The struggle to think of what to eat each day is REAL!
What’s for dinner? I’m hungry, what’s to eat? There’s nothing to eat!
These are all questions and phrases I used to hear at my place before I started meal planning. Now the fridge and pantry are regularly stocked and we have a plan for the week where all the hard thinking has been done and all that is left to do each day is execute. Now, I’m not talking the type of meal plan that dictates what and how much to eat at prescribed times of the day. I’m talking about sitting down and coming up with a list of meals and snacks you know you love and the family will eat.
The first step in successful meal planning is creating a menu. If this is something that you struggle with, just start by planning for a few days. But if you really just don’t know where to start you can download my FREE Ultimate Meal Planning Toolkit for inspiration and guidance.
MEAL PLANNING BASICS
Your meals and snacks should be based around vegetables, fruit, dairy or dairy alternatives, whole grains, lean protein, nuts, seeds or legumes. When you create balanced meals, you are more likely to feel full and satisfied. You will also get the right balance of nutrients in your diet.
Make vegetables the star.
Aim for half your recipe, plate or chopping board to be vegetables. The more colours, the better your diversity of nutrients. At breakfast choose mushrooms, onions, tomato, spinach, asparagus. Lunch time can be leafy greens like rocket, spinach, mixed leaves or kale paired with cherry tomatoes, beetroot, shredded coleslaw mix, shredded carrot, pickled baby cucumbers, sweet corn kernels, fresh cucumber and red onion. Dinner options are endless with stir fried or baked vegetables, steamed greens (broccoli, beans, bok choy/pak choi, gai lan), grated carrot and zucchini in mince recipes or diced vegetables in casseroles and soups.
Add a lean protein.
This is lean red meat or pork, skinless chicken, fish, egg, dairy, tofu, legumes, lentils, nuts or seeds. Make one quarter of your plate or recipe lean protein. Breakfast might be 1-2 eggs or some tinned fish. It could be 1 cup (fist) of baked beans, or some nuts and seeds sprinkled over your muesli or spread on toast. It could be some milk or yoghurt. You really only are limited by your own imagination. If lunch is a light meal you might choose some lean protein on a sandwich or in a salad. Dinner could see protein shining on its own (meat and veg) or it could be part of a mixed dish (spaghetti bolognese, pasta and pesto).
Add some whole grains.
Make one-quarter of your plate or recipe whole grains; oats, ready-made whole-grain cereal, whole grain bread or crackers, brown rice, quinoa, barley, whole grain pasta or noodles. Make these whole grains portions approximately 1/2 to 1 cup (cupped hand to a fist).
Add some healthy fats.
By adding some healthy fats to your meal they will help you to feel fuller for longer. It will also make your meal taste delicious as fat is what gives foods a lot of its flavour. My suggestion is to add some avocado, some nuts and seeds, or some dips like pesto (nuts & basil), hummus (chickpeas & oil) or tahini (sesame seed paste).
Once you have decided on all your meals and snacks, write a list of all the items that you need to buy. If you can nail a healthy grocery shop then you will find it so much easier to make the choices you know are going to keep you fueled and satisfied and prevent you from overeating. When the pantry and fridge are stocked with nutritious options, you find it so much easier to fill up on wholesome foods.
If you’re looking for tasty and nutritious ideas to add to your menu then download my FREE Ultimate Meal Planning Toolkit, which includes over 50 meal and snack ideas as well as my list of non-perishable pantry essentials for those times when things just don’t go according to plan.