Meal Planning 101--Just how important is it?
by: Sarah Loheide
There are three definitive things that let me know that Fall has come. 1. My Starbucks order changes from an iced chai tea latte to a hot one. 2. When I walk my dogs, I wear pants. 3. My beginning of school excitement ends, and I suddenly become aware of every break and half day in my schedule. Guess what? It's official.
As a junior in high school I can tell you this official start of Fall means one very big thing- the start of standardized testing season. Gone are my summer romance novels, replaced with SAT vocabulary books and step-by-step guides to quadratic functions. You might be wondering what this has to do with you, or meal planning, or nutrition in general (why is this girl rambling on about high school?), but I have a point! If there is one thing I have learned from high school so far, it's the secret to writing a successful essay- planning. It turns out meal planning and essay planning have a lot in common. To start, both are very, very under-appreciated. If you've ever tried to write an essay without planning first, you know what happens. It starts off fine, but once you get to the middle you lose sight of what your purpose is, and all of a sudden you're out of time and the essay is an unorganized and wordy mess. A successful week's nutrition works the same way. If you go into it without preparation, you lose time throughout the week cooking and trying to come up with recipes, and suddenly you're eating frozen pizza and chicken nuggets three nights in a row, which is not what we want. If you force yourself to take time before the essay, or before the week to plan, the end product is well organized, manageable, and successful.
For a good meal plan, I suggest scheduling your recipes on Sunday, or whatever day you're least busy. You wouldn't write an essay on a topic you know nothing about, so construct a plan based on what you know- your time and cooking constraints. If you work late on Thursdays for example, plan ahead to make leftovers on Tuesday or Wednesday that you can quickly reheat. Another key to meal planning is breaking down recipes into parts. Like an essay has an introduction, body, and conclusion, a recipe will have prep work, cooking time, and cleanup. If you can take Sunday to chop up all your veggies or mix the marinade for your chicken, when Tuesday night rolls around the cooking will go a lot faster.
You may be thinking that you could do all this without a written plan, but research shows that writing something down and having a concrete reference to look at throughout the week is extremely beneficial. Without a plan, meals are quickly thrown together and often limited in ingredients because you don't plan ahead. It's not necessary to have every bite of food scheduled, but having big meals mapped out really does allow for healthier and easier weeks. You'll have time to study for the SAT, or whatever else you're doing this Fall.
If you think you may need help getting started, Dannielle at FitnessRx schedules nutrition consultations that allow you to meet one-on-one to discuss your individual nutrition plan and goals. You can also call (502) 416-8483 to schedule over the phone.
If you're ready to jump in and get planning, below is a weekly chart you can use as a guide to help you design your basic plan for the week.