I love Sunday afternooons in our house. It’s reached a kind of event status!  We put on some music, if we are feeling naughty, we pour a glass of wine.

Nope – it’s not a romantic afternoon watching the sunset.

It’s meal planning time!

Yep – this is the time we chop, dice, pre-cook as much of our meals for the week as we can.  It might sound crazy but there is some method behind our craziness.

There are an absolute ton of benefits to meal planning. Here are a few of the ongoing and overall health benefits that you can obtain from simple meal planning for a week at a time to a month at a time.

Easy Caloric Monitoring

One of the biggest health benefits of meal planning is the ability to monitor your caloric intake. Monitoring this can help in a variety of ways. For example, if you are attempting to drop a large amount of weight you will want to make sure your calories fall below what you need for your current weight. For example, if you are 200 pounds your caloric intake may be around the 2,000 calorie a day mark. If you want to maintain that weight, then the intake is fine. If you want to drop weight, you may want to lower your caloric intake to 1,500 or less. Meal planning will help you stay on track with this easily.

meal planning

Reduced Stress Levels

When you handle meal planning and stick to that plan, you can reduce your stress. You are no longer having to worry about missing a meal, not having meals ready, or forgetting to set out meals to thaw. Though this may not seem like it would cause a lot of stress, it can be domino effect. If you have a bad day, you don’t add the meal planning aspects of time constraints and stress to it. This little bit of stress reduction can help your overall stress and give you more downtime in the evenings after a long day.

Reduced Chance of Dropping Your Goals

When you don’t have meals ready, you may just grab whatever is there. For example, if you have had a rough day and don’t want to cook, you may grab a pizza or something quick. You may even think you are doing well if you grab a salad. The truth is, a fast food salad can contain a lot of calories that you aren’t thinking about. This can derail you from your goals, cause you to have a higher calorie intake, and can seem to be an easier option overtime that will cause you to completely go off your diet. Meal planning avoids all of this. This is where the food prep part becomes really important.  By having meals pre-made or the bulk of the work prepared you are half way or more of getting your meal on the table, or lunch ready to run out the door. Less likely to opt for a quick take-away option, or skipping meals.

Reduced Preservatives

A health benefit you may not consider is the reduced preservatives your body would be taking in. For example, a lot of prepared meals you buy at the store have either high amounts of sodium or sugars. When you make the food at home, you can reduce this amount significantly making your meal plan an increasingly healthier option to store bought convenience foods.

There are other health benefits, but these are the ones you are likely to notice in your life first. Remember, if you want further health benefits or different benefits then consider altering your meal planning to fit those health benefit goals in your daily life and long-term health goals.

Every home workout plan, nutrition guru, and dieting channel in social media sticks to one basic concept, meal planning. The reason this seems to be the common denominator is because meal planning is key to a diet routine working. If you are new to meal planning, here are a few things to know before implementing it into your routine for you or you and your family.

Start With a Master Food List

The first place to start with meal planning is with a master food list. You can print these out online, by season, or you can make your own list. Ideally what you are doing is narrowing down the foods you like, the foods you do not like, the ones you are allergic to, and the ones you have never tried. This master list will help you narrow down your recipes and get foods for your meal planning that work for you personally. You can also mark down how many calories each have and how they can be used.

meal planning grocery list

Consider Your Goal

Make sure you consider your goals with your meal planning. For example, you may be looking for a way to reduce your stress during the week. Meal planning may offer you more downtime and more time to enjoy being with your family. Then again, you may want to drop several pounds. If that is the case, you want to keep an eye on your caloric intake. Bodybuilding goals have even more considerations to reach your goal. Overall, you should consider long-term, short-term, and overall goals before you start meal planning.

Consider Your Containers

One thing many people do not consider about meal planning are the containers they will be using. This can make a big difference in how you plan out your meals. Most people do use containers that have several slots for protein, vegetables, fruits, and sauces. If you will primarily be doing full meals, then these are ideal. You may also want to bento boxes, soup containers, or other options. Consider what types of meals you want to have and then make sure you have the containers for them.

I have containers up the wazoo! It’s kind of my thing (strange I know)  My latest foray into the container market is a bento-box style lunch box called Prepd.  It’s so new it doesn’t actually exist in consumer form yet – It’s a kickstarter funded project but I will be sure to review it if they eventuate. And I will be totally devastated if they don’t! – First world problems I know.

Image result for prepd

Time-frame Planning

Considering your time-frame is something that goes along with meal planning basics. You need to make sure that you are planning for a set amount of days. Most people do weekly meal planning while larger families may do planning for the whole month. The timeframe along with the food lists and goals can greatly affect your budget, so considering a timeframe is vital.

These basic principles of meal planning can help you get started. Remember, there is no set defined way of meal planning. The idea is to work with the diet you want, plan the meals, and make sure they work for you and your lifestyle. It may take a little time to get things on a solid track, but once they are you will find meal planning to be an easier route on many levels.