Author: Amber French
Menu planning is not for the super organized gourmet’s anymore. More and more health professionals are recognizing the benefits of planning ahead. They range from financial and emotional to physiological (read; less wasted food and high priced “convenient” foods, stress and guilt about ordering out again and more “real” fresh vibrant foods on our plates).
Most of the nutritionists I work with (as well as my own findings) support the need for repetition and preplanning. You cannot take hold of your nutritional destiny without planning your days and being the master of your food fate. The easiest way to get a handle on your day is to limit your breakfast and lunch options to a few well rounded and simple options. You are more likely to follow through if it is easy and repetitive (especially during the crazy morning routine). Make sure you adequately covering your carb, protein and healthy fat needs.
Breakfast can set the tone for the rest of the day. Smoothies are a quick and easy way to cover your bases. You can add avocados, nuts and seeds to round out your smoothie with some hunger stomping healthy fats. However if the thought of a healthy vibrant smoothie sends you running for the local Tim Horton’s then obviously choose what works for you! Have your breakfast options easy and ready to go and add them to your weekly grocery list. Oh and not out of a box or drive through.
Lunch is the same, think about packing your kids lunch (or your fur baby’s!). We prepare, make sure we have everything ahead of time and go with choices that aren’t going to come home untouched or swapped out. But when it comes to our own lunch we expect that it will fall out of the sky, bank on co-workers left over or think we can “power through” until dinner. All of which set you up for failure (aka a trip to the vending machine). Rotate through a few favorite salads or sandwiches, Tip Here: pack components for salads/sammies separately and assemble when you are ready to eat (keeps everything from going soggy). Your other option at lunch is prepare an extra helping of dinner the night before and pack it up BEFORE you sit down to eat to ensure you and the people you dine with don’t overindulge and eat up your good intentions.
Then comes dinner – the fun part! Pick your day, some like Sundays (I do not) I like my Sundays to be easy-breezy. I like Thursday, I plan, shop and prep. It gives some much need mental motivation to get through the weekend and I am set for the beginning of the week and for me it coincides with my pay days. Pick your tried and true with no more than one or two new recipes each week MAX.
BEST TIP FOR KEEPING DINNER SIMPLE AND HEALTHY – Assemble don’t cook. We want to eat as close to nature as possible, this is how you do it. Pick your canvas (rice, protein, pasta, sweet potatoes etc) prepare (this can even be done ahead). Next choose your paints (veggies, greens and fruits) create your master piece and top with your fav light sauces or garnishes (lemon, cilantro, limes, hot sauce, soy sauce, tomato sauce etc). Combine and enjoy. This allows you to customize for your mushroom hating husband or spice-adverse children. It also steers you away from the number one North American based no-no… the casserole.
When I first started cooking I kept thinking how much more food I would be eating if I disassembled my casseroles and ate the ingredients separately. Think of how much more food is on your plate when you cook your lasagna ingredients separately and combine on your plate compared to the tiny square you get once it has been in your oven for an hour. I also felt compelled to add a salad and bread to make sure everyone had enough to eat. What I was left with was a HIGH calorie meal that most of the natural vitamins had been cooked right out of.
Back to dinner menu planning; come up with your list of “canvases” for the week and corresponding paints and flavours. Add to your grocery list and assign a day to each combination.
We are so busy now a day’s feeding our family shouldn’t be a guilt riddled stressor, it should be a time to refuel and reconnect. This is achieved by Preparation, Repetition and Simplicity. Enjoy your creations, learn from your mistakes, broaden your taste buds and savour your meal times.
Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org for a sample three day meal plan if you need some inspiration or to kick start your new way of eating!
With love and veggies,
About the Author: Amber has been in the fitness and recreation game for over 15 years (not including school!!). She made fitness her life because as the age old saying goes, study and teach what it is you need to learn. In other words, she’s battles with some weight issues for many years and wants to share what she has learned along the way.
You can follow her @TheVeganHouse