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5 Tips For Healthy Meal Planning

Jumpstart Your Diet With a Printable Meal Planner

When it comes to diet, it’s easy to forgo nutrition for convenience. When cooking seems like a chore, takeout tempts and cake in the breakroom calls.

If you’re committed to eating better, a healthy meal planning routine will set you up for success.

Meal planning saves time and money, and can help you consume fewer calories. It also empowers you and your family to forge a healthy relationship with food.

All in? Begin with five tips from Bariatric Dietitian Audra Wilson, RD, LDN, at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Metabolic Health and Surgical Weight Loss Center, then head to the grocery store with a printable meal planner!

  1. Start Small
  2. “Meal planning can be overwhelming,” says Wilson. “Start by selecting two or three meals per week to prepare in advance.” Lunch lends itself to planning, as many people are at work and more apt to eat out. Planning lunch for the week also minimizes stress if you need to provide a midday meal for kids.

    Wilson suggests dedicating one day to meal preparation and setting time constraints. “People think that grocery shopping and cooking will be a huge undertaking, so begin by setting aside only two hours for these tasks. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ll accomplish.”

  3. Create Your Plate
  4. If you need culinary direction, try the Create Your Plate method: 25 percent lean protein, 25 percent carbohydrates and 50 percent non-starchy vegetables. Framing your meals with these portions ensures satiety and nutrition. “Once you feel comfortable cooking, try doubling the veggies and halving the carbs,” says Wilson. “You’ll feel fuller longer with fewer calories.”

  5. Make to Last
  6. Even if you’re cooking for one or two, it’s prudent to make enough food to yield leftovers. When you plan your meals for the week, select recipes that will be easy to freeze and reheat. Wilson suggests freezing leftovers in individual serving sizes so that you don’t have to defrost — then potentially waste or overeat — large quantities of food. Soon you’ll have many frozen meal options at your fingertips.

  7. Don’t Skimp on Snacks
  8. Prepare snacks in single serving sizes. “It’s simple: You’ll eat more if you’re eating out of a large container, so portion out your snacks so that you can easily grab them on your way out the door,” Wilson says. Wilson’s snack of choice? String cheese. “It’s satisfying, prepackaged and a good energy source.”

  9. Make It a Family Affair
  10. Get your family involved! Not only will this hold you accountable, but it will also foster a positive relationship with food and ingrain healthy eating habits. “You’d be surprised by what picky eaters will eat if they’re a part of the cooking process,” Wilson says. “Make mistakes and have fun! It’s family time!”

Need healthy recipe inspiration? Start here:

10 Simple Rules for Eating Heart Healthy

Quick and Healthy Breakfasts

Jump Start Snacks

Download 5 Tips For Healthy Meal Planning

Weight Management

Matthew R. Pittman, MD
Matthew R. Pittman, MD
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  • Primary Specialty Bariatric Surgery
  • Secondary Specialty General Surgery
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