By Laura Zavadil RD, LDN
Menu planning is an important skill in keeping yourself and your family eating healthfully all year round. It takes some practice, patience and time, but it will certainly be worth your while. Try these tips:
Use the weekend to plan out each day’s meals; taking into account your family’s schedule (kids activities or work functions, for example).
Look through your recipes or search for new healthy recipes and decide which days you will cook, use the crockpot, have leftovers, etc. Plan ahead for takeout night or pizza night too, this will make you more accountable to your intake all week long.
Experiment with new healthy recipes on the weekend or on a day off, when you have more time. Don’t try a new recipe in the middle of the week when you are more likely time crunched and everyone in the house is hungry (this leads to more snacking and more frustration).
Next make your grocery list according to what you plan to have each day, and stick to it. Categorize it by food group (veggies, fruit, protein, dairy, grains and healthy fats). If you don’t know what food group it belongs, it’s probably not a healthy option.
When you get home from the store, prep your food as much as you can right away to save you time during the week (i.e. clean/cut veggies/fruits, separate your meat/protein into bags to be used for each meal, portion out snacks into snack size baggies, pre cook rice or pasta if you can).
Use the freezer to store big batches of vegetable soup or casseroles, portion out your chicken breasts or other meat and store individually in freezer bags. By taking the time to do this once a week, your meal prep time will be cut in half! Remember that frozen veggies are flash frozen at the peak of freshness, so as long as there is not extra sauces or butter, these are just as good (and sometimes easier to work with) than fresh veggies.
Finally, stick to your plan each day! There are no excuses to not eating healthy if you are prepared and have what you need on hand (plus you don’t want to waste money on ingredients not used).