Here's the thing. Everyone wants me to make them a meal plan. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked if I could make them a meal plan, I would be on an extended vacation right now!
When I was first working as a dietitian, I thought it was really cool that someone would want me to create a plan for them. So I would make them, which would take FOREVER. At the time, I was working with diabetics and there were a few samples I could start with and then customize.
Guess what happened when I gave my hard work to the person requesting it? They would look it over and say "I don't like ___" and "I don't like ____". Or they would be polite and take the meal plan. Then when I followed up with them I would find out they didn't use it because it wasn't the foods they liked to eat.
Grreeeattt... I just spent a lot of time making that, just for someone to toss it aside. Since then, I have a very simple response to the request for a meal plan.
And I offer to help them make THEIR OWN meal plan.
This is the most effective way to help someone. Actually have them help themselves in a way that just needs a few good ideas and some guidance.
The bottom line for meal planning is that you need to do it! Just about every week. And then follow through. And that is something that no one else can do for you. Here are my tips for how you too, can make your own meal plan!
- Make a list of your favorite recipes and recipes that you want to try. Click here for a favorite recipe worksheet.
- Choose one day a week to do your meal planning. (In my house, we usually do this on Sundays).
- Fill out the meal planning worksheet. Click here for the printable meal planning worksheet.
- Check your pantry to identify any ingredients you might need.
Tips for choosing meals:
You will notice in the meal planning worksheet that there's room for one planned meal per day. I find that planning the biggest meal (for most people, this is the evening meal), is enough for me. However, if you want to plan more than one meal, you can use two or 3 worksheets per week.
Entree. For the entree, I have a few notes regarding what foods to include in your main dish. This dish is going to provide the bulk of your protein for the meal. If you are a meat eater, plan on fish twice a week and meatless meals at least twice. Meatless entrees can be beans, lentils, cheese, nuts or tofu. For the remaining meals, plan one that's fast and easy, one big family-type meal and one meal based on leftovers. Remember that a serving of meat is only about the size of a deck of cards. Vegetables.
Begin to fill in vegetables according to the entree. Look for colorful ones and plan some variety throughout the week. I like the idea of having one cooked (hot) veggie and one raw (cold) veggie at each meal.Whole grains.
Think of all the options: brown rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread or rolls, couscous, barley, quinoa, etc. You can cook whole grains ahead and use leftovers the next day -- especially in soups and salads.Fruit.
This can be for dessert, or a topping on a salad, or grilled on skewers! Or maybe it's as simple as frozen bananas, grapes or berries for those hot summer nights.Beverage.
Water is perfect. Infuse it with herbs, fruits or vegetables for something a little fancy! Other good choices include low-fat milk, unsweetened tea, sparkling water -- or the occasional glass of wine or beer.
Now you're ready to make your shopping list and hit the grocery store. Next time I'll share some handy resources for making your grocery trip efficient and nutritious!