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You’ve probably heard it before “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. This rings true for eating healthy and exercise. Instead of grabbing food haphazardly when you get hungry, plan ahead of time what food to buy and eat. Below are tips for meal planning. Try one tip per week if it’s too much information at once. Bonus: a shopping list template and easy, throw together meals handout are available for download too.
Set aside time each week or month to get meal ideas; magazines, websites, Instagram, and Pinterest are a few good places to start. Ask friends, your honey or kids for suggestions! Need ideas to add variety to your meals? Check out the BBC’s 100 Most Nutritious Foods list and pick a few superfoods to add to this week’s shopping list.
Take a quick peek in the pantry and fridge. Get rid of anything that’s expired or inedible. Tidy the remains so you know what you have and what you need. Add staples and ingredients for meals to a shopping list. Remember, what lands in your shopping cart is going to determine what you eat. Use Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate as a guide: ½ colorful vegetables and fruit, ¼ protein (fish, chicken, beans, lentils, dairy, or meat), and ¼ whole grains or additional starchy vegetables. Don’t forget healthy snacks! Check out fun snack ideas on Eat This, Not That!
Make a Plan
Write out a weekly or monthly meal plan to help direct your grocery shopping and protect your wallet. Know how many meals you need for the week and the number of mouths to feed. Then work on your grocery list. Check out Gina’s weekly meal plans and grocery lists at Skinnytaste.com. Need more help? Customizable meal plans, recipes and shopping lists are available for a monthly subscription fee at Realplans.com and cooksmarts.com.
If getting dinner on the table is a challenge for you, keep it simple with partially prepped foods. Don’t want to chop? Broccoli and cauliflower florets, cubed butternut squash, and bagged greens speed up meal prep. Need more tips to keep it simple? Try these Epicurious sheet pan dinners for cooking veggies and protein at once. Or come home to dinner with one of the Kitchn’s slow cooker dinners and serve a quick green salad on the side.
Plan for Leftovers
Instead of being a short order cook, plan for more than a meal at a time. Turn leftover roasted chicken into soup or enchiladas. Serve chili and a green salad one night and chili-stuffed sweet potatoes with roasted veggies a couple nights later. If you turn on the oven, roast some extra vegetables, sweet potatoes or winter squash to use later. Make the freezer your friend! Keep an emergency meal, extra fruit and veggies, and a couple of soups or sauces in the freezer to help get dinner on the table fast.