Are you racing to get dinner on the table or feel defeated when your dinner plan becomes a trip by the fast-food window? I find I am much more successful by staying on track with healthy meals and snacks for my family when I intentionally set aside time for planning.
Most busy clients I work with are very knowledgeable when it comes to recognizing a healthy diet and lifestyle. The challenge is to make consistent, healthy choices in their hectic and over-committed lives. For busy folks, planning smart is essential to eating smart. If you make healthy choices available to you and your family when you need them, you are more likely to make better decisions. Here are a few tips to help you plan better so you can eat better – and feel better:
Plan ahead. Write out a menu plan for the week and finish all of your grocery shopping in one trip (which will save you time and money too). Then set aside some time during the weekend to prepare your meals (clean and chop veggies, make and freeze a dinner entrée, organize the refrigerator with healthy options in clear, attractive containers, etc.). You could even enlist the help of your kids or spouse and create a new family activity. Kids enjoy helping with meal planning and preparation (and they are more likely to eat the meals that they help prepare).
Cook once, eat twice (or more). When it comes to healthy eating, nothing beats home-cooked meals made from scratch with an emphasis on natural, whole-food ingredients. Scrambling for dinner each evening can be challenging, so the “Cook Once Eat Twice” plan can help you save time and headache. You can prepare more than one meal worth of food so you have leftovers for another meal. You can also cook a big batch of grains (brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat noodles) on Sunday evening and use them in different food combinations throughout the week.
Stock Up! Stocking your work space with healthy snack alternatives prevents you from cafeteria surfing or the vending machine with less desirable options. If a refrigerator is available at your office, try some hummus with celery sticks, carrots or broccoli. Always on the go? A smart handful of nuts with dried fruit or an apple with nut butter can be great pick-me-ups. Keep in mind that fresh, whole food is always better than processed foods. There are many “bars” on the market with “health claims” – however, most of them contain added sugar, artificial additives or processed food products that are less than desirable. If you must rely on packaged foods, always read the labels to make smart choices. Choosing packaged items with only recognizable ingredients is a helpful rule of thumb.
Team up with other families. Organize a meal plan that allows each family to prepare one dish in a big batch, and then trade dishes. You will walk away with a variety of options and a week's worth of dinner.
Taking time to plan your meals and snacks minimizes mealtime stress and helps restore a sense of control over your eating choices. Consider creating a four-week plan of healthy meals and snacks, then repeat the plan and add new, seasonal recipes as desired. Planning ahead and setting yourself up for good choices is a worthwhile investment in your health. Happy planning!
Sara Wolfsen is a Certified Health Coach who provides private health coaching, nutrition education and weight-loss support. Schedule your free health consultation and learn more online at www.sarawolfsen.com