Meal planning reduces stress, improves nutrition and saves money. Here's how to get started, writes Suzanne Leyden of The WellNow Co.
As a skill meal planning may not be regarded as sexy. But it has incredible qualities that make it very desirable. What other activity can offer a combination of improving your time management, reducing stress, improving nutritional intake, cost-effectiveness and is sustainable too?
The problem so many people have is that they are short on time. People sometimes think they want to be handed a finished meal plan and that’s the extent of it. For guaranteed success, however, the reality is different. There is a bit of work involved up front but the pay-off, already outlined, is well worth it.
It really is the starting point of taking control of your health, your way, entirely on your terms. You have best chance of succeeding this way. If meal planning doesn’t work for you straight away, you’ve invested in it personally so you know how to go about tweaking it so that you can revise it to work for you.
The three things you need to approach meal planning for success are:
- The WHY
Set the right goals so that you stay motivated and on-track. Being clear about your objective is the recipe to success. Is there an underlying reason you want to get meal planning from a nutrition perspective? Maybe you want to eat more healthily, become more sustainable by incorporating in-season ingredients into your daily meals or you might simply want to improve the habits of your family. It could be that you want to manage your weight better, increase your energy or reduce your household costs.
Knowing your "why" is critical to your success. It’s important to spend a bit of time asking yourself "why meal planning?" because it’s when things start to falter you can remind yourself of this and get motivated to stick with it.
- THE WHAT
Once you understand the outcome you want to achieve, you can focus on choosing your meals. Get informed as much as you can in terms of nutritional needs for your circumstances. Learning more about how to read food labels may be something to consider.
There will undoubtedly be taste considerations that need to be addressed also. Decide how you want to address these. You may want to push the introduction of a wider variety of vegetables into your weekly diet, or your children’s diet. This can be incorporated into your plan. You are in control.
- THE HOW
Having the most appropriate tools for you is key. An approach or template or format that you can relate to and can make work for you is the first step. Then you need to make the plan work for your schedule and circumstances. Knowing the limitations and boundaries to your schedule, and the people who will be impacted by your meal plan, will allow you to tailor and tweak the plan to optimize success.
Don’t plan to overhaul your entire diet in one go. Take on small changes and allow yourself time to bed them down and succeed at them before moving on to the next. Start with X number of dinners a week, or choose which meal to address so that it suits your needs right now. Your shopping can become streamlined to avoid waste and maximize nutrition, maybe even taking into account what’s in season.
Suzanne Leyden is a Nutrition, Health and Wellness Coach at The WellNow Co. offering online wellness programmes, 1:1 coaching and workplace wellness solutions.
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