It’s saved me time, money, and from poor food choices when I’m ravenous.
On the flipside, NOT planning because “I don’t have the time” inevitably leads to wasting money on takeaway and putting food in my body that I know isn’t good for me.
When you’re busy, you shouldn’t be worrying about food choices. I can’t think of a bigger waste of your energy, willpower and precious decision making than mulling over what to eat 5 times a day.
As part of honouring your health and your time in 2020, one of the best habits you can implement is planning your food.
Clients really freak out when I start talking about meal planning. They envisage their fridge piled high with containers of dry chicken and soggy broccoli. Gross. I don’t want to live like that either.
Meal planning is simply knowing what you’re going to eat ahead of time and having your choice ready to go. That’s it! Wouldn’t that be liberating?
But I want to be spontaneous!
And how’s that working for you?
You should know by now that after work on Friday you like to have pizza and three glasses of wine. Maybe if you planned for it, you could enjoy it guilt free and perhaps even stop at the second glass.
If you know you’re going out for dinner, it takes two seconds to have a think about what you might like to have, and write it down.
The only way healthy lifestyle changes are going to work – and by “work” I mean you can do them forever – is if they’re enjoyable and don’t get in the way of living your life.
I want you to eat out, go on holiday and try everything. But I want you to do it in an intentional way, with a view to including healthy choices most of the time.
If being spontaneous and up for anything robs you from feeling amazing in your own skin, how fun is it really?
When you make decisions for yourself ahead of time, you’re using your higher, rational brain that knows what’s best for you.
Make choices in the moment when you’re STARVING, rushed and stressed? That decision making beast is not looking out for your best interests.
If you have health and fat loss goals, a little less spontaneity may be the one thing that gets you there.
So we all agree now that planning your meals is a good idea. Right? Right.
Here are some simple steps to start meal planning.
Define what meal prep means to you
You don’t have to splurge on 20 glass containers and spend hours on Sunday making all your food for the week. That sounds completely overwhelming, and you’ve got better things to do.
The best place to start is to simply write down ahead of time what you will eat. Start with the next 24 hours, thinking about what’s on the next day. It should take no longer than five minutes.
Then you can graduate to loosely planning out the week ahead.
This is as simple as:
- For breakfast this week, I’ll have yoghurt, oats and fruit.
- For lunch, I’ll make wraps with BBQ chicken and salad. Apart from Tuesday and Thursday, when I have client meetings so will eat out.
- Dinners will be one of these three options (a, b, c). These are the veggies that I will include this week.
- Snacks will be a protein bar/a muesli bar and a coffee.
Then you head off to the supermarket, with a firm view to what you’re actually, realistically going to eat, and buy what you need. And delight in how easy it is to shop when you have a plan!
Use the plate model
The simplest way to plan any meal is using the plate model that we teach our clients. It’s your guiding light for planning your meal, and also works when you consider your day and a week as a whole.
For each meal, you want to fill half your plate with veggies and a bit of fruit, then add a palm size serving of protein, a fist size portion of carbs and a little bit of fat.
Think first: what veggies would I like to eat this week, and how can I make them easy to grab? You could pre chop some salad veggies, trim some beans, and chop broccoli into florets.
Then think about protein sources. Maybe you’d like a bit of BBQ in there one night. A roast chicken is so versatile and can be a lifesaver. And cans of good quality tuna (we like the Sirena variety with chilli) are delicious tossed through a salad.
The point is to pick foods you enjoy eating, that are good for you and aligned with your goals, and then make them easy to go to with a little bit of organisation.
Make it yummy
Know yourself. If you’ve packed a lame sandwich for lunch, you’re just not going to feel like eating it when 1pm rolls around and you’re hanging for something hot and delicious.
Put in your plan foods you know you enjoy eating. Don’t get hung up on making it as lean and low calorie as possible.
The best lunch time meal prep in the world is leftovers from dinner! This is one of my best tips for being excited about what YOU’VE prepared for lunch. Just make extra dinner, and when you serve up, pop tomorrow’s lunch in a container ready to reheat. Easy!
Learn a couple of tricks to make your food taste good. If it’s not yummy and a little bit exciting, your meal prep will end up in the bin.
Avoid too much variety
Have a range of go-to meals that you know you love and are easy to prepare. Having something different every single day for every meal is overwhelming and is only for people with private chefs.
Have the same breakfast most days and rotating between a few healthy lunches that you enjoy will make life so much simpler.
Once you know your go-tos, you can keep staple ingredients on hand so you can always throw a meal together quickly. We always keep on hand a bag of salad mix, cherry tomatoes, tuna, microwave rice and bbq chicken for easy peasy meals.
It’s not boring if you like what you’re eating and getting results. Plus, you can stop thinking about food all the time and redirect all that energy to something else worthwhile!
Get help if you need it
If preparing healthy meals feels too hard, the alternative doesn’t have to be fast food. There are services that make preparing your own meals easy, or that do all the work for you.
We’ve tried a range of services from time-to-time when life gets busy, and they’ve been a lifesaver. You can go for full meal prep services like Food Goals (a local Hills business), My Muscle Chef or Thr1ve. Or if you enjoy cooking but want to skip the planning and groceries bit, you can try a meal kit service like Hello Fresh or Marley Spoon.
The bottom line is that no one is too busy to plan their meals. With just a little forward thinking and getting into the groove with organising your food, you’ll save yourself a ton of time, money and energy.