Planning meals in advance is one of the most powerful tools to make long lasting dietary changes and achieve weight loss goals. Meal planning has a variety benefits including:
- Saving time
- Regulating your grocery budget
- Achieving nutritional goals
- Reducing poor food choices
BariNutrition is backed by bariatric surgeons and we have over a decade of experience helping people make the right nutritional choices on their weight loss journey. We’ve compiled some of our favorite tips for meal planning below. Enjoy!
The three basic steps to meal planning:
- Creating the Plan
- Shopping for Ingredients
- Preparing the Meals
- Have a variety of containers and sizes on hand when starting to meal prep. Use smaller containers for snacks and set aside larger ones for salads or main dishes. This will help keep portion sizes under control. Tip: Mason jars are great! They are environmentally friendly, come in many sizes, have reusable lid options, and can fit any meal from smoothies to soups to salads.
- Make time to create your meal plan. Set aside about 30 minutes to create your plan. You’ll need a piece of paper (or electronic device) and a calendar.
- Count the number of meals needed over the next week. Include snacks as well!
- Write out what you are going to eat each day, meal by meal. Rotate main dishes, sides and snacks to keep things interesting and make prep easier.
- When creating each meal, aim to include one protein item, one starch, and one produce (varies depending on diet – consult with your doctor)*.
- Choose simple meals that you enjoy and are familiar with. Use past meal plans to help plan future weeks. You will learn what meals and snacks worked best and how your caloric needs may vary by the exercise you did that day.
- Take into account what your schedule is each day and adjust your meals accordingly. Working out at lunch? Pack a pre workout snack and extra water. Early morning meeting? Make a quick smoothie.
Shopping for Ingredients
- Make a grocery list for the ingredients needed. If you are pressed for time, look for services that deliver fresh, local, and seasonal produce right to your door!
- Double or triple the amounts the recipe calls for. Store the leftovers and incorporate into your plan for future meals
- Buy in bulk. Save money and the number of trips to the store!
- Freeze ingredients for future use – freezer bags work well and take up less space. Store dry goods in seal-tight containers. Make sure all stored ingredients are clearly labeled with the day of purchase or expiration.
Preparing Meals for the Week
- Now it’s time to get cooking! Sunday is a popular day to dedicate to the kitchen. Whatever day works best for you, plan a few hours to prepare your meals.
- Have the necessary equipment and cooking utensils you will need easily available. Utilizing appliances like rice cookers and crock pots are also helpful and save time.
- Roasting veggies can be tricky. For example sweet potatoes cook faster than carrots if you chop them the same size. However, if you chop the sweet potatoes thicker and the carrots thinner, they will be done around the same time.
- Create healthy extras like frozen bouillon cubes, simple vinaigrette dressings, or spice mixes.
- If the idea of eating “left overs” that have been prepared a few days before doesn’t sound appetizing, just prep and sort your ingredients into storage containers and make them the day of.
- Organize the refrigerator with food to eat first in front and on top. Label the containers either with meal name or day of week.
You Can Do It!
Meal prepping will take time to adjust to. You may refine your plan as your schedule alters, seasons change, and prep skills improve. But that’s the beauty of it! Embrace the flexibility and be proud of your dedication to nourishing your body. Take a look at our recipes for even more inspiring ideas!
*consult your physician before making any dietary changes