of my Friday dinners and also for a sheet pan dinner. I have 2 pork tenderloins in my freezer - perfect for another sheet pan meal and maybe a pork chile verde for a Mexican night.
Once I have filled in my calendar with what I have, I decide on some other proteins or main dishes. Chicken breasts show up on my calendar weekly, and my husband needs some beef once a week. Then I plug these into my calendar.
I still have a few meals to include, but most of them will be determined as the date gets closer.
When I decide on a meal, I use that decision to help me choose other meals during the week or following weeks. For instance, on Dec. 9, I will be having minestrone soup. I will cook a bag of garbanzo beans that weekend and use some of them for the soup. I will freeze the rest to use for the baked falafel and also the Thai chicken curry.
I also use my dinner plan to help create my lunches. I will prepare some extra salmon on Dec. 11 to use in a salmon & avocado wrap for lunch the next day. Leftovers from the pork chile verde will be used to make a Santa Fe pork, black bean & sweet potato bowl; which also uses some roasted sweet potatoes left over from Monday. If I am not reinventing leftovers for lunch, I will rely on the soup I made on Sunday or have a salad of kale and roasted vegetables. My lunch plan is complete!
I tend to be a creature of habit for breakfast. Most often I just rotate through overnight oats with various toppings, fruit & yogurt parfaits, and eggs. I usually prepare these on Sunday to have ready to grab and go for the week. Sometimes I will make a crustless quiche, egg muffins, or coconut flour pancakes for breakfast on Sunday and double up the recipe to have left overs during the week.
I keep snacks simple also. String cheese, fruit, nuts or nut butter, veggies & hummus or a smoothie keep me satisfied and nourished between meals. I pack a bunch up in containers for grab-and-go convenience.
Try this 6-Step strategy to create a month of healthy, delicious meals for you and your family. You will save time, save money, and avoid unhealthy, processed foods for a better, healthier you!
Thanks for reading! If you would like more information about nutrition and meal planning, please feel free to contact me or check out my website: www.cinergydynamics.com.
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For the Health of It!