4 Steps to Easier Meal Planning

Meal Planning (2)

“What would you like for dinner tonight?” “I don’t care. What do you want?” “I don’t care….” You know what we end up eating? Sandwiches! I don’t particularly like sandwiches. I’ve talked before about the importance of meal planning and it takes on an added urgency for me when I have to eat things I don’t like. I’m not always good at coming up with things to cook “on the fly” so if I don’t want those dreaded you-know-whats, I have to do my homework.

Since meal planning is not my favorite activity, I had to figure out some way to make it easier and less time-consuming. Here’s a system that works for me – it helps me plan healthy meals and snacks, get some variety in my diet, and have easy-to-prepare things on hand for those times that I don’t feel up to spending much time in the kitchen. It involved some work at the beginning, but now that I’ve done the preliminary work, it’s pretty quick and painless.

1. Make a list of the foods you like.

I separate my list into categories: Protein, Vegetables, Fruits, Grains and Seeds, and Healthy Fats. I listed everything I could think of that I like. Since I didn’t remember everything, I’m still adding to it as things come up. Once I did this, I took it a step further and listed specific dishes that use that food to help jog my memory when I’m making my plan.

2. Determine your eating pattern.

Do you have a specific eating plan you want to follow? Do you have a certain number of meals you want to eat each day? This will give you a guideline for how to plan for each day. For example, I try to stick to the Mediterranean Diet style of eating as much as possible. I chose this particular pattern for its emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and other foods that are delicious and good for you. If you’re interested in the Mediterranean Diet, please check out www.oldwayspt.org. They have tons of information, not just about the Mediterranean Diet, but other traditional diets as well, and lots of yummy recipes.OldwaysMediterraneanPyramid-2341

Used with permission by www.oldwayspt.org

3. Divide your day into the number of eating opportunities you’ve decided on.

I usually have about five different times that I eat during the day, so my plan looks like this:

Meal Planning Sheet

4. Just “plug and play.”

Now all you have to do is plug foods from your Foods I Like list into your meal plan for each day. I try to make sure that I have at least a few meals that are super-easy to prepare in each week’s plan. That way, if I don’t feel like cooking, or want to spend minimal time in the kitchen, I choose those.

I also like to make sure that my meals are each similarly balanced; ie, each larger meal has the same basic number of servings of protein, veggies, starches and fat, so that I have lots of flexibility to switch things around. I have the days numbered just as a guideline, but if I don’t want to eat what I have planned for a specific day I can just change it out for something from another day.

As I’ve said before, I truly believe that when you deal with fibromyalgia or any other chronic illness, the more you can stack the deck in your favor, the better off you are. This is just my little tool to help me do that with my nutrition.

What are some of your favorite tips for making sure your nutritional deck is stacked? Please share!




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