Meal Planning & A Healthier You

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As summer ends and the school year begins, our schedules get crazy and eating healthy is not on our list of “to-do’s”. It is tempting to forgo healthy eating with quick and convenient fast food. Creating meal plans is a wonderful way to avoid meal time decision anxiety, keep on top of your healthy eating goals, and save money.

According to the Dietary guidelines for Americans 2015- 2020, a healthy eating pattern consists of fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, grains, and oils. Eating a well-balanced diet helps people lower their risks for developing long-lasting diseases (like heart disease or diabetes), improve physical and mental health, and help people manage their weight. Using a meal plan can help you keep a healthy eating pattern.

Is Meal Planning Really Worth it?

If you are looking to reduce stress, save money, eat healthier, cook at home more, and in the long run, save time, then meal planning is for you.

Check out these tips on how meal planning and remember to select, plan, shop and prepare!

    1. List out your favorite recipes that you want to try out
             – Healthy and unhealthy meals, it is even helpful to look through a cookbook, Pinterest page, and even your saved food images on Instagram
    2. Choose what you are going to SWAP  in these recipes to make them healthier

    1. Plan your menu for the week, month or for however long you want your plan to be
             – Use a MyPlate Plan to help you plan how to reach your daily food group targets and calorie allowance
    2. Base this off your weekly schedule! On nights where you are busier, choose a meal that is easier/ quicker to make.
    3. Consider preparing meals beforehand and just heating them up on nights when you don’t have time.
    4. Add a theme: Taco Tuesdays, Whole-Wheat Wednesdays, etc. Get creative!
    5. Leave a night open for left overs

    1. Check your refrigerator and pantry to see what you already have (if you have a lot of something that will expire soon, change up your recipes for the week to use that!)
    2. Create a grocery list of things you don’t have
    3. Choose a day to shop on

    1. Cook things like brown rice or proteins in large amounts in the beginning of the week so you can use it all week long
    2. Prepack and make lunches and snacks for the week
    3. Cut up veggies on one night of the week and store them in the refrigerator in an air tight container and use them as ready-go for meals
                 – Example: In college I cut up zucchini and used it in veggie taco bowls one night and in pasta the next night

 

General tips:

  • – Look out for steamtable veggies and side dishes that are easy to always have around and use often
  • – Have an “eat with your hands night” to help beat the fast food frenzies
  • – When choosing recipes, think about what is in season during that time of year
  • – Make it an entire family event so that everyone is involved
  • – Think of slow cooker recipes that you have always wanted to try, the cooking can happen while you aren’t even at home!
  • – Use a meal planning App!

Meal planning doesn’t have to be the huge time commitment that many fear it is. Just follow these simple steps and plan your journey to a healthier you!

 

 

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2019). Planning meals. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/meals.html

Meal prep: A helpful healthy eating strategy. (2017). The Nutrition Source. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2017/03/20/meal-prep-planning/

United State Department of Agriculture. (2018). Plan your weekly meals. Retrieved from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/budget-weekly-meals

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2015). 2015-2020 Dietary guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. Retrieved from https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2019-05/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf

 

Author:
Kylie Schaper, CHES®
Public Health Educator
Houston Health Department
Office of Chronic Disease, Health Education, and Wellness

 

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