Contributed by: Michael Nokes
Making good habits is hard. Without an action plan, it is easy to skip the exercise for a day, eat fast food, and fall asleep in front of the TV. The best plans establish a routine with every step already thought out. Once it’s as simple as a reminder on your phone to put on your running shoes and stretch, the convenience of following the routine takes over.
In this post, we share our tips for organizing healthy meal plans so they’re easy to implement into your schedule and painless to do.
Know Your Caloric and Macronutrient Goals
Every effective meal plan meets your diet goals and caloric needs. For example, if you’re on a low carb diet to help with fat loss, you’ll want a meal plan that limits carbs and total calories.
Once you’ve calculated your caloric requirements, split that out to grams of protein, carbs, and fats per day. Plenty of resources online can help you with this step. Once completed, you’ll know the daily target you need to reach with each meal plan.
Plan Meals that You Enjoy and Are Easy to Make
Simple meals make it easier to stick to the plan and less tempting to settle with going out to eat. The best way to do this is take the meals you currently cook for yourself, adjust them so they fit your nutritional goals, and make them easy to store for reheating later.
You may want to avoid cooking food that is too gourmet and doesn’t reheat well. It takes more of your time to prep, which makes eating fast food a more attractive option during a moment when you’re crunched for time.
Keep a List of Healthy Recipes on Hand
Searching through the web for a specific recipe or flipping through pages in cookbooks can eat up time. Do that once and save it for the future.
For cookbooks, scan and print the page or copy down the recipes and store them in three ring binders.
For web pages, create a folder in the bookmarks area on your web browser. Save your favorite healthy recipe web pages in the folder. You can also print the pages and store them in a binder.
Schedule Meal Times
Leave a block of time for when you regularly run or workout. Plan meals with the best nutrients you need before and after exercising and the timing of those meals. This prevents you from eating too close to workout time and enforces consistency into your schedule.
Choose Prep Days
Some choose to prep on Sundays or Mondays and save food for the whole week. Depending on how well your food keeps, you may want to choose multiple prep days. Select days that work best for your schedule, like rest days or days with fewer obligations. The idea is to not fall behind.
For prepping, glass containers with compartments are the most worthwhile investment you’ll make. It has organization and portion control built into one solution. The glass also makes them safer to microwave compared to plastic.
Organize into Separate Daily Plans
If you are new to meal planning, you may start with one day plan and follow it every day. You can also start with a few different day plans and work your way up to having unique meal plans for each day of the week. Start with what is simple for you.
Once you’ve reached this point, you should have day plans with meal names, their corresponding macronutrient and calorie info, time of day to eat, along with exercise and meal prepping blocked out in the schedule. Google Calendar is a good system for organizing all that information.
Buy in Bulk
Meal plans often mean you are cooking a lot of the same foods. Costco is your friend. Save yourself time and money and buy in bulk, especially for items that do not perish quickly like frozen meat, nuts, and granola.
As with every organization task, meal planning can seem overwhelming at first. But it’s worth it. Proper diet plays a huge role for reach any kind of fitness goal. The difficulty disappears once you’ve created a couple plans and get into the habit of scheduling the steps involved.
About the Author
Michael Nokes works for Immaculate Garage & Home Storage Solutions in Pittsburgh. He enjoys sharing tips on creating a more organized life. When he’s not working, he likes to listen to music, hike, and spend time with family.
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Ken Presutti is a certified ChiRunning instructor, ACE Personal trainer, Spinning instructor, and coach. This blog is a mix of new articles and posts from his original blog, Overkill is Underrated.