Meal Planning Made EasyDana Yarn
By Dana Yarn, RDLDN
One question that undoubtedly comes up on a daily basis with most families is: “What’s for dinner?” I know you have commitments and responsibilities and don’t have a lot of time to devote to planning your meals. Half of the battle is coming up with a plan ahead of time. To help, I want to share my system with you that will minimize your cooking time while allowing you to avoid convenience foods that have little nutritional value.
Of all of the daily commitments you make each day, perhaps the most significant is the one you make to yourself – to eat right and stay active. These food preparation strategies will help make honoring that commitment effortless.
- Plan out the week: Write out all of your family’s activities for the week on a calendar and plan your menu around each activity. This way, you will avoid the frustration of having to come up with dinner ideas every evening. On evenings that you have late activities try a simple Crockpot recipe. Keep it simple if time is not on your side, complicated recipes will only frustrate you. A simple high quality natural protein, complex high fiber carbohydrate, and a fibrous vegetable are enough.
- Thaw out your protein item: Go out to your freezer in the morning and take out the beef, chicken, pork, or fish that you plan on eating that evening. Thawed meat will make the entire cooking process much easier and faster.
- Pre-cook your meals: I personally find this to be a big time-saver. For me, Sundays are a good day to set aside an hour for batch cooking. You can grill or bake chicken breasts, fish, lean steaks, etc. for the week and incorporate into a variety of meals. For example, chicken breasts can be served for dinner one evening, added to a salad to make a healthy grilled chicken salad for lunch, or used to make a delicious sandwich.
Remember, protein should be incorporated into every meal, and warming up precooked chicken or beef in a pan or microwave makes cooking easy and quick. While you are grilling or baking your protein, multi-task: Bake potatoes, steam rice, and wash and chop your fruits and vegetables. Devote one hour to pre-cooking per week, and you will save time, and eat healthier.
- Gear up with containers: Meal-sized containers keep things organized. You can fill up the container with a pre-cooked stir-fry, soup, or last night’s leftovers. You will have a great meal, ready to go, for work the next day.
- Wash and chop when you get home from the grocery store. Take a half hour and wash all of your fruits and vegetables and chop them as if you were getting ready to cook them or eat them. The easier they are to prepare or eat the more likely you are to use them up and meet your daily 9-11 servings of fruits and vegetables.
Bonus Tip – Try to store your food in glass or stainless containers, this will avoid the harmful chemicals that plastic leaches into the foods.