5 Tips For Healthy Meal Planning
Updated November 2022
Jump-Start Your Diet
It can be hard to stick to a healthy diet. When cooking seems like a chore, it’s easy to order takeout or grab a sugary snack from the breakroom. If you’re committed to eating better, a healthy meal planning routine will set you up for success.
Meal planning saves time and money. Because you’re planning your meals and snacks ahead of time, it can also help you consume fewer calories. Meal planning 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!
- Start Small
- Create Your Plate
- 25 percent lean protein
- 25 percent carbohydrates
- 50 percent non-starchy vegetables
- Make to Last
- Don’t Skimp on Snacks 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.”
- Make It a Family Affair
“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.”
If you need culinary direction, try the Create Your Plate method:
Using these portions will help you feel full while also ensuring that you get nutritious food. “Once you feel comfortable cooking, try doubling the veggies and halving the carbs,” says Wilson. “You’ll feel fuller longer with fewer calories.”
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.
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:
Download: 5 Tips for Healthy Meal Planning