Contributor: Victoria Lim
Even if you manage to eliminate junk food and get in the habit of snacking on apples, eating healthy is still no easy task. Healthy meals require time, and incidentally, time is usually what we lack most. When you get back from work in the evening, you’re not really up for whipping up a wholesome dinner, starting from scratch. To ensure you’re eating healthfully throughout the whole week you require a plan – one that will save you time and energy and make the most out of each meal prep. So without further ado, here are some hacks for a healthy meal plan, as suggested by various dietitians.
Shop Smart & Quick
Shop for the whole week in advance, but before you hit the supermarket, have a shopping list ready. That means taking some time to plan what you will buy, and once you start jotting down on paper what you’ll need, you’ll be more mindful of what you eat. A good tip is to divide your list into categories – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. As you can see, a healthy meal plan and a grocery shopping list go hand in hand. Your plan doesn’t have to be elaborate; it’s enough to jot down that you need to buy meat and fresh veggies for dinner and eggs for breakfast. Shopping will be much easier and faster if you have it all on paper rather than in your head. Also, never shop while hungry, because you’ll be likely to reach for comfort foods and things you won’t even end up eating.
Cook in Batches
The best way to ensure you won’t be ordering pizza for dinner or eating out too often is by preparing meals ahead, so that you can just pop them in the oven while you relax on the couch after work. Reserve a portion of your weekend (or any other time you’re up for it) to prepare different meals and then store them away in containers. This way, you’re cooking while rested and you can actually enjoy the experience. There are plenty of recipes for meals that can last all week and that you can take to work as leftovers. If you really want to make a day of it, prepare healthy meals that can be frozen – you can eat those months later. This will save you a lot of time and money as well.
Some foods are healthier than others, but healthy eating is not about banishing ice cream for eternity or miserably chewing on kale because it’s good for you. The most important thing is to be mindful of what you eat, to not make a habit of eating processed foods and simply to have a diverse diet. Incorporating highly nutritious foods into your meal plan will just make it easier to get all the nutrients you need without having to calculate or compensate constantly. Keep in mind that our nutrition needs vary in relation to how active we are, so if you exercise a couple of times weekly (hopefully) your body will need all the benefits of amino acids, and if you’ve been sitting at the office the whole day, caffeine and carbs will only send your blood sugar levels on a rollercoaster ride.
Pack “your” Lunch
Speaking of sitting at the office – lunches prove to be the most difficult for people to maintain balance, so you’re likely to just end up eating out or worse, gulping down a sandwich at your desk. The only way to overcome this is by carrying lunch to work. Leftovers make for great lunches, so it’s best to prepare bigger dinners and brown-bag what’s left over, or you can take a couple of minutes out of the evening to prepare a healthy lunch for work. You can always add some fresh fruits and vegetables to keep you energized throughout the day. Stock your desk drawer with some nuts – they’re great brain food and a better snack than energy bars. And the most important part when it comes to lunching at work – take your time, chew your food slowly. Your brain will have time to process the food intake so you will know when you’re full.
Experiment with what’s in your Fridge
If you stock your fridge with nutritious, wholesome foods smartly (like we mentioned in the beginning) there’s indefinite variety to what you can do with all the ingredients. When the stock gets sparse, don’t let food go to the waste, but make do with what you have before heading to the supermarket again. There are even websites to help you find recipes based on the ingredients you have. Who knows, your new favourite healthy meal could be the result of creatively emptying out your fridge.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple and just start with some mindful planning and grocery shopping. Use these tips to stick to a healthy meal plan, introduce changes one by one, and pretty soon, it will become a habit.
Victoria Lim is a young blogger with a B.Sc. in nutrition. She writes a lot of articles with a goal to debunk diet myths and to help people to naturally balance their diet. Twitter: https://twitter.com/VictoriasScrawl