Inside Scoop: Besides saving money and avoiding food waste, these are some of the most common benefits of meal planning.
This post was submitted by Ali Wilson, a former nutritionist who took a step back when she became a mom and decided to spend more time educating her family on good nutrition and healthy lifestyles
60 to 70% of Americans say that they plan their grocery shopping each week as many know the benefits that come from it. These benefits range from saving money to taking the stress out of meals, but meal planning can also help you to follow a healthier diet and lifestyle.
Putting a bit of time and effort in once a week to plan and prep your meals can result in you eating more variety, increasing the amount of fruits and veggies you eat, and help you to avoid regularly eating unhealthy foods.
THE BENEFITS OF MEAL PLANNING
You’re less likely to buy unhealthy foods
If you meal plan you can then make a grocery list based on your plan. You know exactly what you’re going to eat, including your snacks, so there’s no need to buy excessive amounts of unhealthy treats and snacks. This means that temptation is completely removed from your home, so you’ll have to put in the extra effort of going to the store again if you really want to stray from your meal plan, which most people wouldn’t want to do.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t include some delicious treats and snacks into your meal plan, but it will help you to eat them in moderation, leaving space for more nutritious foods.
Meal planners eat more variety
One of the biggest benefits of meal planning is variety!
When you’re sitting down thinking about what to include in your meal plan for the week, it’s not very likely that you’ll want to write the same thing down for several different days, especially when it comes to your dinners. You’ll want to include lots of different meals and ingredients and might even try out some new dishes too.
This is great as it means that meal planners tend to eat a wider variety of food than those who don’t plan or prep. With variety comes a greater range of nutrients and micronutrients, which can really benefit your overall health.
You can plan your 5-a-day
Research from the CDC revealed that just 9% of Americans met the intake recommendations for vegetables and just 12% met the recommendations for fruit.
Fruits and vegetables are packed full of goodness and can help to reduce the risk of many of the leading causes of illnesses and death that America faces, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers. Meal planning makes it easy to include more fruits and vegetables into your diet as you can ensure you meet the 5-a-day recommendations every day.
You’re more likely to think about portion size
Planning and prepping your meals in advance gives you better control over your portion sizes. It’s all too easy to dish up a huge portion when your stomach is grumbling away, but in reality, you don’t really need to eat that much to feel satisfied and full.
If you’ve already got a meal in the fridge or freezer that can be grabbed, heated up, and served that is an ideal portion size then that’s what you’ll be more likely to eat. Plus, you don’t have to spend time choosing what to eat and cooking it because you’ve already done that, so you won’t be quite as hungry as you would have been without your prepping.
Enjoying a drink when meal planning
Alcohol is full of empty calories and offers little nutrients, but it’s something that many people enjoy and don’t usually want to sacrifice. Including drinks in meal planning is a good way to monitor and moderate just how much you’re consuming.
There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a glass of wine that matches perfectly with the meal you’re making. Aim to drink within the recommended amount of units per day and week to avoid alcohol affecting your health, but don’t feel like it’s something you need to go without if you don’t want to. In addition to alcoholic drinks, including other drinks in your meal planning can help you to become aware of how many calories you’re drinking and where you could cut back and switch to water instead.
Meal planning when you eat out
Including eating out is one of the benefits of meal planning, and can be perfectly healthy. You can plan your other meals around eating out, such as having a smaller lunch or seeing your meal out as a one-off treat that doesn’t need to be compensated for elsewhere.
A good tip is to look online at menus beforehand so that you can pick a healthy option and know what you’re going to have before you arrive and temptation presents itself. This way you can go into a restaurant and have a better idea of what you want to order.
With 92% of restaurants serving up portions that are too big, this can be key to helping you to only eat one course as you’ll be used to eating smaller portions with your meal planning at home.
Meal planning is sustainable
The problem with a lot of diets is that they’re not sustainable long-term as they’re too strict or make it difficult to go out for a meal and socialize over some drinks, resulting in people feeling like they’ve failed and give up completely.
The benefits of meal planning isn’t about being strict or stopping you from eating the things you enjoy. In fact, over 70% of meal planners include prepared foods or take out in their meal plans at least twice a week. This helps you to focus on eating meals that are nutritionally balanced and appropriately portion-sized while including the odd treat so that you don’t feel like you’re going without your favorite foods.
And, you don’t have to feel guilty about those treats. Even if you do stray from your meal plan for a day, it’s very easy to go back to it as the following day is already planned out, making it easy to stick to in the long-term.
Meal planning can truly be the key to good health, as well as weight loss and helping you avoid food waste. All you need to do is put the effort in once a week, or however far in advance you choose to plan and prep your meals, to plan out your meals and do any prep that’s required, making the rest very easy for you.
Do you have any other benefits of meal planning that you want to share? Let us know below.
A former nutritionist, Ali Wilson took a step back when she became a mom and decided to spend more time educating her family on good nutrition and healthy lifestyles - whilst taking up a career writing about them too. When not writing, she volunteers for a range of local mental health charities, as she herself has battled depression and anxiety throughout her life.